Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Confusing contractions!

... and in addition to the problem of writing/recognizing/fixing fragments, plenty of students are forgetting what their teachers taught them in second grade - the spelling and usage rules regarding contractions and related homonyms. Here are a few of the most misused, with correct words indicated:

it's = it is or it has
its = possessive form of it (The bird built its nest in our tree.)
(There is no such word as its' - for any reason!)

they're = they are
their = possessive form of they (The children piled their jackets in the corner.)
theirs = another possessive form of they (The red car is theirs.)
Notice that possessive pronouns have no apostrophes at all.
(The word there indicates a place or sometimes serves as an introductory word in a sentence.)

you're = you are
your = possessive form of you (Where are your gloves?)
yours = another possessive form of you (Is that notebook yours?)
Again, notice that there are no apostrophes at all in possessive pronouns.

So - what would you say about these?
What other possibly confusing contractions can you think of? There are certainly plenty of them out there!

And, finally, how do you make y'all possessive?! (LOL!)

Finding and fixing fragments

Once a student is pretty good at identifying the subjects and verbs in clauses and sentences, he or she should be quite well on the way to writing only in complete sentences. Should be! But we can't count on it! Students these days are surrounded by sentence fragments - in casual speech, on television (just listen to those news- and weather-forecasters - yikes!), everywhere!

If you notice that your child's writing grades have been slipping, this might be one thing to look for - and help him or her learn to find and fix any fragments before turning in written work.

Fragments are in bold:

Maria wasn't watching her plate of barbecue very carefully. Santana, the family beagle, snatched a chicken leg hanging over the edge. As baked beans and potato salad slid onto Maria's new sandals.

James opened the door of his cluttered refrigerator. Which caused a pint of blueberries to fall to the floor. The fruit bounced and rolled everywhere in an explosion of indigo.

Chewing the dry, tough, whole-grain bread bought from the health food store. Lorena tried to enjoy her lunch. Fantasizing about a juicy cheeseburger on a soft white bun didn't improve the taste of the soy product sandwiched between leaves of organic lettuce.

(from Grammar Bytes - Exercises)

If your child has been well trained to find the verbs and subjects in clauses and sentences (especially in his or her own writing assignments), then identifying each of those fragments should be easy. Each of those fragments above is missing at least one of the main elements of a complete sentence and/or has an introductory word indicating that the fragment can be fixed easily by simply attaching it to the sentence before or after it.

Questions? Post in the comments here.