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There, their, and they're

This is one of the most frequently-confused trios in the English language. Follow along, and learn to suss out the differences between these three words.

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Video transcript

- Hello Grammarians! Today I want to talk about one of the absolute thorniest issues in usage of English. And it's the difference between there, their and they're. And if you can't tell the difference from the way I'm saying it that's because it's really confusing and evil. And that is why I'm here. Is to help you make a distinction between these three sound alike words. Now, first of all we have there T-H-E-R-E which we're gonna use orange for is an adverb and an adjective. And it's used to signify where something is. So the way to remember that this one is all about location is just to take the "T" and replace it with a "W". The question is "Where?" and the answer is "There". So, "Have you been to Greece? Yes, I went there." I have not gone there. "Have you seen my dog? Yes, there's my dog!" So you asked the question, "Where did you go? I went there. "Where is my dog? There is my dog." And technically this is an adverbial use, here. "There" is modifying "went". And here is an adjectival use. Because "there" is modifying "dog". The second member of this confusing trio is their T-H-E-I-R which is a possessive determiner. Let's just call that a possessive. So this is when something belongs to a "they" and it's an adjective. So let's just call this a possessive adjective for some, for a "they". "Sue and Frieda ate their ice cream cones." So T-H-E-I-R, the possessive answers the question "Who does that belong to?" So rounding out our trio, the last member of the there, their, they're riders of the apocalypse is T-H-E-Y-'-R-E which is a contraction of "they are". So anywhere you would want to say "they are" you can smosh that together and say "they're". So, "Hey kid, are your parents home? "No, they're not home right now, can I take a message?" So you can see in this sentence "They're not home right now, can I take a message?" they're, T-H-E-Y-'-R-E, is replacing "they are". Both of these things would work equally well in the sentence. They're both grammatical, one's just shorter. And as we know, English as with most languages likes to take the easy route. Finding the shortest possible or most efficient option if you prefer. So as a writer and speaker of English you're going to come across this situation a lot. Which one of these things do you use? And so when you come across this thorny little issue "Do I use there, their or they're?" you have to ask yourself a series of questions. Questions #1, "Does it answer the question 'where is it'?" If so, use T-H-E-R-E. If the use answers the question, "Who does it belong to?" then you use T-H-E-I-R. If what you're trying to say is a contraction of "they are" then what you're looking for is T-H-E-Y-'-R-E. I know it's confusing but you can learn anything. David out!