CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between there, their and they’re

TLDR: There is referring to a place, their is a possessive and they’re is the contraction of ‘they are’.

Why, you might ask, does the English language have so many words that sound the same but have different meanings? Well, I’d say it was all part of the challenge but we hardly need any more in this quagmire of a language, do we?

there (adverb)—at, in or to a specific place; used in calling attention to something or something’s existence; also used as an exclamation

I only work there because I need the money.

‘Oh, dear. There goes our car…!’ Sally moaned.

There’s only so many hours in a day.

‘There, there, you mustn’t cry,’ she said soothingly.

‘There, see? I told you there was a river up ahead!’

their (possessive)—belonging to a group of individuals; belonging to an individual of an unspecified gender; or used in collective titles

Their race was just about to begin.

Theirs was not a condition that could easily be cured.

I heard someone clap their hands very loudly at the mention of my name.

The crowd parted and in walked Their Highnesses.

they’re (contraction)—they are

They’re both wearing orange tonight.

‘See those two boys sitting at the back? They’re the worst of the lot.’

Like many mix-ups in the English language, these three can be easily mastered if you slow down and have a little think.

They’re going to crash into that wall over there if they don’t adjust their speed before the next turn!

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