Tip: If you're serious about improving your writing, one of the best ways is to improve your vocabulary — not so you know how to use big words, but so you can choose the right word at the right time to convey your meaning precisely and simply. To improve your vocabulary, we highly recommend you try the popular vocabulary-improvement software called Ultimate Vocabulary. Click Ultimate Vocabulary for details.*
There is the easiest one to remember. There refers to a place (a physical place or an abstract place). For example, You can't make me go in there! Or Yes, my duck is over there, next to the dynamite.
Here's a useful tip: if you can replace there with here in the same sentence, and the sentence still makes sense, then you're probably using there correctly. Or this trick might help you: there has the word here in it (t+here) — and here also indicates a place.
They're is also easy to remember. They're is simply a contraction of they are. For example, They're a mad lot. The apostrophe (') indicates where a letter has been dropped (in this case, the a from are). The reason they're is sometimes confused with their is that people mistakenly believe the apostrophe indicates possession. Here's a tip: if you can replace they're with they are in the same sentence, and the sentence still makes sense, then you're probably using they're correctly.
Their is a possessive adjective. Their means "owned by or associated with some people or things previously mentioned". For example, Alice's insults had lost their impact on him, or They sat down to eat their picnic. A tip: if you can replace their with our in the same sentence, and the sentence still makes sense, then you're probably using their correctly.
To see if you can tell the difference between there, they're, and their, fill in the blanks below:
1. Bob and Mary tossed and turned in _____ bed.
2. It's so hot at Bob's place that you can't get any sleep _____.
3. Bob and Mary got married yesterday, so now _____ officially a couple!
4. Bob and Mary had a huge crowd at _____ wedding. _____ were hundreds of people _____!
5. After _____ wedding, _____ going to Hawaii for _____ honeymoon. All _____ friends will be _____!
Answers: 1. their; 2. there; 3. they're; 4(a) their, (b) There, (c) there; 5(a) their; (b) they're; (c) their; (d) their; (e) there
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