Let’s face it: English grammar is hard. I’m an EFL teacher and an amateur editor, so I have to know lots about grammar. I still make mistakes, too! There’s no harm in getting things wrong! But there are some very common mistakes that loads of writers make. While that means your readers will understand why you made them, it also means there are plenty of people on the look-out, ready to correct you whenever they see them. One of the biggest ones is using there, their or they’re in your stories. If you get these right, you’ll be on your way to avoid the worst of mistakes in your writing.
It’s difficult, isn’t it? I mean, they all sound the same when we speak! Why does there have to be three spellings anyway? Does it really matter if you use there instead of they’re, or
So give me a chance to help you. It’s tricky, but with some dedication and practice, you’ll get it sorted in no time!
So, let’s start with the most used of the three. It’s the one people tend to choose if they’re feeling a little lost. I guess it’s because it makes the most sense, spelling-wise. So basically, if you default to this one, it’s a clear sign that you’re not quite sure.
“There” is the word we use to show location. By that, I mean that it’s the one you use if you want to point at something and say “it’s over there” or you want to tell someone that “in the box, there is a key”. Here are some examples:
- There is a huge bear in the forest.
- There you are, Lucy!
- Hello? Are you there?
- There’s nothing there!
I have a neat little trick for you to remember this one. Think of the word here. Doesn’t it look like there without the “t”? Well, that’s because they are both used to talk about location. Think of the phrase “here and there”. So, if you can replace the word you’re using with “here” and it doesn’t sound really stupid, you’re using the right word.
This one is the second easiest to remember because of the little apostrophe. You see, even though you’ve probably been told that apostrophes are used to show that something belongs to someone, that’s only really true with nouns, like names! With other words like “they’re”, the thing that looks like an upside down comma is there to tell you that there’s a letter or two missing.
The letter missing here is an “a”. This is the word you’d use if you’re looking for a short way to say “they are“. Here are some examples for you to get the hang of it:
- They’re very pretty, aren’t they?
- They think they’re so funny.
- They’re going on holiday.
- They’re school kids.
The trick for this one is the apostrophe. If you can change the word “they’re” for “they are” and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using the right one! The apostrophe is there to tell you that there are letters missing, so use it to help you!
This one is the hardest one to remember because I don’t have any little tricks to help you. Plus, there is the fact that it doesn’t follow the “
Here are some examples to help you:
- It’s their box
- The house is theirs
- Their clothes are in the wash.
- Their favourite TV show is Game of Thrones
Since there’s no clear rule to help you, the best thing to do is check if you can replace the word for “here” or “they are”. If it doesn’t make sense with either, you’ve made it clear that it’s going to be “their” by process of elimination.
An Easy Way to Choose
There, their or they’re? I’m guessing you don’t want to be sitting around making a choice between the two of them when your head is full of great ideas. But there is a great way to choose the right one without having to put too much effort into it!
Grammarly is perfect for any writer who struggles with the difference between the three words. The free version will correct you if you make a mistake, and it works on most websites! That makes it great for all of the budding writers out there who want to post their stuff online. You can get your
I might be an EFL teacher, but I make mistakes, too! That’s why I use Grammarly — especially when I’m writing a post like this! Do yourself a favour and make your writing 100x better by installing Grammarly. It’s free, so you have nothing to lose!
It might be hard to tell the difference between there, their and they’re, but all you need is a little bit of practice and (maybe) some help from a trusty app. Once you’ve got those sorted, you’re one step closer to looking like a professional writer!