They’re Their There. There!

On a rare day, you’ll find that the heavens open and bequeath to the earnest petitioner a gift long awaited. Or maybe it’s just a gift of opportunity, whether it be your neighbors leaving their house keys in plain sight as they leave for vacation, or the ATM sticking out a tongue of $20 bills, or the person next door forgetting to secure their MegaBoost WiFi network.

(Cue transition to writing mistake that hasn’t been made yet.)

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Any good ideas on submitting a good query letter to a publisher? Its like their not interested in any submissions unless there already from published authors. How do you break that Catch-22 of not being published until you have publishing experience and getting publishing experience without being published? [italics added]

—Johnathon Larimer, Cleveland, Ohio.

There we have it. The gift of opportunity. If only we had a misplaced they’re in there, we’d cash in on a rare trifecta.

Good ideas on query letters? Later. You need a clinic in they’re/there/their — as do many, many others. I may even break out Grubthar’s grammar to exact avengeance on the matter.

They’re: Means they are. Through a marriage of convenience through contraction, we get two words for the price of one. Best way not to screw this up? If you’ve written they’re there and can’t substitute it for they are, then you are doing it wrong.

“I like me some MacDonalds; they’re fries are cheap.” = “they are fries are cheap.”

(Geebus, as you can see, this one takes particular thick-headedness to bungle. But one can never underestimate the thickness of thick-headedness.)

Their: Possessive. Has a quality of belongingness. Consider your parents’ house: if it isn’t theirs, it’s mine. Selfish? Nope. You forfeited that right when you decided that “ain’t noone gonna try learnin’ me English.”

Hint: their comes before their stuff, nouns, substantives, “whatev.” Their spoiled foie gras. Their mistress. Their eyebleed pink. Their night serum. Their dwarfslave. Could it be your crap instead? If so, no. It’s their crap. Get it right.

There: Linguists and erudite snobs call this an adverb.

There is often a place, nothing specific. It also includes places in time.

“’He touched me there, Your Honor.’ He stopped there, too broken to continue.”

Or it’s meant for attention-getting or attention directing.

“Hey there little guy, wanna have some candy with me? It’s in my back seat. Hop in!”

Plenty more than that, but if you remember not to step on the toes of they’re/their, you’re good.


Theyre: Uncommon, used in place of there in reference to British things predating the year 1785 or something.

“Looke at these olde gravestones theyre. Thys’un’s of me greate granmum. An there’s me mum’s. An there’s myne.”

Tharr: Pirate for there. Elongate for emphasis.

Tharrrrr be plenty o’ booty for the lot of ye!”

Thur: Only used in reference to “gettin’ crunk at the club.”


Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (, followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and gotten crunk’d at your nearest book club right thur. 


2 thoughts on “They’re Their There. There!

  1. I love it! Their there and they’re has always been pretty simple to me. I wonder if their still teaching it in school these days? It drives me crazy how there just changing words on us. I see the problem most often on Facebook, but I doubt people realize that they’re grammar is awful.

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