Word Choice: Their, They’re or There?

Although they sound similar when spoken, ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’ have very different meanings. And since these words also have different spellings, picking the right one is crucial for clear written communication!

Identifying which one to use can be tricky, though, especially if English isn’t your first language. Familiarise yourself with their meanings and how they should be used below.

They’re (‘They Are’)

‘They’re’ is simply a contraction of the words ‘they’ and ‘are’. As contractions are generally considered informal, you wouldn’t usually use ‘they’re in academic writing.

If quoting colloquial speech or writing in an informal context, however, you might write:

They’re leaving for Paris in the morning.

This would mean ‘they are leaving for Paris in the morning’. For formal writing, though, the two words ‘they’ and ‘are’ should be spelled out fully.

There (In That Place)

The word ‘there’ has various uses, including as an adverb, a noun and a pronoun, depending on how it is used in a sentence. In most cases, though, it is used to describe a place or location, such as in:

He is standing over there.

This would mean ‘he is standing in that place’. ‘There’ usually refers to somewhere further away; if we were referring to somewhere close, we’d typically use ‘here’ instead.

Another common use of ‘there’ is as a pronoun to introduce a sentence where the verb comes before the subject, such as in:

There is no reason to believe that he will move soon.

Their (Belonging to Them)

The word ‘their’ is the possessive of ‘they’. It is therefore used before a noun to indicate that the thing in question belongs to ‘them’, whoever ‘they’ may be. You could, therefore, write about ‘their belongings’, ‘their pet dog’, or even an abstract quality such as ‘their bravery’.

‘Their’ is also used when preceded by an indefinite singular subject such as ‘someone’, ‘everyone’ or ‘nobody’. In this context, it would be used thusly:

Someone has left their wallet here.

Without knowing if the subject is male or female, you are unable to write either ‘someone has left his wallet here’ or ‘someone has left her wallet here’. The pronoun ‘their’ is then the appropriate word choice in such instances.

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