Grammar Lesson – Possessive Pronouns & Other Commonly Confused Words

Possessive pronouns show ownership. Some are used alone; others are used to describe a noun:

  • Used Alone: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs, whose  Example: That computer is hers.
  • Used to Modify: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose  Examples: That is her computerThe car needs its clutch replaced.

*Note that none of the possessive pronouns uses an apostrophe to show ownership.


Commonly Confused Possessive Pronouns (pp): 

  • Your (pp – Your home is lovely.) / You’re (contraction ‘you are’ – You’re going to do well.)
  • Their (pp – Their dedication is strong.) / There (adverb – There are my gloves) / They’re (contraction ‘they are’ – They’re leaving soon.)
  • Its (pp – Its tires are in need of changing.) / It’s (it is – It’s crucial to know the difference between it’s and its.)
  • Whose (pp – Whose music is playing?) / Who’s (who is – Who’s going to the store?)
  • Our (pp – Our friends have come over.) / Are (verb – Are you coming? How many are there?)


Commonly Confused Words in General
The following are examples of words that writers sometimes confuse:

  • To (prep – We’ll walk to the store.)  / Too (adverb – Too many mistakes were made. OR We’re going there too. [synonymous with ‘also’]) / Two (number – Two of us have to leave).
  • Then (adverb – He then decided he should study for the exam.) / Than (conjunction to show comparison – I have more than you do). Used together: There were fewer problems back then than there are now. 
  • Every day (time expression – It happens every day.) / Everyday (adjective – These are my everyday clothes.)
  • Witch (noun – She was a witch for Halloween.) / Which (pronoun – Which class is your favorite?)
  • Led (verb [past tense of ‘to lead’] – We led them along the coast.) / Lead ([pronounced the same] noun – Older homes sometimes have lead paint.)
  • Effect (usually a noun – It had a great effect on the audience.) Affect (verb [action word that can be conjugated into affected, affects, affected, affecting, etc.] – That essay affected me greatly.)
  • Weather (a noun OR a verb – The weather is supposed to be cold today. OR They think they can weather the storm.) / Whether (conjunction to express a doubt or choice—I can’t decide whether to go out in this weather.)
  • A lot (noun phrase—I have a lot of good writers this term. Allot (verb [allotted, allots, allotting]—I intend to allot fifty dollars a week to my retirement plan). *NOTE: Alot is not a word—be sure to include the space!). 


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Technical Writing for Technicians Copyright © 2019 by Will Fleming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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