Everyone makes mistakes with these homonyms sometimes. Even an experienced writer will look at the page and wince, having spotted they fumbled one of these doozies. If you’re not sure of which one to use in which scenario, however, it’s good to brush up.

The easiest one to remember is they’re. The reason it’s easy? It has an apostrophe, because it is a contraction.

A contraction is when two words are jammed together, and all the unnecessary letters squirt out the top in an apostrophe. In this case, the two words that got jammed together were they and are. 

they are -> theyare -> theyre. The a of they are was squished into an apostrophe.

The other two, there and their, may seem harder to remember at first. However, there’s a trick to remembering them:

Ask yourself a question: Where is it? There it is. Where and there are only a letter apart in spelling. They go together! Yay!

So, how about their? How should we remember that one?

Uh.

Ummmmmm.

So, this is awkward, but there isn’t a good way that I know of to remember it–other than through process of elimination. If they’re is a contraction of they are (and remember, in formal writing you’d avoid contractions and write out “they are” anyway), and if there goes with where, then their is just going to hang out by itself.

To recap:

They’re: short for they are. “They’re going to the mall.”

There: goes with where. “Where are they going? There, to the mall?”

Their: the leftover one: “Are they taking you? No? It’s their loss.”

Helpful? Anyone have a good way to remember their?


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