There, Their, and They’re: How They Differ and When to Use Them

English is a complicated language. What we gain by having nouns without gender assignments, like French and Spanish, we lose with our confusing spellings, pronunciation changes, silent letters, and irregular verbs. Today, we’re going to look at a common mistake that everyone has made at some point: confusing the use of there, their, and they’re.

Homophones Are Us

Homophones are words that we pronounce the same, but that have different meanings and/or spellings. Too, to, and two are homophones, as are flower and flour. And, of course, so are there, their, and they’re. And while homophones sound the same, we definitely don’t use them the same way. Get them wrong, and you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. And people won’t hesitate to point that out.

What’s the Difference Between There, Their, and They’re?

Here are the hard and fast rules for using there, their and they’re, as well as the differences between them:

There is an adverb, and it’s generally used to indicate a place or a direction:

  • It sure is hot out there on the patio!
  • We are going over there.

Their is simply the possessive form of they and indicates ownership:

  • Their tools were left all over the shop floor.
  • When they heard their names called, they went to the lost and found.

They’re is the contraction of “they are” as in:

  • They’re looking for a new house.  

To sum things up, there refers to place or direction, their refers to ownership, and they’re is a contraction. If you can remember those three simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to error-free writing.

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