Threw, Through, and Thru

ball thrown through window
The boy threw the ball through a window. Steve Bronstein/Getty Images

The words threw, through, and thru are homophones: They sound alike, but threw and through have different meanings, and thru is used mainly in certain informal contexts.

Definitions

Threw is the simple past tense of the verb throw, which usually means to cause something to move through the air. ("Buddy threw the ball.")

Through can function as an adjective, adverb, or preposition, each with a variety of meanings.

 Through often suggests a passage—from start to finish or from point A to point B. ("Buddy walked through the museum.") Through can also mean finished, over, or completed. ("Marjorie is through with school.") As a preposition, through means by, using, or as a result of. ("Pat found out about the job through an ad on Craigslist.")

Thru is an informal spelling of through—usually more appropriate in informal writing such as a text message or tweet than in a formal essay or report.

Idioms

The word through appears in numerous English idioms. For example, the expression through and through means completely, thoroughly, or throughout. 

"The storm had broken over them toward midnight, the wild westerly gale swooping at them down the shoulder of the mountains like a wild thing that wanted to destroy them; whipping the waters of the loch into racing white-caps, bringing with it the bitter, hissing rain to drench them ​through and through." (Rosemary Sutcliff, "The Eagle of the Ninth." Oxford University Press, 1954)

The phrasal verb go through (with) means to experience, examine carefully, perform, use up, or complete, as in this passage from John Banville's "Eclipse": "A gush of panic rose in me like gorge. How, I asked myself, how could I stay here? How could I have thought I could stay here, all alone? Well, too late now; I would have to go through with it.

This is what I told myself, I murmured it aloud: I shall have to go through with it, now." (Knopf, 2001)

The expression go through the roof means to get very angry or to rise to a high level, such as in this travel guide's description: "In the peak season between July and September prices go through the roof: a hotel room costs twice as much in these months as in April or October." ("Madeira and Porto Santo Marco Polo Guide," 2012)

Practice

  1. The car fled police and blew ____ a red light, barely avoiding a collision. 
  2. Mary texted me "The lines to go ____ airport security are horrible this afternoon."  
  3. I’m _____ listening to your excuses.
  4. In last night's ballgame the pitcher ____ a record 105 miles per hour with his fastball!

Answers

  1. through
  2.  thru
  3.  through
  4. threw

Answers to Practice Exercises: Threw, Through, and Thru

(a)  "I veered onto North Avenue, blowing through a red light and barely avoiding a collision as two cars coming from opposite directions squealed to a halt in the intersection behind me."
(T.M. Goeglein, Embers & Ash. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2014)

(b) "As he approached the airport checkpoint on Tuesday morning, he built suspense, sending out two posts on Twitter.

'About to go thru security at McAllen Airport. I don’t know what’s going to happen,' he wrote."
(Julia Preston and Laura Tillman, "Immigration Advocate, Detailed on Texas Border, Is Released in Visa Case." The New York Times, July 15, 2014)

(c) I’m through listening to your excuses.

(d) "He went back to his cubicle, sat down, threw the fragment of paper casually among the other papers on the desk, put on his spectacles and hitched the speakwrite towards him."
(George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949) 

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words