Los Angeles based graphic designer, Florencio Zavala, has developed a t-shirt for Fruit of the Loom that makes a relevant point for students of the English language. There, their and they’re, can we actually tell the difference between them?
Knowing when to use there, their and they’re can be confusing for students learning to write the English language. These words are called homophones or homonyms meaning they sound the same although they each have a different meaning. If you are struggling with these words, don’t worry, even native speakers have trouble with homonyms too. Let’s look at some simple rules to make things easier.
The first thing to remember is that there is the most versatile of the three words
– There can be used to refer to a place.
Look! Mary is over there.
We went there for the summer holidays.
– There can also be used to denote the existence of something or a demonstrative pronoun
There is a child sitting on the chair.
There is a church in my hometown.
There can be used as an interjection
(I am right) SO THERE!
– (In some dialects) There can also be used as an adjective
That man there has a blue shirt.
– There can also be used as an adverb (of place, showing location or direction).
– The class will take place there.
– I will see you there.
Their is a possessive pronoun. It replaces “they,” another pronoun indicating a group of people, to show ownership.
(John and David’s) cars are in the driveway = Their cars are in the driveway.
(Mary and Susan’s) shoes are at the door = Their shoes are at the door.
They’re is more straightforward. It is a contraction of they are, referring to the plural form (they) of he or she.
They’re going to Paris for the holidays = They are going to Paris for the holidays.
I see they’re at Susan’s house for the weekend = I see they are at Susan’s house for the weekend.
They’re is normally used in spoken rather than written English.
Here is a short paragraph with some examples of the use of there, their and they’re. There is one mistake. See if you can spot it.
(1)They’re going to Paris for the holidays. It has been (2) their dream for years to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. While, (3) they’re (4) there, they will also walk the Left Bank, and drink hot chocolate in cafes. He said (5) they’ re expecting good weather (6) there and that they will be taking their (7) sunblock with them.(8) They’re also going to have to bring lots of euro with them because now it’s quite expensive (9) their. John is so excited about (10) their trip he can hardly contain himself. Unfortunately, his twin sons, David and Mark, will not be able to go because (11) they’re busy with their end of end of year exams. I’m sure John will call them once he gets (12) there though.
So, how did you get on? Have you guessed the incorrect one? It’s number (9). It should read there.
If you got that right go ahead and put on your t-shirt! Now you know the point you are making when you wear it.
Got questions? Email us or ask them in comments below.
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