Grammar Their, There, and They’re—What’s the Difference? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

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

One of the hardest things to master in English is the difference among three very similar words: their, there, and they’re. Because these words have similar spellings and nearly identical pronunciations, they tend to be commonly misused.

Learning to put each one in its correct place is a great way to write more clearly. Or, if you want to look at things from a different perspective, applying them in the wrong context—for instance, using their when you mean they’re—can make your thoughts and ideas seem less impressive.

To help you get it right every time, let’s look at the correct usages for their, there, and they’re.

The Meaning and Usage of Their

Their is a possessive pronoun that means “belonging to them.”

Examples
The visiting team won the game easily. Their defense was just too strong.
I hope we go to the new Italian restaurant tonight. Their spaghetti is amazing.
The people we met on our vacation were wonderful. We loved their outlook on life.

The Meaning and Usage of There

There can have two meanings.

In the first meaning, there can refer to a place that “is not here.”

Examples
We can go there to watch a movie after dinner.
I was there yesterday when Julie came to visit.

There can also be used as a pronoun that roughly equates to “it is the case that,” a context known as the grammatical expletive.

Examples
There is no question we can benefit from using good grammar.
If there is a will to succeed, there is a way to make it happen.

The Meaning and Usage of They’re

They’re is the easiest of the three uses to master because it is simply a combination of the two words “they are.”

Examples
Tim called to say his parents were coming to dinner. They’re at the restaurant now.
Tell the kids they’re going to be in trouble if they don’t finish their homework.
Cats are fun but they’re not as affectionate as dogs most of the time.

 

Pop Quiz

Fill in the following blanks with the correct usages of their, there, and they’re.

  1. _____ are only so many ways to cook with cabbage before it gets tiresome.
  2. I like Tom and Linda, but _____ house is too far away for a weeknight dinner.
  3. Have you seen the electric bill? I thought I put it in the drawer over _____.
  4. It must be hard for firefighters to sleep since _____ always getting called at night.
  5. I asked the neighbors to turn off the alarm, but it wasn’t _____ car.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. There are only so many ways to cook with cabbage before it gets tiresome.
  2. I like Tom and Linda, but their house is too far away for a weeknight dinner.
  3. Have you seen the electric bill? I thought I put it in the drawer over there.
  4. It must be hard for firefighters to sleep since they’re always getting called at night.
  5. I asked the neighbors to turn off the alarm, but it wasn’t their

 

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