Their Versus There Versus They're

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Understanding the difference between ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ is imperative to making your writing clear and concise.

Proper use of ‘their’

‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun, which means it is a word that stands in for a noun while indicating possession of something. The word that follows ‘their’ is always a noun and is also the thing that is possessed. Also, since this pronoun is plural, it is only appropriate to use it to stand in for plural nouns.

Incorrect: Their is a chicken in the oven.

Correct: Their friend, a fellow chicken, is in the oven.

Proper use of ‘there’

There are two possible uses of the word ‘there.’ First, it is used to refer to either a concrete or abstract place, and its use is similar to the word ‘here.’ The second use of ‘there’ uses the word as an adverb, and it is always used with a form of the word ‘be’, such as ‘am,’ ‘are,’ ‘is,’ ‘were’ and ‘was.’ In this case, it is used to mention something or to point out a thing’s existence.

Incorrect: There six chickens waiting anxiously beside the oven over their.

Correct: There are six chickens watching another chicken roast in the oven over there.

Proper use of ‘they’re’

‘They’re’ is a contraction of they are. Its use is appropriate for informal writing, and it is appropriate to use just as ‘they are’ is used. Accordingly, it is a plural, 3rd person pronoun with the verb ‘to be.’

Incorrect: They’re waiting expectantly for they’re chicken to come out of the oven over they’re.

Correct: They are waiting for their chicken to come out of the oven over there.

Determining accuracy of use

It is easy to determine which word is appropriate while writing. Since ‘their’ is a possessive pronoun, writers can substitute the antecedent in a possessive form to see if it fits. If it does, then its use is probably appropriate. For ‘there’, writers can check their work by looking for a form of the verb ‘to be’ to follow ‘there.’ For ‘they’re,’ writers can substitute ‘they are.’ In each case, if the sentence retains its meaning after the substitution, then they can know they are using the words ‘their,’ ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ correctly.