Better Language Through Unicorns, Part 1: The Basics

Grammar may not be particularly fun for everyone, but everything’s better with unicorns! Let’s let our magical friends walk us through some of the trickier words that many of us still mess up no matter how many times we go over the rules. 

This week’s examples can be summed up thusly: Never use an apostrophe with a pronoun to make it into a possessive adjective. I know, English grammar rules say to do that with nouns, but English grammar rules are kinda fucked up and contradictory. It’s OK; the unicorns will make it all clear.

Its vs. It’s

Here we go with the damned rebellious apostrophes. Ignore the rules to distinguish the possessive its from the contraction it’s, short for it is or it has.

  • The unicorn is admiring its horn in the mirror. It’s so pretty! It’s been ages since I saw such a beautiful unicorn.

 Your vs. You’re

Same here. Your indicates possession while you’re means you are.

  • When we see the unicorns, you’re going to be so excited I bet you’ll crap your pants!

Their vs. There vs. They’re (vs. There’s vs. Theirs)

You can remember that there refers to a place because it’s the opposite of (and only adds one letter to) here. Add an apostrophe and you’ve got there’s for there is or there has. They’re is the contraction of they are.  That leaves only their and theirs, which are the adjective and possessive forms of they.

  • Look over there! Unicorns! They’re frolicking all over their field. And there’s another one! This whole area must be theirsThere’s been quite an uptick in unicorn land ownership around these parts.

 Whose vs. Who’s

This one doesn’t come up as frequently, but it follows the same general principle. Whose is a possessive/adjective, while who’s means who is or who has.

  • Who’s the prettiest little unicorn? Who’s got the shinest little horn? YOU! Now, whose baby are you; we need to get you back to your parents before they get worried.

Check back next week for more grammatically correct unicorns!

Note: This is for personal edification and entertainment only. Don’t be a dick about people who misuse these or any other words, especially on the internet — you have no way of knowing if they have a learning disability, made a simple typo, or just got screwed by autocorrect.

(Unless they’re making these mistakes while ranting about how everyone needs to speak English in ‘merica or are otherwise being an ignorant hypocrite about language usage. Then you have my permission to tell them how very wrong they are on all levels. With gusto. Make the unicorns proud!)

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

7 thoughts on “Better Language Through Unicorns, Part 1: The Basics”

  1. Can we get a who vs whom? They’re also probably on your list of words no one knows how to use properly, so fuck them and anyone who gets pedantic about them, but I’d still like to know, primarily so I can out-pretentious people who pretentiously use “whom” incorrectly.

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