Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Homophones – words that sound identical, but that are spelled differently – are frequently problematic for spellers and writers. They don’t have to be frustrating, however. Several very simple strategies can clarify correct spelling of specific homophones such as their/there/they’re.
Examine each choice closely and you’ll discover fail-safe clues for proper spelling.
Enjoy Mary Lib’s creativity with these.
Take a look at their. Notice it contains the word heir, which indicates inheritance and ownership or future ownership.
their t heir
Their is a pronoun which indicates possession, ownership.
Their family is going on vacation this week.
Their mother is the best baker I know.
Their coats appear to be new this season.
Their school is located ten miles from their home.
When you are thinking of the homophone that is a plural pronoun indicating ownership, their is the correct choice!
Now, examine there. Notice again the word inside there...here!
there t here
There is used in several ways. Very often, it’s used as an adverb to designate location, as is the word here.
His coat is over there hanging on the doorknob.
Turn there by the grocery store.
She’s sitting there by the window.
Other ways to use there convey an expression of existence:
There is a young couple living next door to me.
There seems to be a mood of joyful lightheartedness in Mr. Carter’s class.
A means of gaining attention:
And as a means of comfort:
There now, don’t cry about it.
There, there, it’s going to be okay.
When you need a word to designate location, existence, attention, or comfort, there is the correct choice!
Finally, take a look at they’re.
What makes this last homophone of the set stand out?
Of course! Neither there nor their contain an apostrophe, a punctuation mark that – in this case – indicates the deletion of one or more letters to form a contraction...the painless variety.
They’re running in a 10K tomorrow morning.
We’re dancing and they’re watching us compete.
Next week, they’re hosting a dinner for ten at their home.
When you really mean they are, but you’re all about efficiency –
they’re is the correct choice!