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Grammar Granny        < Previous        Next >


There, Their, They're


"There, there," the loving mother nurtures her frightened child. Maybe the child is frightened because he can't remember when to write "their," when to write "they're," and when to write "there."


They're (oh, drat, there it is again) homophones - and their (oh, dear) problem is that there (whoops) is no difference in how they're (eek) pronounced, but they're (yikes) not spelled alike.


The word comes from two Greek roots: "homo," meaning same, and "phono," meaning sound. Unlike a lot of words, we can't use basic phonics to get the right spelling. It takes a little extra thinking.


It's easy to remember when to use "they're" instead of "their" or "there." Any time you could substitute "they are," you should use "they're."


Example: The Smith family is coming, and they're hungry. (You could have written, ". . . and they are hungry," so "they're" is correct.)


Differences between "there" and "their" are a touch trickier. A simple memory device about the "i" in "their" might help: pretend that the "i" stands for "it." If the context of the word means "it belongs to them," then use "their," the form with the "i."


Example: The Smith family will bring their famous chicken recipe. (The recipe belongs to them, so it's "their," not "there" recipe, and you couldn't substitute "they are" in that sentence, as: ". . . will bring they are famous chicken recipe" so it's not "they're," either.)


Are we there yet? Have your eyes lost their focus? Have your brain cells forgotten where they're going?


Not to worry. Here's a quiz to help you practice. Soon, you'll have a happy ending, like "Goldilocks and the Three Theres":



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 010 2006


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