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Posted: November 16, 2011 12:00 a.m.

It's time for a grammar test

My granddaughter in the fourth grade recently had a test over pronouns, and in particular the many different spellings and meanings of “there, their, they’re, theirs, there’s. 

Can you put the correct spelling in the following sentences?

Did you see that large orange monkey climbing the tree the Smiths’ yard? I wonder if it is ____________.

The couple said that _______ leaving the key to the red golf cart under a fake rock in ____________ yard. 

My car ran out of gas and I don’t want to walk home. I wonder if the key is still _______ under the rock.

While my mother said _________ are many things I should never do, she did not say one of them was going barefoot in the winter.

After completing my test, I told the teacher _________ nothing to do.

My teacher said most students like to read a book after ___________ finished.

I think ____________ not going to see the limb lying _________ in ___________ driveway.

“Their” and “theirs” are possessive pronouns. “Their” is used in front of a noun. I hope the kittens found their mittens. “Theirs” is used by itself to show possession. It does not have a noun following it. The fastest time for finishing in the three-legged race is theirs.

“They’re” is a contraction containing a pronoun and a verb. It means “they are.” If you can substitute “they are” for “they’re,” you need this spelling.

“There” is a pronoun when it introduces a sentence or clause. (I know that technically the “there” that begins a sentence is considered grammatically an expletive, but we are talking fourth grade here.) There is no way I can eat that whole cake. It is also a noun when it means a certain place. Put the empty plate (which once held the whole cake) there.

“There’s” is a contraction which stands for “there is” and introduces a sentence or clause. Again if you can substitute “there is” for “there’s,” this is the spelling you need.

The sentences should read as follows.

Did you see that large orange monkey climbing the tree in the Smiths’ yard? I wonder if it is theirs.

The couple said that they’re leaving the key to the red golf cart under a fake rock in their yard.

My car ran out of gas and I don’t want to walk home. I wonder if the key is still there under the rock.

While my mother said there are many things I should never do, she did not say one of them was going barefoot in the winter. 

After completing my test, I told the teacher there’s nothing to do.

My teacher said most students like to read a book after they’re finished.

I think they’re not going to see the limb lying there in their driveway.

On a related topic, if you begin a sentence with the word “there” the verb has to agree with the subject that follows the verb. “There” is never a subject.

There are four children riding in the back seat of my car. The subject of the sentence is “children” and you need the plural verb “are.” 

There is one child riding in the back seat of my car. The subject of the sentence is “child” and you need the singular verb “is.”

On another related topic, “its” is a possessive pronoun. My wagon is broken; I do not know what happened to its wheel.

“It’s” means it is. It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.

My granddaughter made a 94 on her test. How did you do?

 

Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com. 

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