There, Their, They’re



When the grammar gremlins decide to attack, these are their favorite three words to target, and quite frankly, nothing enrages me quite as much as when I see them misspelled. Like our old friends, your and you’re, they are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another when spoken, but when written…vive la différence!

So, my dear malaprops, here is an easy way to remember correct usage: their is a pronoun, which means it substitutes for a noun and it must agree with the noun for which it substitutes, in number. It would be wrong to say, “Dougie and his lame friends got lost but were able to find his way home.” Instead, one would correctly say,” Dougie and his lame friends got lost but were able to find their way home,” since Dougie and his friends are plural and therefore the pronoun standing in for them, must be as well. Also, it  modifies a noun so it is an adjective and a possessive pronoun since it owns the word it describes. See? Not so difficult, right?

Now here is where it apparently gets tricky for some of you, and I say apparently because it is so often spelled incorrectly. There is both an adverb and an expletive. You are saying to yourselves, “why do I care what this word is? I just want to use it correctly.” You need to understand a very basic concept so you don’t continue to appear uneducated. In this sentence, “There is no way that dog lying over there is ever going to win a prize for anything,” you see there beginning the sentence and also designating where the dog is lying (see “Not Gonna Lie”).

The last word of confusion is they’re, which is a contraction of the words, they and are. Because we are lazy, contractions suit us quite well. We would correctly say, “They’re comin’ fer pa and they’re gonna kill him.” Try the test if you are ever unsure…substitute they and are for there or their, and if they work grammatically, then you’ve nailed it.

Remember, “There is no excuse for ignoring the rules of grammar when they’re written clearly and give their examples in a cogent fashion.” And there you have it, my spurious spellers, another grammar lesson in a jiffy. When you next receive a text message saying, “Dude, there party was so sick!” or, “Gotta run, their calling my burrito number now,” you will recognize that something is amiss with both of these fascinating sentences, and perhaps be able to correct them.

Until next time…

cartoon © by Mark Anderson