Thursday, July 9, 2009

They're, Their and There

In the first post to this blog, I made reference to the confusion and often misuse of they're, their and there. Well, it's time we take a look at these three variations!

The first I'll address, and probably the easiest to remember, is they're. They're is a contraction of the words they and are. A contraction is the combination of two words, e.g., wasn't - (was and not), couldn't - (could and not) get the idea. So in the context of what you're writing, if the two words used separately make sense, then you're (you are) using the correct form.

Their is a possessive adjective. "Their choice of words is correct." Perhaps the i in their could help you; (i - mine) being possessive. (A special note of interest about their - this form is often misspelled, possibly because of the general rule, "i before e except following c;" it's one of those words that doesn't comply with the "rule") - which is WEIRD.

There on the other hand, is usually used when referring to a place, (They live over there), or as a pronoun to introduce a sentence (There are three versions of the word). Here you have a word where a letter - "r" is placed between two identical letters, - "e". If you're unsure, say to yourself, "I'm placing the r between the e's," thus you are referring to a place. Another trick that might help you remember is that here is in the word there, and here is a place. As for abstract uses of the word, is it a pronoun you're beginning a sentence with? Your safest bet is the process of elimination. If they're and their do not fit, chances are you want to use there.

In the following sentence can you see the use of the three forms being used correctly?

"They're hoping that their books will sell there."

They are hoping that their (remember i - possessive) books will sell there (you placed the r between two e's; and here is part of the word) - a place.

And remember - while spell check is a wonderful tool, it's not going to catch an incorrect word choice! All three forms of this word will pass spell check (if they're spelled correctly!) But it may not be the correct form of the word for the context of what you're writing! Enabling grammar check will help, but mastering the differences of these words on your own is empowering! C'mon!! You can do it! THERE is nothing to it!

Now, did you catch that? They're and their would not be correct - try it: They're (they are) is nothing to it; Their (possessive - I, mine) is nothing to it. Neither is right, so by process of elimination, and the fact that it's a pronoun used to introduce a sentence, the proper choice is THERE.


  1. This is one thing I think I got a handle on!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. Yup... I have them mastered.. I only get them wrong as a typo at this point.


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