What Is the Difference Between Their, There and They’re?
Their, There and They’re are frequently used in the wrong context. As homophones they all sound the same, but have different meanings. Their is a possessive pronoun indicating ownership or possession. There can be an adverb of place, or a pronoun used to start a sentence, and introduce the subject. They’re is a contraction of they are.
Their is the possessive form of they, meaning that something belongs to them.
e.g. They all left their books in their lockers.
e.g. There wasn’t enough time to finish their essays in class.
There is the opposite of here. It is an adverb of place (over there). It describes where something is happening. There can also used as a pronoun to start a sentence and introduce the subject.
e.g. She left her bag over there. (Adverb)
e.g. Wait there while I fetch my keys. (Adverb)
e.g. There is no garlic bread left in the fridge. (Pronoun)
e.g. There’s a white van parked in the lane. (Pronoun)
They’re is a contraction of they are. If you are unsure of using contractions, always insert the uncontracted form, to check if the words make sense.
e.g. They’re going to miss their bus if they don’t hurry up.
e.g. They’re sorry they missed their bus.
How to Remember the Difference Between Their, There or They’re
If you are struggling to remember which one to use, there are clues to be found in the words themselves:
- Their includes the word heir, which refers to someone who is entitled to ownership of property and possessions left to them.
- There includes the word here. Think: There/Here for place.
- They’re contains an apostrophe, which means it is a contraction. All you need to do is to replace they’re with they are to check if the sentence is correct.
e.g. The ball is over they’re. (Replace they’re with they are to check.)
e.g. The ball is over they are. (Wrong! This doesn’t make sense.)
e.g. The ball is over their. (Wrong! Their indicates possession and not place.)
e.g. The ball is over there. (Correct! There is an adverb of place – The ball is here or the ball is there.)
e.g. They’re running the half-marathon today. (Replace they’re with they are to check.)
e.g. They are running the half-marathon today. (Correct! This makes sense and they’re is the correct form to use.)
- Alexander, L. G. (2004). Right Word, Wrong Word: Words and Structures Confused and Misused by Learners of English. Essex: Longman.
- Dowling, D. (2011). Wrong word dictionary: 2,500 Most Commonly Confused Words. Oak Park, IL: Marion Street Press.
- Gooden, P. (2007). Who’s Whose?: A No-nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words. London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd.