Flashcard: Suffering From Homophonia? Part 2

ImageNothing says, "I'm a dolt" like conflating "there," "their" and "they're." Here's a clip-n-save guide to help spare you that fate.

There: It's an adverb.

Our close, personal friend Merriam-Webster.com has this to say about its meaning and usage:

1. in or at that place (stand over there) — often used interjectionally
2. to or into that place : THITHER (went there after church) 3. at that point or stage (stop right there before you say something you'll regret)
4. in that matter, respect, or relation (there is where I disagree with you)
5. used interjectionally to express satisfaction, approval, encouragement or sympathy, or defiance (there, it's finished

Judging by this, you can avoid confusing "there" with "their" or "they're" by

You can avoid confusing "there" with "their" or "they're" by substituting "thither" where appropriate, but we don't recommend it.

substituting "thither" where appropriate, but we don't recommend it. What we do recommend is simply learning the difference between "there," "their" and "they're," just as you've learned the difference between "peak," "peek" and "pique." Moving right along ...

Their: It's an adjective.

  1. of or relating to them or themselves especially as possessors, agents, or objects of an action (their furniture) (their verses) (their being seen)
  2. his or her : HIS, HER, ITS — used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent (anyone in their senses — W. H. Auden)

Mmm ... indefinite third person singular antecedent. Which brings us to ...

They're: It's a contraction of "they" and "are."

Sometimes we just don't have time to say, "they are," so it's handy to say, "they're," just as it's easier to say "he's" instead of "he is" or "she's" instead of "she is" or "it's" instead of "it is." "They're" is so easy to master that Merriam doesn't feel it necessary to comment beyond:

Main Entry: they're: they are

Quiz: Which of these sentences misuses either "there," "their" or "they're?"

  1. Everyone knows they're are two ways to kill a vampire (sunlight and the stake).
  2. Werewolves have been known to spend hours on there transformations.
  3. The monster had never been their, but he'd heard the onion rings were excellent.
  4. Their sure to irritate the mummy if they keep trying to unravel his outfit.
  5. The ghosts had forgotten to cut mouth holes in they're sheets.
  6. If the creature and his wife had kept a low profile, there lagoon would not have become overrun by paparazzi.
  7. Those trick-or-treaters sure are fast. They're already there with their pillowcases full of candy.

Image Answer: 1 through 6. See how easy that was? If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere, which means in your own writing. The key is proofreading; second time's usually the charm. And for those of you who still find this tricky — we all have our shortcomings — take solace in the fact that when you're speaking, no one knows you can't tell the difference between "there," "their" and "they're."