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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

Set 1 - Lesson 4 : Using Their, They're and There Correctly  (Go to the Answer Key )

Lesson 4, There they are; they're in their car:

Why would a language have three words that sound exactly the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings?  I don't know, but that is just one of the many strange things one must deal with if one wants to learn English.

  • there: "in or at that place", farther away than HERE; referring to the existence of.
  • their: "pertaining to or belonging to them"; a possessive pronoun.
  • they're:  A contraction made up of THEY + ARE, with the apostrophe in place of the A.


1. They're putting their suitcase over there on the cart.

2. The police officer read the suspects their rights before arresting them.

3.There are too many exceptions to the rules in English.

4. Many students dropped their books when they ran to catch the bus.

5. There were so many people in the theater that they had trouble finding their seats.

6. Last words of many foolish criminals: "They're never going to take me alive!"

7. The children licked their lips and their fingers after eating the messy cotton candy.

8. The hunter whispered to his partner, "Is that a deer over there behind that tree?"

9. The chef said to the host of the party, "They're really going to like this dessert!"

10. "You two stand here, next to me, and the rest of you stand over there by the wall." instructed the director of the play.

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Questions to ask yourself when deciding which word to use:

  1.  Will the sentence make sense if I replace the word with they are?
  2.  Do the words that come immediately after the 'there' word refer to something that belongs to somebody?  (their books, their lips, their fingers)
  3. Could you replace the 'there' word with a pointing gesture?  Is there a location mentioned?

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  • a.  I hope __________ going to finish painting the fence today.
  • b. Bob and Joe both lost ___________ car keys today.
  • c. I saw the ball roll ___________, under the bushes.
  • d. ____________ are fifty stars on our flag.


In Example A, there is no indication that anybody owns something, so their cannot be used.  There is no location mentioned or inferred, so there is not the correct word.  Putting they are in the space sounds right, so they're is the correct answer. 

In Example B, they are does not sound right, so they're is not the answer.  There is no location mentioned or inferred, so there is not the answer.  The words car keys come immediately after the missing word, and the keys belonged to Bob and Joe, at least before they lost them, so the possessive pronoun their is the correct answer.

In Example C, there is a place mentioned - 'under the bushes' - and if I used a pointing gesture as I read the sentence,  my listener would know I meant there.

In Example D, notice that the Linking Verb are is right after the missing word.  That means we cannot use the contraction they're, because that would make the sentence read They are are, which doesn't make sense.  The linking verb is important for another reason.  It indicates that the sentence is talking about the existence of something, which is one of the uses for there.  In fact, the presence of a linking verb after the word in question will always point to there. (There is hope. There are problems. There was a fire. There were two accidents.  There has been trouble.)


Exercise A: Each of the sentences below contains one or more of the 'there' words used incorrectly.  Find the mistakes, cross them out, and write the correct word(s) on the line at the end of each sentence.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Smith brought they're daughter to the restaurant with them.___________

2. George said their are sixteen rabbits over there in the woods.______________

3. They're are nearly 300 calories in the average candy bar._______________

4. The students saw there grades posted over their on the bulletin board.______________

5. Here are the girls and there are the boys, all dressed in there finest clothes.____________

6. "They're almost ready to start the game," the football players told they're coach. __________

Exercise B: Write the correct word, there, their,  they're in the spaces below.  In some cases, two words may be correct, in which case, write both of them.

1. _______________ two sons came home. 2. Put it ______________, in the box.
3. They paid _____________ three dollars. 4. _________________ ready to go.
5. _____________ are too many guns. 6. They needed ______________ medicine.

  Examination: Write the correct word in the spaces below to complete the sentences.

1. I wanted to go swimming, but ____________ are too many clouds.

2. After playing all summer, _____________ finally going back to school.

3. With ____________ pistols gripped tightly, the policemen surrounded the bank robbers.

4. ___________ they are; __________ on the bus with ____________ books and backpacks.

5. _____________ our candidates, whether we like ___________ policies or not.

6. ______________ they go, jumping into _____________ cars for the big race.


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