Sunday, July 30, 2006


"Their" means ownership

When I was in sixth grade, my teachers ran an experiement — they sent some of us to the third-grade class to help the teachers there, as sort of "teaching assistants". I went to the third-grade English class for half an hour, where I was to teach my table of four third-graders about the difference between "there" and "their" — I'm not sure whether this came from an assessment of my particularity for the correct homophone, or whether it was what caused that particularity later in life.

I discussed the issue with my charges, as we read the assigned material. "'There'," I taught them in summary, "is a place. And 'their' talks about ownership." I gave an example, referring to a book: "The book is over there," I showed them. "It's my book," I said, pointing appropriately for each pronoun, "It's your book, it's his book, it's their book. Ownership." They seemed to get it.

By and by, the teacher came to check our progress. She quizzed the third-graders on what they'd learned. "'There'," they repeated, "is a place. And 'their' means that they own the ship."

I guess they did get it, didn't they?

1 comment:

bcarr said...

I got a chuckle out of "own the ship." Having students in grades 3-5, I can relate to the problem. I think I speak quite simply, but, frequently, my students ask me about words or expressions that I use. Clear communication sure is tough!