“Their” vs. “There” vs. “They’re”: Do You Know The Difference?

The trio of their, there, and they’re can flummox writers of all levels. It’s confusing; they are homophones, meaning they have the same pronunciation (sound) but differ in meaning and derivation (origin).

Even though they sound the same, they aren’t spelled the same … cue the noticeable errors! Let’s explore the correct usages of the three.

How do you use their, there, and they’re?

These three words serve many functions.

When to use their

Their is the possessive case of the pronoun they, meaning belonging to them. As in:

  • They left their cell phones at home.

Their is generally plural, but it is increasingly accepted in place of the singular his or her after words such as someone:

  • Someone left their book on the table.

When to use there

There is an adverb that means in or at that place. In this sense, there is essentially the opposite of here. This is what’s known as an adverb of placewhich answers the question where an action is taking place. Many common adverbs end in -ly, like quicklyusually, and completely, but not all adverbs do.

  • She is there now.

There is also used as a pronoun introducing the subject of a sentence or clause:

  • There is still hope.

When to use they’re

They’re is a contraction of the words they and are.

  • They’re mastering the differences between three homophones!

Take a hint from the spelling!

If you find yourself coming up blank when trying to determine which one to use, take a hint from the spelling of each:

  • Their has the word heir in it, which can act as a reminder that the term indicates possession.
  • There has the word here in it. There is the choice when talking about places, whether figurative or literal.
  • They’re has an apostrophe, which means it’s the product of two words: they are. If you can substitute they are into your sentence and retain the meaning, then they’re is the correct homophone to use.