Sunday, March 04, 2012


Nancy from Houghton Lake called to ask if there is an easy way to distinguish there, their, and they’re. Sort of.

The easiest one to extract is they’re. The apostrophe makes it a contraction. Other common contractions include I’m, she’s, that’s, who’s, where’s, and how’s. In all these examples, the apostrophe is there to signal that a letter has deliberately been left out. In the case of they’re, it’s the letter –a–. The full spelling would be they are. Contractions save space and insert a feeling of informality and relaxation. They never signal possession.

There contains the word here. They are linked as location words: here means in this (near) place, and there means in that (more distant) place.

Their, which means belonging to them, contains the word heir. Parents often leave an inheritance to their heir.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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