They’re one of the world's most confused homophones, and using them incorrectly can cause chaos in your writing. Here is our simple guide to getting your their, they’re and there down pat.
As the possessive case of the pronoun they, their is used to identify who owns what. If someone has ownership or possession of an object, their is used to demonstrate this. It can be used in both singular and plural cases, for example:
- Jin and Nick used their headphones to listen to music.
- Someone left a dirty mug on their desk.
In the first example, a group (plural) uses headphones they have ownership or possession of to listen to music. In the second example, someone has ownership of a desk that has a dirty mug on it.
They’re is a contraction (shortened version) of they are and is most commonly used when writing informally. It is always plural as they indicate there is more than one. Here is an example of both they’re and they are:
- They’re using pencils to take notes in class.
- They are using pencils to take notes in class.
In the first example, we use the contraction of they are - they’re. For the sake of comparison, we show the same example with no contraction.
A note about contractions: while contractions can be used to make your writing more efficient, they also make your writing more informal. Consider the purpose of your writing and the intended audience – do they expect formal writing or is informal writing okay to use?
There is an adverb that identifies an object or person’s position. It can also be used in place of a person’s name if you don’t know it, or as a form of exclamation.
- Please put my suitcase over there.
- ‘Hello there!’
- ‘There! I told you I was right!’
In the first example, someone is asking another person to place their suitcase in a specified location. In the second example, someone's name has been substituted for there. In the last example, there is used for exclamation at the beginning of the sentence.
There you have it! A simple guide to mastering their, they’re and there. If in doubt remember:
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