Despite sounding identical in their pronunciations, there, their, and they’re all have distinct meanings from one another. Words like these are called homophones. To, too, and two are examples of other homophones.
What is the Difference Between There, Their, and They’re?
In this post, I will go through the differences between these words and how to use them in your writing. I will use them in example sentences to demonstrate their meanings and uses. Plus, at the end I will give you a trick to remember the difference.
After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever again confuse there vs. their vs. they’re again.
When to Use There
What does there mean? “There” is an adverb that means “at that place.” There indicates a place or direction. For example,
- It is freezing up there in mountains.
- I found this dollar sitting over there on the sidewalk.
When to Use Their
What does their mean? “Their” is the possessive form of “they.” Being that their is possessive, it implies ownership over something. For example,
- Their names were called.
- All of their equipment was loaded into the truck.
In the first sentence it is their names that are being called. They belong to them. As is the case in the second example, the equipment also belongs to them, so we use “their.”
When to Use They’re
What does they’re mean? “They’re” is a contraction standing for “they are.” It is the easiest of the three to keep track of because it is the only one with an apostrophe. Let’s look at some examples,
- They’re making a new Star Wars movie.
- They’re down three games to one.
It is essential that you remember that “they’re” is a contraction and not a possessive. The apostrophe in it is indicating a letter that is being left out.
If you are ever in doubt on whether or not to use “they’re,” just split it apart into two words. If it still makes sense, “they’re” is correct. If it doesn’t make sense, it will be a different form. Let’s try this with a few of our above examples,
- All of they are equipment was loading into the truck.
This sentence makes no sense when you substitute “there are” in for the their, so you know that “their” is the correct word. Let’s try another,
- It is freezing up they are in the mountains.
This sentence also makes no sense using “there are,” so we know that it isn’t the right word.
Tricks to Remember the Difference
As promised, here are a few good tricks that you can use to keep track of their vs. there vs. they’re.
There is a direction/location and, if you notice, the word also contains in itself the word “here.” “Here” is also a direction/location.
Their is usually followed by a noun. Their money, their parents, their iPod, etc. It also has the letter “I” in it and “I” possess things. I possess a car. I possess a computer.
They’re is a contraction standing for they are. To remember when to use this one, just split it up in the sentence and see if it still makes sense.
Is it there or their? Or is it there or they’re? As is usually the case, this all depends on the context of your sentence.
There is a directional word.
Their a possessive word.
They’re is a contraction for the words “they are.”