I am not a native speaker of the English language, I have studied English in my home country, the sunny Portugal, since the age of eleven and have improved it greatly since living in the UK since 2002. Therefore, I will every now and then write an awkward sentence or even a made up word; but there are a few common errors English speakers make that make me cringe. Please forgive me if this sounds snob coming from a foreigner, but this is only out of respect for the language we use to communicate.
One of the most common errors I don’t get is the misuse of “they’re“, “there” and “their“. To me, this seems so simple. I’m sure everyone knows that there means place, as in ‘over there‘ as opposed to ‘over here‘. For example, if I ask: ‘Have you seen my keys? I’m sure I left them here.’ I might get for an answer: ‘No, they’re over there.’ Of course, “they’re” refer to the keys, meaning “they are” and could be replaced by “the keys are“; and “there” refers to the place where the keys are. Now, if I was talking about my children’s keys, I would say: ‘Their keys are over there.’ Their means that the keys belong to my children, it is being used instead of saying: ‘my children’s ‘.
So, in summary:
- They’re means – they are
- There means – place
- Their means – belonging
Very straight forward, isn’t it? I don’t understand why so many people make this mistake, I’m sure this is one of primary school teachers’ everywhere biggest frustrations. There are issues in the English language that may be difficult to learn, but this isn’t one of them and yet I have seen it everywhere, from professional emails to social media statuses. And I just don’t see why is it so complicated. Could anyone shed a light on this for me?