by Liz Walter
If you are a learner of English and you are confused about the words there, their and they’re, let me reassure you: many, many people with English as their first language share your problem! You only have to take a look at the ‘comments’ sections on the website of, for example, a popular newspaper, to see plentiful examples of errors with these words. This post is a brief guide to using them correctly.
We use there to talk about things existing or happening:
There is a book on the table.
There was cheering when the news was announced.
We also use it to talk about places, especially to say where something is:
The ticket office is over there.
‘Where are my glasses?’ ‘There!’
‘Do you like Paris?’ ‘I’ve never been there.’
There is the most common of the three words, so it’s not surprising that the most frequent error is for people to use there when they should use their or they’re. Here are some simple rules to help you avoid making the same mistake.
Hannah and Jan put on their coats.
Please put the pens back in their boxes.
What are there names?
Finally, they’re is a short form of they are:
They’re all going to London.
‘Where are the cups?’ ‘They’re in the cupboard.’
I don’t like these trousers because there too big.
There are some other similar words that often cause confusion, such as who’s and whose or you’re and your. Luckily, in these cases there are only two similar words to choose between!
The most important thing to remember is that an apostrophe (‘) means that part of a word is missing. So -in the same way that they’re means they are– who’s means who is or who has, and you’re means you are:
Who’s coming to the party?
Who’s taken my pen?
You’re not allowed to smoke in here.
You’re all being silly!
Let me know when your coming to London.
Whose shoes are these?
She has a boyfriend whose name is Rick.
Can I borrow your pen?
How often do you and your brother go swimming?
I hope this helps to make the difference between these confusing words a bit clearer!