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What is the Difference Between There, Their, and They'Re?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The homonyms there, their, and they're are frequently confused in English writing. Although readers will be able to understand the intention most of the time, learning how to use them correctly can prevent confusion. The words actually have entirely different meanings, since one can be used in multiple ways, depending on the context, one is a contraction, and one is a pronoun.

The word “there” can appear as a pronoun, as in “over there,” an adverb, like “she went there,” as an interjection, or, in some English dialects, as an adjective, such as “that man there.” It can be used to indicate directional movement away from a location, as when someone is told to “go over there,” to clarify a sentence such as “the nail's there,” or in reference to an issue, such as “I agree with him there.” A useful way to think of this word is that it contains another place, “here.” Often, “here” can replace “there” in a sentence, indicating that “there” is being used to indicate a location in time or space.

You may also encounter “there's,” a contraction of “there is.” In formal written English, both words should be written out, and remember not to confuse it with “theirs,” a possessive pronoun. As with all contractions, if you are uncertain about the use of the word, stop and decide whether “there is” can replace “there's” in a sentence. “There's no place like home” is correct; “theirs no place like home” is not. On the flip side, the boat is theirs, not there's.

”Their” is a possessive pronoun. In a phrase like “Susan and Bill's car,” the word could be used to replace the possessive proper noun construction to make a new phrase: “their car.” It is related to “they,” another pronoun indicating a group of people. You may also see their in the form of sentences like “that dog is theirs.”

”They're” is actually a contraction of “they are,” a phrase which contains a pronoun and a verb. It is more commonly used in spoken rather than written English, when one wants to say “they're going to the store,” for example. In written English, “they are” should always be able to replace “they're.” In the phrase “they're going to their house, over there,” you can see all three words in use.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon965179 — On Aug 10, 2014

I like this website and I wish people would learn how to use these words appropriately.

By anon348944 — On Sep 21, 2013

I know how to use all three properly. One thing that bothers me has always been how the rule "I before E except after C" applies to the word "their"? Guess it don't!(doesn't)!

By anon333757 — On May 07, 2013

@simrin: *They're.

By SteamLouis — On Sep 08, 2012

Is this sentence correct?

Their very worried about job security because the economy has not been doing well.

This is for my paper for Social Sciences class. Please help!

By literally45 — On Sep 07, 2012

@finis-- Yes, "there" is right because you're talking about a place.

I don't get annoyed when people mix these words up on social networking sites because they're not doing it on purpose. English is a tough language and not everyone's English teacher was that good in school. Plus, it's easy to forget if you don't write on a regular basis.

I think it's good to tell people what the correct use of the words are in a friendly way. I certainly don't mind it when someone tells me that I'm making a grammatical mistake. But this article is a good source to come back to when there is confusion.

By fify — On Sep 07, 2012

@SZapper-- I know! I used to get confused with these a lot. I always had to have someone read my assignments before I turned them in to make sure that I used everything correctly.

I used to confuse "their" and "they're." But then my teacher told me to read out "they're" as "they are" in the sentence and see if it makes sense. I do this all the time now to make sure that I didn't use the wrong word and it really works.

Reading is also very helpful. The more I read, the less mistakes I make with grammar and spelling.

By KaBoom — On Aug 29, 2012

@SZapper - Spell check and grammar check are both wonderful tools. However, I find that they aren't always correct when it comes to there, their, and they're. Sometimes they don't find an error, or want you to replace a word that's actually correct.

Pretty much the only way to make sure you always use the correct word out of these three is to learn the rules of grammar. That way you won't have to rely on grammar checking software that may or may not be correct.

By SZapper — On Aug 28, 2012

It's really easy to mix these words up. I mean, they all sound exactly the same when you say them! So it's kind of hard to keep track of which one you're supposed to use when you're writing. I guess that's what spell check and grammar check are for!

By Ted41 — On Aug 28, 2012
@Pharoah - It is annoying, but I almost find "grammar Nazis" who go around correcting other people's grammar on social networking sites even more annoying. I think we all have at least one friend who is like that, and I feel like they look even worse than the person who made the error.

Anyway, this article is a pretty good guide to there, their, and they're. Maybe I should link to it from my Facebook page as a subtle reminder to some of my more grammar challenged friends. Or would that be too obvious?

By Pharoah — On Aug 27, 2012

@anon43742 - I do too! I get so annoyed when I see people on Facebook or Twitter mix these words up. It distracts me so much I don't pay attention to what they were actually trying to say. And it's really amazing just how many people don't know how to use there, their, and they're correctly!

By anon282376 — On Jul 29, 2012

Those words are easy, but what's hard is grammar itself.

By amypollick — On Apr 18, 2011

@anon168818: Yep, "they're" is correct. This is because you were saying, "they are that good" in reference to the jokes, right? "They're" is the contraction for "they are," as mentioned in the article.

"There" generally refers to place. "Put the book over there." It is *never* a substitute for "they are." Only "they're" is used for "they are." Hope that clears it up.

By anon168818 — On Apr 18, 2011

we were talking about "yo momma jokes" and someone said you probably use websites to get your jokes and i said no there that good! and she said it's supposed to be "they're." is that correct and why?

By finis — On Mar 07, 2011

how would you spell it correctly in this sentence?

She is over _______ ?

I say there. Am I right?

By anon135688 — On Dec 20, 2010

I so happy for the help from you guys.

By anon130488 — On Nov 28, 2010

Thanks for helping me. i think i got it right now. --Stephen.

By anon120611 — On Oct 21, 2010

i agree with anon43742!

By anon81183 — On Apr 30, 2010

It would be helpful if my grammar checker would stop trying to replace their with there incorrectly.

By anon77178 — On Apr 13, 2010

I dislike when people don't know the difference between these words.

By anon67183 — On Feb 23, 2010

nice website.

By anon64511 — On Feb 07, 2010

i'm still kind of confused, but I do get it but I will most likely forget the difference.

By anon62922 — On Jan 29, 2010

This is an interesting website.

By anon60681 — On Jan 15, 2010

How cool, everything I refused to learn in school.

:-) I will be a frequent use of this entire web site.

By anon54534 — On Nov 30, 2009

wow. i love this website.

By anon43742 — On Sep 01, 2009

And I do so wish people would learn to use these words appropriately!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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