Two words and a contraction that many writers confuse, even those who know that they should know better, are there, their, and they’re. The first two are homographs, meaning “same sound,” but their meanings and uses are very different from each other. The last one is a contraction. Even though it does not sound exactly the same as the other two words, it is often mistakenly used in place of them.
First, let’s deal with they’re. They’re is a contraction of they are, as in “I think they’re coming to the party.” That’s the easy one to remember.
Now to the homographs. There can be an adverb, a pronoun, or a noun. But, don’t worry about that. There is always used to refer to a place or to a state of being. These are some examples of the correct use of there:
- I’ve always wanted to go there.
- There is a surprise waiting for you.
- There was a time when every man carried a handkerchief in his pocket.
And, of course, it’s not really a sentence, but: Been there, done that.
A way to remember how to use this word is to call to mind the fact that the word here is in the word there. If you can use here in a sentence, then you can use there.
Now for their. Their is a possessive pronoun. It is always used before a noun or a noun phrase to indicate that something belongs to two or more people.
Here are some examples:
- We ate dinner at their house.
- Did you see their new car?
- That’s their problem.
Ok. That should clear up the situation. In reference to writers who have had problems with this issue in the past, hopefully, they’re now more confident in their use of the words, and there won’t be any more confusion.