There, Their, or They're?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "There," "Their," and "They're"?

"There," "their," and "they're" are easy to confuse because they sound identical.
  • "There" is a place. For example:
    • I live there.
    • There are lots of shops.
    • ("There" is like "here.")
  • "Their" is for possession. For example:
    • I understand their argument.
    • ("Their" is just like "my," "his," "her," and "our.")
  • "They're" is short for "they are." For example:
    • Where are the rabbits? They're near the tree.

Infographic for "There," "Their," and "They're"

Here is an infographic explaining the difference between "there," "their," and "they're":
there their they're

More about "They're," "Their," and "There"

"There," "their," and "they're" are common words, and your readers will expect you to use the right one. A mistake involving one of these is a serious risk to your credibility as a writer.

They're

"They're" is a contraction of "they are."

Example sentences with "they're":
  • They're not leaving on Saturday now.
  • (Do the expansion test: "They are not leaving on Saturday now.")
  • I cannot believe they're from Boston.
  • (Test: "I cannot believe they are from Boston.")
  • More than 20 people left they're coats in the cloakroom.
  • (Test: "More than 20 people left they are coats in the cloakroom." This is nonsense. Therefore, "they're" is wrong.)

Making a there/their/they're mistake can undermine your credibility. How would you react to this office sign? (It should be "their" not "they're.")
  • My doctor gave me two weeks to live. I hope they're in August. (Comedian Ronnie Shakes)
  • (Test: "I hope they are in August.")
  • Things are only impossible until they're not. (Captain Jean-Luc Picard)
  • (Test: "Things are only impossible until they are not.")

Top Tip

Only use "they're" if you can substitute it with "they are."

Understand the grammar.

"They're" is a contraction. There are two types of contraction:
  • A shortened version of a word (e.g., "cannot" contracts to "can't")
  • One word formed from two words (e.g., "they are" contracts to "they're")
Both types of contraction feature apostrophes. In the contraction "they're," the apostrophe replaces the letter "a" and the two words are merged into one.)

Their

"Their" is for possession. It is like "my," "your," "his," "her," "its," and "our." These are called possessive determiners ("possessive adjectives" in traditional grammar).

Top Trick (Use The "Our" Test)

Here is a little trick to test whether "their" is correct:

Use the word "our" instead of "their." If the sentence still makes sense, then "their" is correct. This trick works because "our" and "their" are both possessive determiners used for plurals.
Example sentences with "their":
  • Can you show the guests to their cabins?
  • (Do the "our" test: "Can you show the guests to our cabins?"
    This sounds okay. Therefore, "their" is correct.)
  • I have seen their footprints before.
  • (Test: "I have seen our footprints before."
    This sounds okay. Therefore, "their" is correct.)
  • Their all leaving.
  • (Test: "Our all leaving."
    This is nonsense. Therefore, "their" is wrong. It should be "They're.")
  • Their less likely to cause offence.
  • (Test: "Our less likely to cause offence."
    This is nonsense. Therefore, "their" is wrong. It should be "They're.")
  • Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)

There

"There" is like "here" because it represents a place. ("There" and "here" are adverbs of place.)

"There" has two uses:

(1) It means a specific place.
  • She is there.
(2) It means that something exists.
  • There are two apples.
More example sentences with "there":
  • The Germans are over there.
  • (In this example, "there" is a specific place.)
  • There is a good reason I'm not attending the party this year.
  • (In this example, it means "a good reason exists.")

Ready for All 3?

Here is an example with "they're," "their," and "there."
  • They're unqualified, and their opinions were worthless while they were there.

A Video Summary

Here is a 5-minute video summarizing this lesson on "there," "their," and "they're."

Ready for the Test?

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See Also

See more common grammar errors listed by their seriousness. adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adverbs? What are adjectives? Apostrophes replace letters List of easily confused words

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