They’re, Their, and There are three words that have very different meanings, but are commonly confused due to being homophones (words sounding the same) and most likely also due to sharing 6 letters out of the English alphabet’s 26 choices.
They’re (aka They Are) ~
They’re is perhaps the easiest to understand. The apostrophe splits this into “They” and “are.” If the grammar doesn’t work with “they” and “are,” then this is not the word for you, move along. With the recent action of entering singular “they” into the dictionary (hooray!), this phrase can be read in a few more ways.
- They are my friends (plural).
- They are my friend (singular).
- They’re my enemies (plural).
- They are my enemy (singular).
From the grammar I’ve seen so far, plural “are” is still with singular “They,” but language changes, stay tuned!
There is next to come, and it has a little trick to it. Here, with a ‘T,’ makes There, and both talk about locations (here is next to the speaker; there is further from the speaker.) It can also be used as a pronoun like Their, so it’s not always going to be clear cut.
- I don’t want to walk over there.
- Litter is here, there, and pretty much everywhere!
- There is no need to shout, I can hear you.
- Sometimes it can look like there is no hope.
Their, out of this list, feels the hardest sometimes (at least for me). It’s a possessive pronoun for two or more people, but it can also be a possessive for a person of undetermined gender.
- Their book is red (singular, or plural if people are sharing a book).
- Their books are read (plural).
- Their car sounds like it’s broken (singular or plural).
All Together Now!
They’re going to California tomorrow by car, but I think they’ll have to go there by plane since their plan doesn’t account for the rising price of gas.
They (singular or plural person) are going to California tomorrow by car, but I think they (singular or plural person) will have to go there (place) by plane since their (possessive pronoun) doesn’t account for the rising price of gas.
Over there is the Hilly family, and they’re really not happy when outsiders trespass onto their territory.
Over there (location) is the Hilly family, and they (plural) are not really happy when outsiders trespass onto their (plural possessive pronoun) property.
Want to test your knowledge, or see other explanations? Check out the links below (and if you know of an explanation that helped you, then put the link in the comments section under this post!
- https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/how-to-use-theyre-there-their (text)
- https://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/there_their_theyre.htm (text with a quick test)
- https://www.grammarly.com/blog/there-their-theyre/ (text)
- https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zqhpk2p/articles/z3cxrwx (video and quiz)
The idiom “all there” is used when wondering if a person has all of their wits intact, and just like with the phrase “not all there,” is normally used in a negative context. (However, the phrases can also be used for daydreaming and absentmindedness, which are not strongly negative.)