Even experienced writers occasionally write the homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings) there, their, they’re, and even there’re incorrectly. They don’t usually make the mistake on purpose; they just aren’t paying attention. When I’m writing an email or text, I don’t give it the same care and attention I give a user guide or technical article, so my fingers will often just type what sounds right. And since they all sound the same, you can’t really blame the fingers. For those of you who consistently get it wrong, here are a few tricks to help you remember which form to use without having to think too much.
It’s neither here nor there.
There (usually) references a location. The book is over there on the table. There contains the word here, which also references a location. If you replace there, their, or they’re with here and the sentence still makes sense, then there is the correct word. For example, The book is over ______ on the table. If you put here in the blank, The book is over here on the table, that makes sense, so the correct word is there.
Dude, where’s their car?
Their is a possessive pronoun: their car is the car that belongs to them. Her is also a possessive pronoun. In the sentence, Dude, where’s _____ car, you can insert her, so the correct word is their.
Who’s here? They’re here!
They’re is an easy one: if you’re saying they are, then the contraction they’re is the correct word. The trick for this one, if you really need one, is Who’s here. They’re here. Who’s is a contraction and so is they’re. Or, using our tricks for there and their, Here here doesn’t make any sense (in this context) and Her here sounds like a toddler, so they’re must be correct. There’re is also a contraction, for there are. If in doubt, take it out (the apostrophe)!
Let us review:
- It’s neither here, nor there. If you can replace the word with here, use there.
- Dude, where’s their car? If you can replace the word with her, use their.
- Who’s here? They’re here. If you mean they are, use they’re. (Or don’t use a contraction.)
The main point is to review what you’ve written before you send/publish it. (I’m sure I’ll find all of my errors tomorrow.)