In this Grammar Tip, I want to talk about one of the most common word usage mistakes that can completely change the meaning of a sentence, drive readers crazy and reflect poorly on you. And I’ll give you some tips so you’ll never make this mistake again.
You may remember from elementary school that homonyms are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Homophones are a type of homonym. They’re words that sound alike but have different meanings and different spellings.
One of the most commonly misspelled and consequently misused set of homophones is there, they’re and their.
THERE refers to a physical or abstract place. In most cases, if you can replace there with here and your sentence still makes sense, you are using the correct spelling.
Here are some examples of how to correctly use THERE:
There is the store.
We are going there to shop.
THEY’RE is a contraction for they are. So if you can replace they’re with they are and your sentence still makes sense, you’re using the correct spelling.
They’re going to the store.
I don’t know what they’re going to buy at the store.
Finally, THEIR shows possession of something. This spelling is usually followed by a noun. In most cases, if you can replace their with our and your sentence still makes sense, you’re using the correct spelling.
Their furniture came from the store.
Have you sat on their sofa?