There / They're / Their – Commonly Misused Words

There / They’re / Their

I see these words used improperly all the time, and honestly, if Americans enunciated properly, these words don’t sound exactly like each other when spoken, but they are close enough when the fingers move faster than the brain that these three words are commonly misused.

There references a place – a location, or a description of where something is. Where is it? It is there. This word is most commonly used as an adverb, modifying the location of the noun it references, but it can rarely be used as a noun as well.

They’re is a contraction. As my article on contractions points out, a contracted word is one word, made up of two other words, with a few letters missing somewhere. An apostrophe is then added to signify the missing letters.

They’re is a contraction for the two words: They and Are – the apostrophe therefore indicates the missing ‘A’ in the word are. Anytime you use the word ‘they’re’, you should be able to replace it with the words ‘they are’ and the sentence would still make sense.

For example, if you wrote this sentence: Do you want me to put this book over there on the table?

You would not be able to interchange it like this: Do you want me to put this book over they are on the table?

And lastly, their. This word is a pronoun, a possessive pronoun to be exact, and is used much the same way as his, hers, ours – theirs. This means something belongs to them, plural.

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