Threw, Through, Thru

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

Mignon Fogarty
3-minute read


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.


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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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.