What’s the Difference Between They’re, There and Their?

By Devon Brown

Say the words aloud and they all sound the same, which can mean big trouble in writing. Even a master can make a mistake because we often write what we hear in our minds unconsciously. Below are a few tricks to help you remember the differences between this tricky trio. 

They’re: A Contraction of They and Are

Apostrophe to the rescue. Let that tiny mark of punctuation be your guide on this one. Just like can’t is a shortened version of can not and don’t is the condensed version of do not, the apostrophe in they’re has the important job of joining two words together: they and are. When writing, you should be able to replace your they’re with the words they and are without changing the meaning of the sentence.

They’re Examples:

  • Who are those two girls?
  • They are my sisters.
  • They’re my sisters.
  • They are actors
  • They’re actors. 

There: Noun, Adjective, Adverb and Pronoun

There has so many uses, keeping them straight can be a challenge. One simple way to remember most is to think about location. There is often used to answer the question: Where?

There Examples:

  • Please stand there.
  • We would like to go there.
 An exception to this is when you use there to introduce a phrase or noun.
  • There is a mouse in the kitchen.
  • Is there a pool at the hotel? 

Their: The Plural Possessive Pronoun

Their has the simple job of showing a group’s ownership and because of this, it is almost always followed by a noun.

Their Examples:

  • Where are their shoes?
  • Their dog is beautiful.
  • The monkeys love their tree.

 Now that you know the differences between they’re, there and their, all it takes is a little practice to remember them forever.

Quick Tip: When editing a paper, use the find function of your word processing software to look up their, they’re and there individually. This allows you to check if you used the correct word with ease.  

Need help? BibMe Plus’s bibliography tools and grammar check looks for edits that could strengthen your paper and helps you automatically generate citations in MLA format (it also does APA citations).