1. Homophones are two or more words that sound the same but are not spelled the same. For example: cent, sent, and scent, which are all pronounced [sent].
The element homo means “same,” and phone means “sound.” So homophones are different words that sound the same.
Several sets of homophones contain one contraction. For example, heed and he'd, both of which are pronounced [he¯d].
Spelling homophones can be hard because since the different words sound exactly alike, there is no way that sounding them out can tell you which of the spellings you should choose. But there are things you can learn that can help you choose the correct spelling of a homophone:
Their, there, they're. For example, take the three homophones their, there, and they're. They're alike in their first three letters,<t-h-e>, but from there on lies trouble. One way to keep them straight is to put them into their proper groups - that is, into groups of words that are like them in meaning and spelling. For instance, the word their makes sense in this sentence
They took their hats.
But there are other words that fit in the same kind of slot:
She took her hat
You took your hat.
We took our hats.
What is the last letter in all of these four boldface words? <r>.
So if you remember that their fits in with her, your, and our, you can remember that there <r> is at the end.
2. The word there is a member of an entirely different group, with here and there. Consider these sentences:
Where is it?
Here it is.
There it is.
What three letters come at the end of each of these three boldface words? <ere>.
If you can remember that there belongs with here and where, it is easier to remember that there ought to end <ere>.
3. The third homophone, the contraction they're, belongs to yet another group. It's a contraction of a pronoun, they, and a verb, are. Read these sentences aloud:
They're leaving now.
You're leaving now.
We're leaving now.
If you can remember that they're belongs with you're and we're, it's easier to remember that <'re> at the end.
4. You're, your, yore. Another set of homophones that contains a contraction is you're, your, and yore. The word yore is a very rare word that means “time past,” as in “days of yore when knighthood was in flower.” You likely will never have to write the word yore. But the other two homophones, you're and your, are very common and often confused. Be ready to discuss how the work you did in parts 1 and 3 above can help you sort out you're and your.
5. Its and it's. People mix up these two homophones quite often. Putting each of them into its proper group can help you keep them straight:
itshis it's he'sshe's
Its fits into a sentence like “The dog ate its dinner.” His also fits into that sentence: “The dog ate his dinner.” There is no apostrophe in his, and there is no apostrophe in its.
The group with its and his can include other words, too:
I ate my dinner.
You ate your dinner.
She ate her dinner.
We ate our dinner.
They ate their dinner.
None of the words in boldface have apostrophes. Remember: There is no apostrophe in his, and there is no apostrophe in its.
On the other hand, it's fits into a sentence like “It's leaving soon.” He's and she's also fit into that sentence:
He's leaving soon.
She's leaving soon.
There are apostrophes in he's and she's, and there is an apostrophe in it's.
This group, too, can include other words:
I'm leaving soon.
You're leaving soon.
We're leaving soon.
They're leaving soon.
The apostrophes in these words show that they're contractions.
6. Whose, who's. Whose fits into the same group with its and his, although to see the fit we have to change our sentence a bit:
The dog ate its dinner.
He ate his dinner.
We don't know whose dinner he ate.
Again, just like its and his, there is no apostrophe in whose. On the other hand, who's fits with it's, he's, and she's:
He's leaving soon.
She's leaving soon.
We don't know who's leaving soon.
Who's is another contraction, and the apostrophe shows that there is an <i> missing.
7. Choose the correct form:
The dog wagged its tail. (its,it's)
They're going over there to their, clubhouse. (their, there, they're)
It's almost time for the bell to ring. (Its, It's)
You're surely going to lose your way if you don't take your compass, (yore, your, you're)
They aren't going. (ain't, aren't)
Their plan is to be there by noon. (their, there, they're)
It's time for the cat to get its pill. (its, it's)
Are you sure you're going to get to your job on time? (yore, your,you're)
Whose father is the one who's going to take us to the ballgame? (whose, who's)
Here's a proofreading quiz involving their, there, and they're, and your and you're. Cross out any spelling that you think is wrong and spell the word correctly:
They're going over theirthere to get theretheir coats, and Mr. Miller said that youryou′re going to have to go over there to get you′reyour coats, too. But why can't they bring your coats with them when theirthey′re over there getting there′s?theirs That way you would save a trip all the way over there and would have time to finish your work.
Item 1. That recurrent final <r> is what is left of a very old suffix that was used the same way we use the -'s suffix nowadays, to show possession.
Here is an extra reinforcer that you may want to have your students do, perhaps in small groups:
Word Spell. See how many words you can spell from the letters in the word homophone. As you spell them, sort them into the three groups below. Twelve is good; sixteen or more is excellent.