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Their, There, They’re and When To Use Them

The English language has many words that sound the same, but have different meanings. They are homophones. It can get tricky if we do not know where to use the right one. The meaning of the sentences can get very weird and the conversation could go for a toss!

One of the easiest words in English that can go wrong are the words’ their, there and they’re. They are often used that it is important to know where and how to use the correct form. I’m using them to write this as well!

They all sound so similar that it is difficult to differentiate between them while speaking. Phew, only pronouncing them in one go is an obstacle cleared! Without the right context, they can sound very confusing and wrong. Let’s test it out with this example,

‘They’re fighting over there because their ideas don’t match.’

If someone came up to you and said the above sentence without any context, you would be very puzzled. It is difficult to understand this sentence if you don’t know their respective usage.

But no worries, let’s learn more about them so you can never go wrong with their use. 

Their

‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun. A possessive pronoun shows ownership. It means that the particular thing or object belongs to someone. It is the possessive form of the word ‘they’.

‘Their’ is a plural pronoun. It is used to indicate groups rather than a single person. But nowadays it is used in singular form also. 

Few examples would help form better clarity- 

  • The kids were looking forward to their new clothes.
  • I had no idea that it was their van.
  • The siblings forgot their books at school.
  • The cats left their litterbox outside in the rain.

There

‘There is an adverb of place. Adverbs of the place tell the location of the verb taking place. ‘There’ indicates a particular place or a position. 

‘There’ has double uses and can be used in an abstract form as well. It is used as a pronoun to introduce a statement or a sentence. 

Giving examples would help clear any confusion-

  • Kate placed her homework there and ran out to play.
  • The art supplies are over there by the old table.
  • There are no eggs left to make omelets for your breakfast tomorrow.
  • There was no class yesterday so you did not miss anything important.

They’re 

This is a contraction of two words‘they’ and ‘are’. Writing ‘they’re’ is the same as writing ‘they are.’ It is a combination of two words, where some letters are removed and an apostrophe is added. The meaning remains the same.

They’re is in plural form. It can be used for both living and non-living objects. Examples- 

  • They’re planning to go on an overseas trip.
  • I think they’re going to move away to another country next summer.
  • They’re the biggest art pieces the gallery owns.
  • Don’t you think they’re the most difficult papers we have written this year?

Rules of use

The use of these three words can sometimes confuse a native English speaker to make a mistake too. But fear not, once you go through the rules of their use, the rest will seem like a breeze!

The word there can be used in different settings. It can be used as a pronoun, as a noun, as an adverb, and as an adjective

  1. There as a pronoun
  • Are there enough apples to make the apple pie?
  1. There as a noun 
  • We went to the amusement park and we loved all the rides there.
  1. There as an adverb
  • Do you see the scary house over there?
  1. There as an adjective
  • The instructor is there to help you learn to swim.

The word their is used as a possessive adjective that indicates it belongs to two people or more. Their is usually followed by a noun.

  1. Their as a possessive adjective 
  • They left their car with us so they could go on a hiking trip.
  • The students left their phones with the teacher while they took an exam. 

The word they’re is used as a contraction between two words, they and are. They can only be used in a situation where ‘they are’ can be substituted with they’re.

  1. They’re as a contraction
  • I think they’re planning a Halloween party this year.
  • They’re yet to give a reply whether they will be able to make it or not.

Hint from the spellings

An easy to way differentiate between them is to check their spellings.

If you look closely at the word there, you will see that it has the word here in it. Here is an adverb of place, meaning it talks about a particular location or place.

Similarly, their has the word heir in it. Heir indicates possession.

They’re is a contraction, meaning they have an apostrophe. An apostrophe indicates that there are two words. If you substitute the contraction with two words and it retains the original meaning, then you are using the right word!

What are homophones?

Homophones are two or more words that have the same pronunciation but different origins, spellings, and meanings. They can get confusing if the meaning and context are not known. The best example is the one we’ve learned about- there, their, they’re. 

Other examples – to and two, weather and whether, bare and bear, cent-scent-sent, etc.

Exercise 1: Is the usage correct?

  1. Is there too much salt in the food?
  2. Their eating too many desserts.
  3. Are you sure there fine with you driving their new car?
  4. Please take a seat over there.
  5. Let’s go over to look at their new dog.

Answers

  1. Yes.
  2. No.
  3. No.
  4. Yes.
  5. Yes.

Exercise 2: fill in the blanks

  1. Can you take a look at _____ dishwasher?
  2. _____ are too many outfits to choose from.
  3. I like the design of ____ house.
  4. _____ from Japan.
  5. _____ putting up _____ antique clocks for sale.

Answers

  1. Their.
  2. There. 
  3. Their.
  4. They’re.
  5. They’re, their.

Best tips to master there, their and they’re:

  • Try creating different examples to practice. It can be in any form, be it on paper or through conversations.
  • Reading aloud helps beginners grasp the concept better. Try to read as much as you can. Reading books, blogs, newspapers, materials will help to realize how the words are used.
  • Listening also helps a lot. Listening to different people and various things will help identify the context and make it easier to use the words in the right setting. 

Summary

  • There, their and they’re are homophones that are used in the basics of sentence formation.
  • There shows location or place, their shows ownership and they’re is a contraction of the words they and are.
  • You can differentiate between them by their spellings and the context they are used in.

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