Homophones like there, their, and they’re can be tricky as they’re pronounced almost the same way but have different spellings and meanings. While it’s easy to be confused when using them, you can grasp their distinctions with enough understanding and practice. Learn how to use these tricky homophones in this article.
How are they different?
“There” is basically the opposite of “here”, which refers to something near. There, on the other hand, means “at that place”, referring to something far.
Example: Let’s have our breakfast there.
“There” can also be used as a pronoun. As a pronoun, there is usually used to refer to a subject in a clause or sentence.
Example: There is something I want to tell you.
“Their” is used as a possessive pronoun. It means “belongs to them” and it’s a third-person possessive pronoun.
Example: Their car is expensive.
“They’re” is the contraction or the shorter version of “they are” for present tense or “they were” in past tense. Contraction is the same thing as when you contract “you are” into “you’re” or “we are” into “we’re”.
Example: They’re having their first baby.
Let’s try to use these three in one sentence:
There/Their/They're cooking there/their/they're breakfast over there/their/they're.
The correct sentence: They're cooking their breakfast over there.
Let’s dig deep:
They're cooking (they're in this sentence is used before a verb in its -ing form which makes it the progressive tense)
Their breakfast (their is a third-person possessive used before the noun “breakfast” to indicate possession)
Over There (here, there is used as the setting of the sentence. Although the exact location was not indicated, we know the place is not here, but someplace farther.)
The car is parked there.
Their car is parked.
They’re inside the parked car.
The books are on the table over there.
Where are their books?
They’re on the table.
There is your room.
Their room is there.
They’re in the room.
The Bottom Line
Although there, their, and they’re can be confusing because they sound alike, you can get rid of your confusion as you follow these basic rules to know which one to use:
- Remember that the word there has the word “here”, so it means it should talk about places, whether literal or figurative.
- Their has the word “heir” in it, acting as a reminder that it indicates possession.
- The apostrophe in they’re reminds you that it’s the combination of two words – they are.
So there you have it. Hope this short guide clears up the common confusion.