If you find they’re, their and there confusing, join the club. Here are some tips to distinguish one from the other.
Note the differences between the three words in this sentence:
If that’s confusing, first use they are, instead of they’re, their or there. If the resulting sentence is correct, then go ahead and use they’re. Why? Because they’re is just a shortcut of they are.
If what results is wrong, do not use they’re.
EXAMPLE: Some teachers believe that they’re/their/there always correct.
Which do we use? Let’s start with they are. Thus: Some teachers believe that they are always correct. Sounds right! So go ahead and use they’re: Some teachers believe that they’re always correct.
EXAMPLE: The students protested to the teacher about they’re/their/there scores.
Tip: Use they are first. Thus: The students protested to the teacher about they are scores. Since this sentence sounds wrong, then do not use they’re. So which do we use?
Tip: Choose their if (i) there is a noun after it and (ii) you can also use other possessives such as my, our or his.
EXAMPLE: The students protested to the teachers about their scores. Sounds right! Because (i) there is a noun scores after their, and you can use other possessives (e.g., The students protested to the teacher about my scores).
What about using there? Note that there is a here in the word there.
Tip: If we can use the word here, which also refers to a place or position, then we can use there.
EXAMPLE: What do you see they’re/their/there?
Tip: Can we use here? Let’s try: What do you see here? Yes, we can. So we can use there, thus: What do you see there?
Here’s a lovely photo-explanation from The YUNiversity of Righteous Grammar:
Photo credit: Anglais Video