The Oxbridge Editing Blog 11th December 2010

Funny Grammar Mistakes: There, Their and They’re

11th December 2010

“What is the difference between there, they’re and their?” This is one of the most commonly asked English grammar questions of all time and one of the most common grammar mistakes. Mixing up there, their and they’re has given rise to a huge number of funny mistakes in signs, articles and all kinds of text. So let’s take a look at the key rules to remember the meanings of there, they’re and their so you can avoid falling into the traps suffered by the poor writers of these silly grammar mistakes!

This restaurant has made the mistake of using ‘there’ when they really mean ‘their’.

‘There’ is used in English grammar for two simple purposes. The first is when you say ‘there is’ or ‘there are’.

For example: There are 30 children in my class. Is there a spare chair?

The second is when you use it to indicate a place.

For example: The house is over there. When will we get there?

So their grammar mistake makes it sound as if this restaurant is being very demanding about exactly where the employees must wash!

This council sign ought to use the form of the word which means ‘belonging to’ as it is talking about dog owners and therefore refers to the dogs belonging to them. We use ‘their’ to mean ‘belonging to them’.

For example: That is their house. They have done their homework.

However whilst complaining about dog litter it seems this council has made a little grammar ‘foul up’ of their own by using the incorrect form ‘there’ instead!

The third form, ‘they’re’, is simply an abbreviation of the words ‘they are’, with the apostrophe taking the place of the missing letter ‘a’. So the rule to remember for this one is simple – always just check whether ‘they are’ could be substituted and the sentence would still make sense; if so, ‘they’re’ is the correct spelling.

For example: They’re going on holiday. They’re all very friendly.

This Facebook nut meanwhile has clearly spent a lot more time checking out other users’ profiles than he has checking up on his own grammar rules. Again he means to use the form ‘their’ meaning ‘of them’ or ‘belonging to them’ but mistakes it for ‘there’!

Finally, avoid making such funny grammar mistakes yourself by remembering these 3 very simple grammar rules.

‘There’ means ‘over there’ or ‘there is/are’.

‘Their’ means ‘belonging to them’.

‘They’re’ means ‘they are’.

Simple. As passionate as we are about good grammar however, we probably wouldn’t advocate that you take it quite as far as this lady, who seems to be so obsessed with the issue that she feels the need to wear it on her T-shirt! Jeez, chill out!