There, Their, and They're
 
Do not confuse there, their, and they're. That would be a serious mistake.

They're is short for they are.
Their shows possession. It's just like my, his, her, and our.
There is a place. It's similar to here.
 


They're, Their, and There

Do not confuse they're, their, and there. A mistake involving these constitutes a grammatical howler.

They're

They're is a shortened version of they are. (The apostrophe replaces the letter a.) Only use they're if you can substitute it with they are

Examples:

  • They're not leaving on Saturday at all.
  • ("They are not leaving..." < sounds ok)


    This is wrong – should be their
    (office sign by sink)


  • I cannot believe they're from Wigan.
  • ("I cannot believe they are from Wigan." < sounds ok)

  • More than 20 people left they're coats in the cloakroom.
  • ("More than 20 people left they are coats in the cloakroom." < nonsense; therefore, they're must be wrong.)

  • Why do you listen to them? They're unqualified.

  • My doctor gave me two weeks to live. I hope they're in August. (Ronnie Shakes)

  • Things are only impossible until they're not. (Jean-Luc Picard)

Their

Their is used to show possession. It is just like my, your, his, her, its, and our. (These are called possessive adjectives.) Here is a little trick: use the word our instead of their. If the sentence still makes sense, then their is almost certainly correct. This trick works because our and their are both possessive adjectives used for plurals.

Examples:

  • Can you show the guests to their cabins?
  • ("Can you show the guests to our cabins" < sounds ok; their is correct)

  • I have seen their footprints before.
  • ("I have seen our footprints before." < sounds ok; their is correct)

  • Their all leaving.
  • ("Our all leaving." < nonsense; their is wrong; should be they're)

  • Their less likely to cause offence.

  • Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes. (Oscar Wilde)

There

The word there is similar to the word here in that it represents a place. It has two main uses: (1) it is a specified place (like in the first example below), and (2) it is an unspecified place (like in the second example). Also, like in the second and third examples, the word there can be used to show that something exists.

Examples:

  • The Germans are over there.
  • (specified place)

  • There are two apples.
  • (unspecified place - two apples exist)

  • There are two apples left in the fruit bowl.
  • (two apples exist; place specified later in the sentence - i.e., in the fruit bowl)

  •  Simon looked up and repeated his opening line: "They're unqualified and their opinions counted for nothing while they were their."
  • (last their should be there)


 
 Select the correct answer:
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
 

 
NOT IN FORMAL LETTERS 

As a general rule, try to avoid words like they're and doesn't in formal letters. Always expand them to they are and does not.

(See lesson Apostrophes.)
 


See also:

What are adverbs?
What are adjectives?
Apostrophes replace letters
List of easily confused words