There, they’re and their
The English language is rich with variety and words that have specific meanings. It makes the potential for communication exciting and beautiful. However, that also makes it incredibly complex with many words sounding alike although they are spelt, and used, differently. There, they’re and their are classic examples of this category of words known as homophones.
These tricky words sound alike but have different meanings (making them homophones) and so it is easy to become confused over which ones to use.
There is used when referring to a place:
The science books are over there.
Some people find that a good way to remember this is to look for the word here which is contained in the word there. It reminds them that this is to do with a place.
Their is used to show possession; to show that something belongs to other people:
My friends keep forgetting their homework.
Some people find that a good way to remember this is to look for the words he and I contained in the word their. It reminds them that they need the word that is to do with things belonging to other people.
They’re is a contraction of the words they are.
For instance: They’re working really hard.
Other ways to test your usage.
When you use any of these three words, get in the habit of asking yourself these questions, but remember that they will not work in all cases though:
If you wrote there, will the sentence still make sense if you replace it with here? If so, you're using it correctly.
If you chose their, will the sentence still make sense if you replace it with our? If so, you've chosen the correct word.
If you used they're, will the sentence still make sense if you replace it with they are? If so, you're on the right track!
Remember, if there is something you would particularly like to see covered then please email your requests to
email@example.com with RLS Literacy in the subject header.
Mrs N Bone - Head of English