Correct grammar is the foundation for a well written paper or article. “There”, “their”, and “they're” are commonly misused words because they are homophones. A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word but is different in meaning. In this case, speaking any of these three words in conversation is alright, but on paper you have to know which one to use to make a correct statement or question.

Why is this important? Whether you are writing an academic paper, persuasive essay, or professional article, it is essential to write in proper grammar. The main reason is because you will lose ground with your reader if you don't. Improper grammar sticks our like a sore thumb and drowns out any great content you may have. I've had some professors stop reading a paper, handing it back to student and saying to fix all the grammar otherwise he would have failed halfway through. Yes, there are such things as Grammar Nazis, but the uses of these words are very simple to distinguish! Let's begin with the simplest one:

 

They're, Their, There is a DifferenceCredit: www.dissertationdoctor.com

Rule For They're

They're” is simply a contraction for “they” and “are”. Here are some other examples of other contractions:

  • “I'm” = “I” and “am”
  • “You're” = “you” and “are”
  • “Don't” = “do” and “not”

Since “they're” is the same as saying “they are”, trying replacing “they are” whenever you are unsure of which word to use and see if the sentence still makes sense. If you can use “they are”, then you can use “they're”. Here are some correct and incorrect examples:

  • They're (They are) going to the store later. Right
  • Do you know why they're (they are) eating that? Right
  • They're (They are) no fun. Right
  • Hey, that's they're (they are) bicycle! 
    • Wrong (correct word is “their” to show possession)
  • I want to go they're (they are).
    • Wrong (correct word is “there” to mention a place)
  • They're (they are) are ten zebras. 
    • Wrong (correct word is “there” used with “to be” as an indicator)

Rule For There

There” is used to indicate a place or location. Also, it is used with the verb “to be” (am, are, is, was were) to indicate another person, place, or thing. This can get a little tricky with the previous rule. “They are” and “there are” are two different sets of words, don't confuse the two. Remember that “they're” is a contraction of “they” and “are”, not “there” and “are”. Here are some correct and incorrect examples:

  • There he is! 
    • Right (mentions a place)
  • There are many options to choose from.
    • Right (used with “to be” as an indicator)
  • Was there a thunderstorm yesterday?
    • Right (used with “to be” as an indicator)
  • There always talking about me. 
    • Wrong (correct word is “they're” from the words “they are”)
  • What is there problem? 
    • Wrong (correct word is “their” to show possession)
  • There up to something fishy. 
    • Wrong (correct word is “they're” from the words “they are”)

Rule For Their

Their” is to show possession of something to the subject “them”. The rule is that if you are unsure of which word to use but there is a noun (abstract or concrete) in front of it, then it is most likely “their”. Here are some correct and incorrect examples:

  • Their house is a block from mine. 
    • Right (shows possession of “house”)
  • I don't know how, but you could feel their sadness. 
    • Right (shows possession of “sadness”)
  • What was the point of their speech exactly? 
    • Right (shows possession of “speech”)
  • Where was I when you went their
    • Wrong (correct word is “there” to mention a place)
  • Did you know their was a sales going on? 
    • Wrong (correct word is “there” used with “to be” as an indicator)
  • Their out of time. 
    • Wrong (correct word is “they're” from the words “they are”)

Conclusion

So here are the rules in a quick and easy format that should help you out:

  • They're” is a contraction of “they” and “are”. If you can use “they are” and the sentence still makes sense, then you can use “they're”.
  • There” indicates a place or is used with the verb “to be” (am, is, are, was, were) to indicate something.
  • Their” is used to show possession of something (abstract or concrete).

Remember these general rules and you should be “they're”, “there”, and “their” ready!  But, if you still need some practice, here is a free site that generates unique, random worksheets where you can test out your new knowledge until you got it down.  Good luck and happy writing!