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There, their, and they’re each represent 3 different parts of speech and carry their own very different meanings—but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the most confused trios in the English language, perhaps second only to the problematic duo you’re and your.
Much to the shock and horror of English teachers everywhere, sentences like “The author states there opinion . . .” continue to plague not only tweets and Facebook posts, but academic essays and manuscripts, as well.
Such errors can make even the best prose appear unprofessional and carelessly constructed, making a horrible first impression for your writing.
In order to give your writing the polish and presentation it deserves, make sure you know how to properly use there, their, and they’re.
The Difference Between There, Their, and They’re
There can be used as an adverb, pronoun, or noun.
As an adverb, it describes the location of something (carrying the exact opposite meaning of here). It might describe the physical location of an object or person (as in “I will go there“), or a point of reference in relation to another idea (as in “there is where we disagree”).
As a pronoun, there can be used to introduce a sentence or clause (as in “there are” or “there is”).
As a noun, there can be used to refer to a point or position (as in “we can take it from there“). See below for more examples of each use.
- We will go there after lunch.
- Can you put my glasses on the table over there?
- There are 35 other students in my daughter’s class.
- There is a long line at the supermarket today.
- Once you’ve made the introductions, we can take it from there.
Their is a third-person plural possessive pronoun. It describes the ownership of an object or quality (like his and her), usually referring to more than one owner.
However, it can also be used as a singular, gender-neutral possessive pronoun (as in “the individual didn’t want their name revealed”).
- My parents are going to sell their home and move overseas.
- They’ve always been careful about saving their money.
- They don’t want their personal data shared.
- Who is the Mystery Shopper? Do you know their name?
- Michael and Sarah are renovating their home.
They’re is a contraction, a shortened version of the words tbey are. That’s really the only meaning it carries, though the they in they are can refer to people or objects.
- They’re going to Hawaii next month.
- I don’t know how they’re going to manage.
- When do you think they’re going to leave?
- They’re getting married this spring.
- They’re very happy together.
How to Remember the Difference
There is perhaps the easiest to remember, since it contains the word here and describes a location.
They’re is a contraction, so you need only remember that it is short for “they are.” That leaves just their, which is a possessive pronoun.
Remembering the difference between there, their, and they’re is imperative if you want your writing to make a great impression and remain polished and professional.
Learn more about the most common grammar mistakes so you can be sure that your words (and not your errors) stay at the center of attention.
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