Understanding the difference between there, their and they’re is essential to effectively constructing sentences and communicating accurately.
Homophones Sound the Same
There, their and they’re are homophones. That means that they sound the same – or at least have similar pronunciations – but that they have different meanings and spellings. To those who are new to the English language, homophones may seem extremely confusing.
Difference Between There, Their and They’re
Consider the following definitions and sample sentences to help you understand the difference between these three words:
The word “there” is used broadly in the English language:
When Used as a Noun
“There” means “that place” and is often used as the object in a prepositional phrase. Consider this sample usage:
- We moved from there with the hopes of putting our children in a better school district.
- The fashion designer instructed the models to walk carefully down the runaway over there.
When Used as an Adjective
“There” tells which person or thing. This is a highly colloquial usage and is not commonly used in writing. This usage is discouraged in spoken English as well. Here’s an example:
- That house there is most likely to be condemned if someone doesn’t start maintaining it soon.
- I hope those there tools are not rusted after being left out in the elements all winter long.
When Used as an Adverb
“There” means the opposite of “here.” An example of “there” as an adverb:
- The mother instructed her children to sit there during the show, and not to get up.
- Look there! The shooting stars are beautiful tonight!
When Used as a Pronoun
“There” refers to a phrase or a noun. For example:
- There are several ways to use the word “there” in a sentence.
- Are there opportunities to find work in that state?
The word “their” is an adjective that is a third person plural possessive. It shows that something belongs to them. Consider the following example sentences using the word “their”:
- The Smith family opened their home to a variety of stray cats and dogs.
- Their favorite thing to do is to take a Sunday afternoon stroll in Central Park.
- The wealthy business owners kept their valuable property, titles and deeds in a safe deposit box.
“They’re” is a contraction of the words “they” and “are” (or less commonly, “they” and “were”). The word there is usually followed by a verb ending in the letters –ing (which is known as the present participle). Consider the following example sentences using the word “they’re”:
- They’re training for a marathon by running 10 miles a day.
- I was hoping they’re away having fun, but it appears that they unfortunately had to go to the hospital instead.
- They’re closing on the house tomorrow, and then they’re moving in on Friday.
Practice Using There, Their and They’re
To master the difference between these terms, consider doing the following:
- Practice writing each one in a sentence of your own creation.
- Practice reading each of these sentences out loud so you can hear their usage in context.
- Read as much as you can. Reading books, magazines, even signs, will help you understand these and other homophones in their respective contexts, and will help you use them correctly.
- Have a friend or family member read you a sentence out loud, using one of these words, and see if you can identify which word is used.
These three words – there, their, and they’re – are so often confused that one might want to closely study and practice their usage to avoid errors.