Writing about you're, your, and yore last week inspired me to write about a similar set of homophones this week: Their, there, and they're. Once again, we have a contraction and a possessive adjective, along with a very flexible positional word.
So let's jump into this post about their, there, and they're.
Their vs. There vs. They're
To begin, their is a possessive adjective that relates to "them" or "themselves," whoever they are. Repeating last week's example: If I owned a baseball, it would be my baseball. But if they owned a baseball, it would be their baseball.
There, meanwhile, is an incredibly flexible word that is at times an adverb, pronoun, noun, and adjective. It is usually used in a positional or relational way, as in "sit over there" or "take it from there," though it can also be used as a word to indicate emphasis, reliability, and/or conscious.
Finally, they're is a contraction of the words "they" and "are."
Here are a few examples of their, there, and they're:
Correct: Their radio is too loud.
Incorrect: There radio is too loud.
Incorrect: They're radio is too loud.
Correct: There is a good chance it will rain today.
Incorrect: Their is a good chance it will rain today.
Incorrect: They're is a good chance it will rain today.
Correct: They're happy to be home.
Incorrect: Their happy to be home.
Incorrect: There happy to be home.
Correct: They're allowed to play their music down there.
When it comes to keeping these straight, the apostrophe in they're is an easy reminder that it's two words (or they are). This might be a stretch, but I like to think of there as a positional indicator when I'm asked where something is? So I use the -here to connect those two words in my mind. Which then leaves the possessive their for them (again, whoever they are).
No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.