Is it there, their or they’re?
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One of the more frequently confused words are the homophones: ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’. They have the same pronunciation /ther/.
Let’s take a look at these words and how they are used.
‘Their’ is the possessive form of the pronoun they. When you want to say that something belongs to a group of people, you use the possessive ‘their’. For example, ‘The company gave its shareholders their annual bonuses.’
Although ‘their’ is plural, modern English speakers use it for singular pronouns to avoid using ‘his’ or ‘her’. So, it is grammatically correct to say ‘Somebody left their book on the table’. Note that somebody is singular.
This is the contracted form of the phrase ‘they are’. For instance, writing ‘They’re leaving for France tomorrow’ in full will be ‘They are leaving for France tomorrow.’
This is an adverb that shows location or a point in a process, activity, story, etc.
‘There’ in the sentence ‘Wait for me there’ refers to a particular place which is common knowledge to those involved in this particular conversation. Another instance is when you stop someone while they are speaking. You could say: ‘Stop there. Before you proceed further, I would like to add to your point.’
How do you know which of the words to use at what point? In a sentence, you should be able to replace ‘their’ with ‘our’, ‘they’re’ with ‘they are’ and ‘there’ with ‘here’ and still convey a meaningful message.
Let’s get down to some practice:
Going by the rule, ‘The company gave its shareholders their annual bonuses’ becomes ‘The company gave us our annual bonuses.’ Note, however, the inclusion of the speaker into the group of shareholders in the second sentence, although that’s not the case in the first one.
‘They’re leaving for France tomorrow’ can be changed to ‘They are leaving for France tomorrow.’
You also make sense when you change ‘Wait for me there’ to ‘Wait for me here’; although there’s a change in location in the second instance.