There, their, and they’re…
These three words are homophones, which means that they sound the same, even though they have different spellings and different meanings. Because we pronounce these words with the same sound, it is very easy for both native and non-native English speakers to get them mixed up.
Let’s go over the meanings of these words and look at how they are used. The better you know them, the less confusing they will be.
“There” is a word that is mainly used in terms of location. It means that someone or something is either in or at a certain place.
Here are some example sentences:
Have you ever been to Puerto Rico? Juan’s parents live there.
Could you please put the books over there?
I already looked there, but I still can’t find my phone.
We need to get there early, so we can set things up for the meeting.
You can remember to connect “there” to a place by thinking of the word “where”. The two words start with a different letter, but are otherwise spelled the same way, and “there” is often used to answer questions that start with the word “where”.
There is, there are, etc.
“There” has other uses. Most notably, it is often paired with various forms of the verb “to be” to signal the presence or existence of someone or something.
If this sounds too confusing, these example sentences should make things clearer for you:
There is a weed in my garden.
There are too many weeds in my garden.
There were too many weeds in my garden, but I pulled them all.
There will be too many weeds in my garden if I don’t take care of it.
If you see “their”, it always indicates possession. It usually means something belongs to more than one person. However, in recent years it has also become acceptable to use “their” as a singular neutral pronoun when you don’t know the gender of the person you are mentioning.
Their office is at the end of the hall near the elevator.
I went to their house yesterday.
Last night, their dogs kept barking because of the storm.
This is a great restaurant! I especially like their spaghetti with meatballs.
Rashida and Lisa are taking their vacations this week, and then I’m off the following week.
“They’re” is a contraction. It is a shortened form of the words “they” and “are”. Although “they” usually refers to people, it can also refer to things, per the first example sentence below:
The trucks are parked in the street because they’re too big to fit in the driveway.
When I look at my sister’s children, it amazes me how they’re so much taller than my kids.
I think they’re having a meeting after lunch.
Now here’s a little story with “there”, “their”, and “they’re”!
Where are my cousins? Oh, I see them now. They’re over there, sitting on the park bench. Their dog is with them.
If you want to make sure you are using these words correctly, click the blue box below, and a TextRanch editor will take a look at your writing and give you some feedback. If you’d like a more in-depth explanation about a sentence using one of these words, you can use our Ask an Editor service to get customized advice from an English expert.
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