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Threw, Through, Thru

Twilight from the Twilight and Thebes Show called in with this question.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #126

 

a drive thru window

Twilight from the Twilight and Thebes Show called in with a question about homophones:

I'm confused with the word through, [as in] "I looked through this pile of papers." It can't be threw because I'm not throwing the papers. So is it thru? But then whenever I type thru it looks grammatically incorrect for some reason. If you could enlighten me I would much appreciate it.

Homophones

Twilight, thanks for your question. You're getting at something that I imagine is difficult for a lot of people and especially for people who are just learning English: homophones. These are words that sound the same, but mean different things (misusing them can be very funny). Homophones can be spelled differently--such as threw (t-h-r-e-w) and through (t-h-r-o-u-g-h)--or they can be spelled the same but mean different things—such as fair (f-a-i-r) which can be a noun as in "We went to the state fair" or an adjective as in "He got a fair trial."

First of all, you're right to think that threw (t-h-r-e-w) isn't the right word, because it is the past tense of the verb throw, as in, "Let's throw the bums out."

Through Versus Thru

It gets a little more dicey when trying to decide between through (t-h-r-o-u-g-h) and thru (t-h-r-u). I actually didn't think t-h-r-u was a word when I first heard your question, but I looked it up just to be sure and was really surprised to find it in the dictionary, where it is listed as an informal, simplified spelling of the word t-h-r-o-u-g-h.

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