They’re, their and there.

4 Mar
The Reuben sandwich: Possibly invented in Omah...

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OK, back to grammar.

Confusing ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’ is also quite a common mistake I come across – and again, it’s just a matter of taking a deep breath, thinking about it and choosing the option you want.  Confusingly, all three are pronounced the same – although we use them quite differently.

1.         They’re = they are (or occasionally they were).

The apostrophe indicates that a letter is missing.

  • They’re a fantastic band – you should really go and see them.
  • I hate raw tomatoes – they’re evil!

2.         Their = belongs to them.

‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun, just like my, your, his, her and our – and you use it when you have a plural noun or sequence of singular nouns that ‘own’ something.  .

  • The astronauts lost their minds after spending too long on the spaceship.
  • Everyone on this team should play to their strengths.
  • Poppy, Denzil, and Smithy should make a point of calling their mother more often.

Lastly, and more complicated is …

3.   There = either indicates a place that’s different to where the speaker is OR indicates the existence of something

Using there to indicate a place

Where the speaker or writer is based is always referred to as ‘here’ – and if you want to indicate anywhere else, either a real place or somewhere abstract, you switch to there.

  • I’m here – but what are you doing over there?  (an abstract usage)
  • I’ve heard about the London Dungeon – it sounds really scary in there.  (referring to a real place)
  • There is a great sandwich shop next to the office.
  • Check over there for your glasses.

Using there to indicate existence

We also use there to indicate that something exists; there normally is followed by a conjugation of the verb to be (is, was, are, were)

  • There once was a lonely duckling
  • I’ve heard there’s a hard winter ahead of us
  • There are so many things to be happy about in life

So, to recap:

  • are you trying to say ‘they are’? –> if so, they’re
  • are you trying to say ‘belongs to them’ just as ‘my’ means ‘belongs to me’ –> if so, their
  • if you’re indicating place or existence –> there

My best tip is to try to rule out options 1 & 2, and then you know you’re on to a winner with option 3.

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