They’re, there and their are homophones, which means they are words which sound the same but are spelt differently. I don’t have a problem remembering which one to use (and tend to cringe when I see it written incorrectly); however, being a common spelling error, a work colleague asked me to add a post in My Writing Notebook for completeness. Please feel free to use this post as a learning tool, to share or just to cringe with me.
USING THE WORD THEY’RE
They’re is short for they are – so if you look at the first sentence below, you will see it is incorrect because you can replace there with they are. This makes the correct spelling they’re as shown in point two.
- If there coming with us, they had better get ready. (Incorrect)
- If they’re coming with us, they had better get ready. (Correct)
USING THE WORD THERE
According to the Oxford Dictionaries online, there are a few meanings of the word there. The main two are:
- To indicate a place or position e.g. ‘over there‘ or ‘we stayed there for days’.
- To indicate the fact or existence of something and used with the verb ‘be’ (there is, there are, there were, there was).
USING THE WORD THEIR
According to Oxford Dictionaries online, their is a possessive determiner. Here are two ways it can be used:
- To refer to something or someone mentioned previously in a sentence e.g. “Sharon and Mark have lived in their house for fifteen years”, or “we didn’t know our neighbour, but we’ve seen their dog outside”.
- To refer to a person or persons of an unidentified gender, e.g. “We heard some noise across the road where the children are playing; it could be their playtime”, or “She didn’t hear their name”.
USING ALL THREE WORDS IN A SENTENCE
Here are a couple of sentences with all three words in:
- They’re climbing over their fence to get over there.
- There are two sisters; each one has their own bedroom and they’re all very happy about it.
IF YOU NEED TO PRACTISE
Better-English.com has a game consisting of 20 sentences and you need to fill in the blank by selecting they’re, there or their.
My thoughts: although I said at the beginning of the post that I was fully aware of the differences, I still had to look things up to be able to explain it properly – especially the possessive pronoun part. So, I do feel that I learnt something today, even if it was just to learn how to structure things in a way that I could teach it.