Commonly Confused Words: There, Their, & They're

Elizabeth O'Brien

Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar. 

Commonly Confused Words:
There, Their, & They're

It's time to tackle the commonly confused words there, their, and they're.

I've found a few tricks that should help you, your children, or your students remember the difference. 

When do you use the word there?

There As An Adverb

There is often used as an adverb meaning "in, at, or to a certain place or position." 

I left the lights on at my house. Please go there and turn them off. 

We'll be in Florida for spring break. You should visit us there!

Sentence Diagramming

Sentence diagram of

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. We diagram them on a slanted line under the word they modify. 

There is modifying should visit

There As An Expletive

When there is followed by one of the to be verbs (is, are, was, were, etc.), it is being used as a special kind of filler word called an expletive. You can read more about there as an expletive here

There is no place like home. 

Drive carefully! There are already five cars in the ditch. 

Sentence Diagramming

Sentence diagram of

When there is an expletive, it isn't grammatically connected to the rest of the sentence. We show that by diagramming it on a line floating above the rest of the sentence.

Tricks To Help You Remember There

  • Take off the t, and you're left with the word here. This will remind you that this word has to do with location. 
  • Replace the t with a w, and you have the word where. There often tells us where something is.
  • Make the end of the letter r into an arrow pointing toward the final e. The arrow will help you remember that there has to do with location. 
there with arrow

When do you use the word their?

Their is a plural possessive pronoun. (It's the possessive form of the pronoun they.) It basically means "belonging to them," and the funny thing is that it functions as an adjective. That means that it's always modifying something. Use their to show ownership. 

I told the students that I would have their grades ready by tomorrow.
(The students own their grades.)

I can't visit Mike and Bri. I'm allergic to their cat. 
(Mike and Bri own the cat.)

Sentence Diagramming

Sentence diagram of

Their functions as an adjective. That means that it modifies a noun. We diagram adjectives on a slanted line under the word they are modifying. 

Their is modifying cat

Tricks To Help You Remember Their

  • Take off the t, and you're left with the word heir. An heir is a person who is entitled to the property of someone else after that person's death.  
definition of
  • Turn the i into a stick figure using the dot as a head. This will help you remember that their has to do with a person.
their with stick figure

When do you use the word they're?

This is probably the easiest one to remember because it's a contraction for the words they are. The apostrophe stands for the missing a

They're going to California for the conference. 

You are going to love my neighbors. They're so fun!

Sentence Diagramming

Sentence Diagram of

They is a pronoun, and are is a verb. Since they're is made up of these two different parts of speech, we split them up when we diagram them! 

They is the subject. Are ('re) is part of the verb.

Tricks To Help You Remember They're

  • If you can replace they're with the two words they are, then you're using this one correctly. If not, you've got a problem, and you need to be using there or their instead.
  • Make the apostrophe into a lowercase a. Now it's easy to see that they're means they are
they're with a on the apostrophe

Was that helpful?

I hope that some of those tricks will help you to remember which word is which! :) 

Commonly Confused Words: There, Their, and They're

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Elizabeth O'Brien

Elizabeth O'Brien is the creator of Grammar Revolution.

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