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talljasperman's avatar

When does one use their or there or they're?

Asked by talljasperman (21818points) April 27th, 2010

I haven’t mastered this yet…are there/their any tricks to learning when to use one and not the other?

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16 Answers

MrItty's avatar

they’re = contraction of “they are”
their = belonging to them
there = a place.

They’re taking their seats over there.

Seek's avatar

If English is your first language, please find your second grade teacher and shoot her/him in the head. Thank you.

Then, follow @MrItty‘s advice.

tuxuday's avatar


Is that a serious advice?

Seek's avatar

Of course not. I would never seriously recommend illegal activity. It does truly bug me that so many adults have no grasp of elementary-school-level grammatical skills.

tuxuday's avatar

Maybe english ain’t OP’s first language.

Seek's avatar

I suggest you find your reading comprehension teacher and shoot them in the head.

tuxuday's avatar

Tell you what. I am from a country where English is not second, but third (language). So, i can spare them!

MacBean's avatar

@MrItty‘s got it, but I’ll add: An easy way to remember that “there” is the one for places is to take note of the fact that it contains the word “here,” which also deals with places.

ucme's avatar

Over there they’re stripping off their clothes,I may take a look.

chamelopotamus's avatar

They’re over there with their hair

Snarp's avatar

The difference between “their” and “they’re” has a feature that repeats with a couple of other trickier grammar problems. “Their” indicates possession while “they’re” indicates a contraction of a pronoun and a form of the verb “be”. Similarly “whose” indicates possession while “who’s” is a contraction of a pronoun and a form of the verb “be”. In addition, “its” indicates possession while “it’s” indicates a contraction of a pronoun and a form of the verb “be”. There’s a rule at work that applies to all of these. Namely, that a contraction must have an apostrophe ( ’ ), while the possessive in a few cases is distinguished from the contraction by not having an apostrophe. So in these three cases apostrophe = verb and lack of apostrophe = possessive. Another way to think of it is to remember that in formal, written English there should be no contractions and therefore no apostrophes, but you can still use the possessive in formal, written English and not violate the no apostrophes rule.

Like most handy rules of English grammar this all falls apart when you start trying to apply it in other places, because other possessives use apostrophes, but as a rule of thumb to remember which form of these three pronouns to use, it might help.

talljasperman's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Actually English is my first language and I made it to university… my troubles happened when the grade five teacher refused my assignments because I had messy handwriting from having too many consecutive broken arms and wrists…so I refused to do any assignments and then It continued until grade 10 when I gained access to a computer WordPerfect program and I typed my homework….Read Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder…I’m portrayed by Robert….and There is no real holeoak school…its really in Edmonton Alberta…really nasty teacher… she put my desk in the furnace room (with me inside it) for 3+ months…It’s hard to learn in the furnace room that has no lights…so I learned how to sleep 16 hours at a time…I still do…I only go outside for food.

Trillian's avatar

@talljasperman There are no tricks. Each word means something different.
The window is over there.
That dog is theirs, it belongs to them.
Oh get ready, they’re coming. Do you see that they’re is a contraction of“they” and “are”? The apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters.
Thank you for asking. Seeing people get these wrong makes me crazy, and any effort that one makes to educate ones self in the interest of getting parts of speech correct are roundly applauded and supported my me. I appreciate your efforts and if you have other questions about parts of speech, you can PM me and avoid derision. I believe there are c couple others here who would welcome a PM, but I’ll let them make the offer if they happen to see this thread, I don’t want to volunteer others or try to obligate another person’s time.

gailcalled's avatar

There are also the homophones:

Its (possession); it’s = it is. (My particular favorite irritant). It’s in its proper place.
Whose, who’s:
Break, brake
Cease, seize:
Your, you’re:
General random use of apostrophe’s in normal plural word’s.

Easy now to check all of these online before hitting “send.”

Jeruba's avatar

Try process of elimination.

That apostrophe tells you two words have been combined. Remember that. Then think of what the two words are. Use “they’re” only when you mean “they are” and never at any other time.

That’s one down.

Relate “there” to “here” and “where.” They look like relatives. They are. Use them for the same kind of situation. You’re talking about place: something is here, something is over there; where is it?

When you’re building a sentence with “there is” (“There is a spot on your shirt”), it doesn’t really mean there (as if pointing with your finger) but is just an empty placeholder. Even then, you can sort of think of it slantwise with “here” or “where” (“Here is a spot on your shirt.” “Where is the spot on my shirt?”) and remember that it’s part of the same family. In a way it’s still about place.

Two down.

If you know you don’t mean “they are,” and you know you’re not talking about place (or placeholders), all that’s left is “their.” This one belongs to a family too, and you should just learn them all: the possessive pronouns. Here (or there) they are:

my, mine
his, her/ hers, its
their/ theirs

The slashes mean alternative forms, depending: That is their house. The house is theirs.

They’re (they are) irregular. So are a lot of other things we just have to learn: one, two, three, I, myself, me, A, B, C.

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