English Basics: there, there’s, their, theirs, they’re in the air

Let’s all face it, English sucks. It’s a terrible language with all sorts of confusing little landmines to trip up learners and native speakers alike. The problem during speaking is these words are pronounced the same, but have significantly different meanings. When writing, these words are commonly misused, either consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes my typing fingers automatically choose the easiest or most familiar one, which is often incorrect and will not be spotted by spell-check. Whenever you are writing a paper or letter with many of these words, it is wise to have someone else proofread your work.

There

It is used as an adverb to denote a non-specific place:

  • I have been there.
  • Look at that bird over there.
  • I stopped there to have a sip of beer.

It is also used as a pronoun for a non-specific thing:

  • There is no time!
  • There, I finally finished my homework.

There’s

This is a contraction for “there is:”

  • There’s no cheese on my pizza.
  • I saw her picture and there’s no way she will get $100 dollars for it.

Their

Their is a pronoun showing possession and can refer to one person or multiple people:

  • Their store is always busy.
  • I haven’t seen their renovations.

Theirs

Theirs is a pronoun that is used to replace “their” + NOUN, when the noun is known to both parties. Using the sentences above, we can re-write them by using “theirs” to replace “their store” and “their renovations.” (Never write theirs with an apostrophe ‘s’).

  • That store is dead, but theirs is always busy.
  • Our renovations look great, but I haven’t seen theirs.

They’re

This is a contraction for “they are” so never use it for any other purpose:

  • They’re coming to our house for sushi.
  • I am flying in from Winnipeg, but they’re flying in from Toronto.

Can we write a sentence using all forms?

At their house, there’s a large garden over there that they’re really proud of because theirs is better than ours.

Now it’s your turn!

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