Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

What happens when words sound the same? Far too often, the transition from the spoken word to the written word (coupled with the “advent” of the automatic spell checker) ends up providing us with a plethora of errors. Such is frequently the case with “here” and “hear.”

When spoken, these two words are uttered in exactly the same way. However, their respective meanings could not be more different. I don’t find people mixing up “here” and “hear” quite as often as I find them mixing up there, their, and they’re, but it still happens much more frequently than it should. As mentioned above, it doesn’t help that the spell check utility in word processors and web browsers won’t pick it up as a mistake. It is spelled correctly… just for the wrong word.

Two Words, Different Meanings

Here can take on a few different parts of speech: noun, adverb, adjective, and interjection. In its most common usage, though, it is a word that refers to the present location or the current place (whether physically or figuratively). You would tell your dog to come here. You would say that the distance from here to the park is about two blocks.

Hear, by contrast, is always a verb. Most commonly, it refers to perceiving by the ear. This is not quite the same thing as listening, because to listen implies that you are paying attention to the object (whatever that may be) creating the sound. Even so, most people will use “listen” and “hear” interchangeably in this regard.

You could say that you hear the fire truck in the distance. You could ask, “Did you hear the news about the updated Starbucks logo?” In a legal sense, you could also say that a judge is hearing a case, which would then mean that he is officially considering the case (so that he can deliver a verdict).

On a side note, when you are in agreement with someone delivering a speech, the saying is, “Hear, hear!” and not “Here, here!” It’s because you are really telling people to “hear” the speaker. “Hear him! Hear what he has to say!”

You Need Good Grammar

Many people on the Internet will say that exact spelling and grammar don’t really matter. They’ll say that as long as the message is getting through, it shouldn’t make a difference. Well, there are many reasons why you need good grammar. You want your words to be clear and you don’t want to suffer from “chipped coffee cup” syndrome.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 post here on Beyond the Rhetoric? Let me hear them!