(Level A2 and above: On the difference between their, there, and they’re, with examples and exercise)
Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, English trainer at The Language House in Geneva
There are two children in this picture. As you can see, they’re taking photographs in their garden.
Yes, this blog is about the difference between there, they’re and their. As they are homophones (words that have the same sound, but different spellings and different meanings), they can be a little confusing.
Let’s look at some examples
- There is a spider in the bath. There is a house on the hill. There is a woman at the window looking at you. There is a pronoun.
- Wait there until I get back. Where? Over there, behind the sofa. There is an adverb of place.
- Workers are afraid to lose their jobs. They left their books on the train. Their is the possessive adjective for they.
- They’re very happy. That’s why they’re singing and dancing. They’re is a contraction of they are.
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Fill the gaps with the correct word: there, their or they’re.
- … really nice people.
- In a democracy, people have the power to decide … own future.
- … are 24 teams competing in the tournament.
- They have children of … own.
- Are … any other suggestions?
- I bought these oranges yesterday, but … not very good.
- It’s only a hundred miles to Oxford. You could drive … and back in a day.
- I’m gender fluid and appreciate they/them/…
- They can come in if … shoes are clean.
- … going to Hawaii, and they plan to stay … until the end of March.
- Most women didn’t work and were dependent on … husbands.
- … seems to be a lot of confusion.
- … children loved Disneyland – now mine want to go …
- Would you like to sit over … by the window?
- … both from Washington.
- The information you want is right … in front of you.
- If the opportunity is …, we will take it.
- We need best friends because … … for us even if … thousands of miles away.
- Hello, Peter, is your mother …?
- … so in love.
- They’re really nice people.
- In a democracy, people have the power to decide their own future.
- There are 24 teams competing in the tournament.
- They have children of their own.
- Are there any other suggestions?
- I bought these oranges yesterday, but they’re not very good.
- It’s only a hundred miles to Oxford. You could drive there and back in a day.
- I’m gender fluid and appreciate they/them/their
- They can come in if they’re shoes are clean.
- They’re going to Hawaii, and they plan to stay there until the end of March.
- Most women didn’t work and were dependent on their husbands.
- There seems to be a lot of confusion.
- Their children loved Disneyland – now mine want to go there.
- Would you like to sit over there by the window?
- They’re both from Washington.
- The information you want is right there in front of you.
- If the opportunity is there, we will take it.
- We need best friends because they’re there for us even if they’re thousands of miles away.
- Hello, Peter, is your mother there?
- They’re so in love.
Many examples are from MacmillanDictionary.com
Some more advice and tips
How to tell which one to use
I phoned their (1) parents because I know they’re (2) worried.
- (1) Can you replace their with my? I phoned my parents… Yes. It’s the possessive determiner their.
- (2) Can you replace they’re with you are? I know you are worried. Yes. It is subject+be they’re.
There isn’t much time left.
- Can you replace there with a possessive determiner such as my? My isn’t much time left. No.
- Can you replace there with a subject+be such as you are? You are isn’t much time left. No.
It is the pronoun, there.
- Note about ‘everyone’, ‘someone’, or ‘anyone’:
Everyone has their own way of doing things
Everyone says they’re happy
Someone phoned, but I told them to call back later.
The pronouns ‘everyone’, ‘someone’, and ‘anyone’ normally come with a singular verb. But in spoken English, you can use they, them and their when referring to those pronouns – instead of ‘he or she’, ‘his or her’, ‘him or her’, as in, “Everyone says he or she is happy.”
- Note about gender fluidity
The singer has come out as non-binary and asked to be addressed by the pronouns they/them.
Use their, they and them for people who identify as non-binary.