Sunday, January 10, 2016

Confused Words: There, Their, They’re by Maeve Maddox

Three words often confused are the homonyms there,their, and they’re.

Their is a possessive adjective. It always precedes a noun and indicates possession:

Is that collie their dog?
That cabin is their country residence.

They’re is a contraction of the words “they are”:

They’re interested in buying your house.
Do you know if they’re at home?

There has more than one function. It is used as an adverb of place:

See that Victorian house? I lived there when I was nine.
I think I left my keys in the kitchen. Please look to see if they are there.

There is used as a sentence opener:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,/Which, taken at the flood…
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Note: Beginning a sentence with there is sometimes the correct stylistic choice, but a common error is to begin a sentence with there when beginning with a subject would be better. For example:

Weak: There will be a brass band to meet the war hero at the airport.
Better: A brass band will meet the war hero at the airport.

Weak: There are plenty of reasons for her to refuse his advice.
Better: She has plenty of reasons to refuse his advice.