Macquarie Dictionary


They’re there. We’ve got you covered for this common grammar mistake

Three of the most commonly confused words are there, their and they’re – and it’s no wonder because they all sound exactly the same when we say them aloud. Words that sound the same but have different meanings and/or spellings are known as homophones. Homophones are one of the trickiest areas of spelling, that even autocorrect can get wrong!

There can be used a lot of different ways, but most commonly it’s used as an adverb or pronoun to indicate a particular place (The book is up there on the shelf; He comes from there too) or a point in action (I have painted up to there). There can be used more figuratively in colloquial phrases such as so there!, there you go, there you are, etc.

Their is used to show possession. Their is one of the possessive adjectives – along with other words like my, our, her, his – which are used to indicate that something belongs to someone, e.g. Their car is green. Their becomes theirs when it is used as a possessive pronoun e.g. The green car is theirs.

Remember! Pronouns do not use an apostrophe to show possession (mine, ours, hers, his, theirs), but nouns do (Sandy’s car is green).

They’re is a contraction of ‘they are’. Contractions reduce two words to a single one in which an apostrophe shows where a letter or letters have been removed.

Here are some hints for when you’re unsure about which of these homophones to use…

  • Is it there? Think about whether you’re talking about the location or place of a person, object, or task.
  • Is it their? Try replacing the word with the possessive form of a noun, such as family’s
  • Is it they’re? Try expanding it to the two words ‘they’ + ‘are’ to see if that still makes sense.



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