Their vs they’re

Their vs they're vs there
picture from Nemo on pixabay

One common mistake that I hear people make very often is they’re vs their. When you are learning English as a second language it is difficult to understand things that sound the same, but do not mean the same thing. This is one of those cases where people have a hard time understanding the difference between these two pronouns.

Let’s focus on their first.

Their (possessive pronoun)

This is a possessive pronoun, which means you would use this to show that somebody owns something.

Example:

  • Who owns this house? It is their house.

Because it sounds like they are, people often confuse them. However, if you break it down they become easy-to-understand.

People often omits the noun after “their”.

Example:

  • It is the theirs.
  • This means that “it is their house.”

They are a.k.a. they’re (subject pronoun)

They is a subject pronoun. This means that it would replace people, for example.

Example:

  • They go to the mall.
  • People go to the mall.

When you don’t contract “they” and “are,” it is easy to understand. When people contract “they” and “are,” the confusion starts.

Example:

  • They’re from Hawaii.

This is a particular subtlety that you will have to pay attention to, so you need to focus on what the person is saying. Also, by paying attention to the context used you will be able to understand whether the person means they are or their.

For examples of the different pronouns in use check out verb tense forms post.

Their vs they’re

Here are some examples to help you understand the difference:

  • They are from Mexico.
  • They’re from Mexico.
  • That is their car.
  • Their car is in the parking lot.

Their vs they’re vs there

This is another problem area.

Again their refers to a possessive pronoun,and they’re refers to they are.

Example:

  • They are from Norway.
  • It is their car.

There refers to a place.

Example:

  • Throw the ball over there.
  • Have you been there yet?

 

Can you think of any other examples like this? I.e. words that sound the same something different.

A Common Grammar Mistake

“Me I” should not be used when speaking English

A common grammar mistake that I hear by Quebecois is “me I.”

In Quebec French it is considered acceptable to say, “moi je.” Quebecois use this spoken expression to emphasize something. In English it is not acceptable to say, “me I.” It doesn’t work because you are using a subject and an object pronoun both as subjects.

A sentence usually has a subject and an object pronoun.

e.g. I like her.

  • I > is a subject pronoun
  • Her > is an object pronoun
  • Her could be replaced by a name, so the sentence could be, ” I like Jenn.”
  • The pronoun replaces the name.
If you are looking for more information on pronouns, check out University of Ottawa’s site.

Next time you’re talking in English make sure you avoid this grammar mistake.

Looking for some help on the PSC  oral exam check this page out.

Know any other common mistakes? Let me know.