13 October 2013

Weekly(ish) Grammar Lesson

Lesson 7: "Their," "there," and "they're"

Oh, boy. These three words are mixed up far too often. Once you know the differences and maybe some mnemonics, these three words should never trip you up again.

The basic differences:
Their: a possessive noun
There: typically a place; most often just a noun
They're: contraction of "they are"

"Their" is always a possessive noun.
"They're" is always a contraction.
Any other situation will use "there."

In first grade, I learned the differences between these words. My teacher taught us a great mnemonic for "there." Since it is often used as a place, you can see the word "here" inside of the word. "Here" is a place. "There" is a place. Where? Here. Where? There.

A similar mnemonic you can use to remember that "their" is a possessive noun is by seeing the word "heir" inside of it. An heir is someone who inherits something, so something belongs (or, will belong) to him/her. An heir possesses something. "Their" possesses something.

If you need to use this same method with "they're," you need some help. But, that is why I am here. If you look inside of the word "they're," you see:
"They," an apostrophe, and "re."
Well, think about it. An apostrophe is most frequently used to represent missing letters when contracting two words. In this case, the apostrophe represents the "a" in "are." It is now fairly easy to see that "they're" is a contraction for "they are." It is NOT a possessive noun, so don't use it as one!

I'm hoping that these small explanations and mnemonics are enough to clarify the differences between the three homophones. Just remember:
You're either using a possessive form, a contractive form, or there.

Quiz!:
1. ____ are four dead frogs over ____!
2. Those are ____ frogs!
3. I think ____ going to bury them.
4. I wouldn't want to be ____ when that happens.
5. Well, it's ____ own private funeral; you aren't invited.

Quiz! Answers: 1. There, there 2. Their 3. They're 4. There 5. Their

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