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There, they're, or their?

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings and usages. This can be confusing sometimes as one must rely on context to figure out which word is meant or should be used. 

 

Even native speakers sometimes fail to use the homonyms "there," "their," and "they're" correctly. Here is a quick review of which one is appropriate for which occasion. 

 

1) The word "there" is used to refer to a physical or abstract location.

 

When I flew in on the float plane, they were all there on the boat.
Caption 4, Alaska Revealed: Endless Wave

 

Also, it is commonly combined with a conjugation of “to be” or a modal verb to discuss the existence of something.

 

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
Caption 28, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. 
Caption 9, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Opening

 

2) "Their" is a possessive adjective used before a noun when the subject is "they." With "their," we are speaking about something that belongs to two or more people.

 

What are their names? -Their names are Naya and Alex.
Caption 14, Caralie and Annie: Getting to know each other

 

Their goal is a plan to finally help humanity reduce its carbon footprint.
Caption 3, Green TV: What Is COP21?

 

3) "They’re" is a contraction of "they are" used to refer to two or more people in the third person. It is especially useful for shortening sentences in the present continuous tense.

 

I think they're nice. 
Caption 12, Comic-Con 2015: Jennifer Lawrence

 

They're playing a game on the lawn.
Caption 10, Jessica: In Prospect Park

 

Further Learning
Check out the examples above on Yabla English to get a better sense of the full context for the use of "there," "their," and "they're." Try to write a few sentences in which you use two or even all three of these words to solidify your understanding. An example would be: "They're not sure when they will get there. It depends on when their plane lands."

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Winter is Coming

Characters in the popular television series Game of Thrones often repeat that "winter is coming," but somehow it never actually arrives. The results of the recent presidential election in the United States, however, have left many liberals preparing for a political winter that could last for at least four years. Here are some Yabla videos dealing with common expressions relating to this coldest of seasons.

 

Welcome to winter time... right here.
Caption 33, Jason Mraz: Tour of Studio

 

The winter came and the lake froze over.
Caption 37, Fairy Tales: The Ugly Duckling

 

However, there's still a large difference between winter and summer.
Caption 4, English with Lauren: The Weather

 

In this winter of our hardship, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come.
Captions 87-89, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

Instead of lush fields, we would have long winters and sparse, ice-covered landscapes in Europe.
Captions 55-56, Nature Preservation: The Gulf Stream & Climate Change

 

You will have your home prepared and winter-proofed in next to no time.
Caption 38, British Gas: Top Tips on Preparing your Home for Cold Weather

 

Further Learning
Watch the above videos in their entirety and search for examples of winter on Yabla English to see other related terms used in a real-world context. 

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The Four Seasons

The four seasons in English are winter, spring, summer, and fall. The season "fall" is also called "autumn." The name of the seasons are written lower-case. Different places and cultures have different ways of reckoning the dates of the seasons, but by scientific meteorological methods, winter in the northern hemisphere is from December 1 to February 28 (or 29 in a leap year). In the southern hemisphere winter is from June 1 until August 31.

 

In the winter it's very cold in New York.
Caption 7, Caralie and Annie: Get to know each other

 

Spring in the northern hemisphere is from March 1 to May 31, in the southern hemisphere from September 1 to November 30.

 

First, we have spring, when the leaves turn green.
Caption 19, Lydia explains: weekdays, seasons and months

 

Summer in the northern hemisphere is from June 1 to August 31, in the southern hemisphere from December 1 to February 28 or 29.

 

The summer is especially beautiful this year.
Caption 2, Nature & Wildlife - Search for the Ghost Bear

 

Fall (or autumn) in the northern hemisphere is from September 1 to November 30, in the southern hemisphere from March 1 to May 31.

 

Third, we have fall, or you could say autumn.
Caption 21, Lydia explains: weekdays, seasons and months

 

Further Learning
Search for examples of the seasons on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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The English Verb "to be"

The verb "to be" is, in its infinitive form, part of one of the most famous lines in world literature:

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

—from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

Most verbs describe action, but "to be" describes a state of being: how or what you are or how somebody is. The present tense conjugation of "to be" is: I am; he, she, or it is; you are; they are; and we are.

"To be" can describe your name and your profession:

My name is Jack Thomas. I am a finance student.
Caption 1, An American: in London

It can describe how you are feeling:

I've never been to New York before and I am so excited to go!
Caption 16, English with Lauren: Emotions

If the sentence is a negation, the word "not" appears after the verb:

I am not a lawyer.
Caption 15, English: common phrases

In the first person singular, "I am" is often contracted to "I'm"; "he is," "she is," or "it is" to "he's," "she's," or "it's"; "you are" to "you're"; "they are" to "they're" and "we are" to "we're":

Today we're at the top of the Empire State Building.
Caption 3, English for Beginners: Letters and Numbers

See how we're part of the global economy?
Caption 13, Dissolve inc.: Generic Brand Video

Further Learning 
Browse some videos at Yabla English and find some other examples of the verb "to be" used in context in real conversations.

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English Grammar: Pronouns

A personal pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun representing people, animals or objects.

The first person singular pronoun "I" usually refers to yourself (or the speaker). In the plural form it is "we."

I really am passionate about this.
Caption 24, Business English: The job interview

Well, we are very excited to have you with us!
Caption 16, Business English: The job interview

The second person pronoun "you" can be singular or plural and usually refers to the person or persons you are addressing.

What will you have for lunch?
Caption 21, Caralie and Annie: Get to know each other

The third person pronoun refers to someone other than the person you are speaking to, and is "he" (male) or "she" (female) or "it" (object) in singular, "they" in plural:

She is elegant and we wish her luck this weekend.
Caption 32, Taylor Swift: Prom Party

They thought it was a hoax.
Caption 7, Soccer World Cup: Australia

Further Learning
Read the personal pronoun article in English and in your native language to help you understand the basics. Write a simple sentence in your native language for each of the personal pronouns, then translate them to English. Search for some personal pronouns on Yabla English and see some different examples of how they are used in context.

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Countable and Mass Nouns

A countable noun is a common noun that has singular and plural forms and can be modified by a number.

The opposite of a common noun is called a mass noun, which does not have different singular and plural forms, nor can it be modified by a number.

As a general rule, words referring to objects and people are countable nouns, and words referring to liquids (water, juice), powders (sugar, sand), and substances (metal, wood) are mass nouns.

When you travel you have two suitcases. Suitcases are the same as luggage, but you cannot say "two luggages" as luggage is a mass noun. When you travel you have luggage, or two pieces of luggage. Mass nouns use measure words like pieces of to make plurals.

You want to build a bookshelf so you buy eight boards made of wood. "Wood" is a mass noun, so it is incorrect to say you have "eight woods," but you can say you have eight pieces of wood.

Here is a list of some more mass nouns: advice, air, art, blood, butter, data, deodorant, equipment, evidence, food, furniture, garbage, graffiti, grass,  homework, housework, information,, knowledge, mathematics, meat, milk, money, music, notation, paper, pollution, progress, sand, soap, software, sugar, traffic, transportation, travel, trash, water

There are some words that are both countable nouns and mass nouns. You leave some papers on the desk, by which you mean you leave some specific documents. If you leave some paper on the desk, you mean you left a package of paper or just some paper in a general sense.

Further Learning
Search for some mass nouns on Yabla English and see how they are used in context.

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English Nouns: Singular and Plural

A noun is a word for a person, place, or thing that can be the subject of a verb. One of the first things you learn in a new language are nouns. Different languages have different ways to make a singular noun plural.

In English, the most common way to make a noun plural is to add the letter s:
pen: pens
spoon: spoons
table: tables
letter: letters
window: windows

Nouns ending in tch, s (or ss), or x are often made plural with the letters es:
tax: taxes
match: matches
bus: buses
business: businesses

Some nouns ending in f replace the f with v, ending in ves:
shelf: shelves
knife: knives
self: selves
thief: thieves

Some nouns have irregular plurals:
man: men
woman: women
child: children
foot: feet
ox: oxen

Some nouns ending in y drop the y and are made plural with ies:
university: universities
baby: babies
But if the y has another vowel before it, then usually the plural is made by adding s:
boy: boys
monkey: monkeys

Nouns ending in o are irregular. Some end with s, some with es, and some work with both:
hero: heros or heroes
volcano: volcanos or volcanoes

Some nouns have the same singular and plural forms, and most of these are animals: moose, deer, fish, swine

Further Learning
This example from Yabla English has 5 different plural nouns, including two that are irregular:

We have brought a set of consulting tools that include analyses, evaluation criteria, business processes and governance recommendations.
Captions 9-11, Planview and Kalypso: Partner to Drive Innovation

Try to correctly change the four nouns to their singular form and check your work to see if you converted the two irregular nouns correctly.

For even more plurals, watch the Yabla English video "English with Lauren and Matt: Parts of the human body."

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