Thru vs. Through – How to Use it Correctly
What’s the Difference Between Thru and Through?
Thru and through look like alternate spellings of the same word. However, only through is appropriate in standard American English.
Through is usually a preposition, but it can also be an adverb or an adjective. It refers to movement in one end and out the other.
- It took an hour for the car to pass through the tunnel in Boston.
Thru is a non-standard way to spell through. Although it has the same meaning, it is important to avoid this spelling. It most often appears in restaurant drive-throughs or on traffic signs.
- Usually getting food from the drive-thru doesn’t take much time.
Let’s look at some of the ways to use, and not use, these words in English.
Using Thru in a Sentence
When to use thru: Thru is a non-standard spelling of through. Therefore, it is an incorrect in standard American English, and should be avoided in any academic, formal, or professional writing.
You shouldn’t ever find yourself writing the following sentence in an academic paper.
- He crowd was rushing thru the stands.
However, it is common to see thru at fast food restaurants as drive thru or on traffic signs stating no thru traffic.
- Please order at the intercom and proceed through the drive thru.
- You can’t drive there. We have to go around. Don’t you see the no-thru-traffic sign?
Remember to avoid using thru even though you might see it occasionally on signs. Unless you are making a drive thru sign or a traffic sign, this spelling has no real use in your writing.
Using Through in a Sentence
When to use through: Through can act as a preposition, adjective, or adverb, and is the standard English spelling of the word. It primarily refers to movement in one end and out the other. It can also mean from start to finish, to have a favorable conclusion, or including.
- Their road trip took them all the way through America. They started in Canada and ended up all the way in Mexico. (preposition)
- Don’t worry. You’ll get through this illness. (to reach a favorable conclusion)
- The party goes from 7 o’clock through midnight. (including)
- Wait for me, please! I’m not through yet! (adjective)
- I read your textbook all the way through! (adverb)
Through also appears in many idioms and expressions:
- through and through: completely or in all respects
- He’s a typical American, through and through. He bleeds red, white, and blue!
- break through (or breakthrough): a significant advance
- Isaac Newton had a breakthrough about gravity when an apple hit him on the head, as the legend goes.
- to come through: to do what one says one will do
- I’m so happy my dad came through with buying the birthday cake. For a moment I was worried he had forgotten!
- to jump through hoops: to go through difficult or numerous activities to try to achieve a goal
- I’m so sick of jumping through hoops to try to get my university to send me my transcript. It should be an easy process, not one that takes hours and multiple forms to do!
As you can see from the examples above, through can refer to a physical or abstract concept.
Remembering Thru vs. Through
One way to help you remember how to use through and avoid thru is to think of the context in which they both appear.
Through is the correct spelling, but it is also a long word with multiple silent letters. This is not a problem in academic writing, which is filled with many long words and many silent letters.
However, restaurants don’t want to pay more for bigger drive through signs. They are willing to use the non-standard spelling so that they can advertise their drive throughs in a bigger font that will take up less space than if they spell out all the silent letters in through. Traffic signs use thru for the same reason. They can write the word in a bigger font without having to enlarge their signs.
- I expected to be the lone driver on rain-soaked roads. Instead, I saw a line of cars wrapped around the drive-thru of a nearby Whataburger. I saw trucks and SUVs driving as if on a regular Sunday morning. –Houston Chronicle
- Learn the basics of plotting your adventure on the John Muir Trail, including how to plan meals and schedule resupplies, as well as discuss logistics for thru hikers. –LA Times
- Center Hroniss Grasu, who tore his ACL last year, said he wants to help Meredith through the ups and downs of what could be a season-long recovery process. –Chicago Sun Times
- A sidewalk on the northern border of Burnham just south of Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood could be converted into a wider path and fill in a gap on the Burnham Greenway — a bike and pedestrian path that slices through the southeast side of Chicago and neighboring suburbs. –Chicago Tribune
Quiz: Through vs. Thru
Instructions: Fill in the blank with either through or thru.
- I’m so hungry! I wish the drive ________ was faster.
- I can’t imagine all the trauma that the war refugees have been ___________.
- It’s important to read your notes ___________ very carefully before taking the test.
- Detour ahead. No ___________ traffic.
- I prefer to take a ____________ flight rather than one with lots of layovers.
See answers below.
Should I use thru or through? Only one of these is the correct spelling.
- Thru is an incorrect spelling in almost all contexts. It only appears in drive thrus at fast food restaurants or on traffic signs.
- Through is the correct spelling and implies starting in one place and moving to another, either literally or in a figurative manner.
Remember that just because some restaurants and traffic signs use thru to utilize space on their signs efficiently, you cannot do the same.