Can You Pass This “There” Vs “They’re” Vs “Their” Test?

By: Zoe Samuel
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Grammar can confuse a lot of people, partly because it is often horribly taught or even mis-taught. One element that is especially badly taught is the apostrophe, that little comma in the sky that insists on showing up before and after the letter S and in all sorts of other places you didn't particularly want or expect it, bamboozling the innocent writer and often thwarting our ability to communicate clearly. Indeed, the apostrophe is so bewildering to many people that it is probably second only to the semicolon as the most misused punctuation mark.

The two most confusing apostrophe-related mistakes center on two areas: use of the word "it", and use of there, they're and their. We're going to see how well you can do on the latter - but we'll help you out first by reviewing the former. If you mean to say "it is," as in "it is mine," you say "it's." The apostrophe replaces the "i" in "is." If you mean to say "it belongs," as in "its shape is square," then you don't need an apostrophe at all! There is no version where the apostrophe goes after the S.

Now we've cleared that one up, let's move onto the old chestnut of there, they're and their. If you do well, tell your friends on Facebook! If you do badly, perhaps you can tell one friend and appeal to their sympathy, as then they're sure to say, "There, there."

"They looked at ____ feet." Which is correct?

Whose feet? Their feet! This is the possessive.

"I'll meet you ____." Which is correct?

This refers to a place. It's like "here," but with an extra T.

_____ going to a party. Which is correct?

Who's going to the party? They are! Hence, "They're going to a party."

"She knows ____ father." Which is correct?

Whose father? Their father!

"____ very nice people once you get to know them!" Which is correct?

They are very nice people, you know!

"I'd like to go ____ sometime." Which is correct?

It's a place, so it's "there".

"They like ____ meat well done." Which is correct?

Whose meat? Their meat! They like it well done, which is some may say is a bad call - but at least they can spell it.

"_____ is no question about it." Which is correct?

This isn't a physical place, but it's still a "there."

"____ opening for the band." Which is correct?

Who is opening? They are opening!

"____ gift to the world." Which is correct?

They are giving a gift to the world. So it's their gift.

____, a gift to the world. Which is correct?

Here we see "there" in the sense of "voila" or "there you go." It's a slightly different use but still valid.

_____ in possession of stolen goods. Which is correct?

Who is in possession of stolen goods? They are!

"____ I was in ____ bathroom." Which is correct?

Location and then possessive makes this, "There I was in their bathroom." You'll notice this quiz just got harder... and it's going to get harder again in a minute!

"____ but for the grace of God, go I." Which is correct?

There's no other mysterious spelling of "there" out there: we just threw in the any/none options to see if you would be deceived!

"____ going to get ____ just desserts." Which is correct?

Who is going to get just desserts? They are. Whose desserts are they? Theirs. Hence, "They're going to get their just desserts."

"By going ____, ____ making a big mistake." Which is correct?

By going to that place or idea, or "there," they are (they're) making a big mistake. Hence, "By going there, they're making a big mistake."

"Why isn't ____ sister ____ for Christmas?" Which is correct?

The sister belongs to them and the location is under discussion. Hence, "Why isn't their sister going there for Christmas?"

"____ making ____ beds right now." Which is correct?

The beds belong to them, hence their beds. They are the ones making the beds, hence they're making. "They're making their beds right now."

"____ not very bright, so don't trust ____ opinion." Which is correct?

They are the ones who are bright (or not), and the opinion belongs to them. Hence, "They're not very bright, so don't trust their opinion."

"If ____ successful, ____ investors will be rich!" Which is correct?

They are the ones being successful and the investors belong to them, hence, "If they're successful, their investors will be rich."

"____ minds are made up; ____ moving to California." Which is correct?

The minds belong to them, and they're the ones who are moving. Hence, "Their minds are made up; they're moving to California."

"____ preferred option is to use ____ in-house designer." Which is correct?

The preference and the designer both belong to them, so it's the same each time: their. "Their preferred option is to use their in-house designer."

"_____ building a new house _____." Which is correct?

They are the ones building the house, and it is located there. Hence, "They're building a new house there."

"If _____ grounded, they'll be at _____ house." Which is correct?

The house belongs to them, and they are the ones who are grounded. Hence, "If they're grounded, they'll be at their house."

"____ over ___!" Which is correct?

Who's over where? They are over there. Hence, "They're over there."

"____ kind, ____ calm, and ____ the sort of people you want around in a crisis." Which is correct?

That's right, all three are the same here. They are kind, they are calm, and they are the sort of people you want around in a crisis. Hence, "They're kind, they're calm, and they're the sort of people you want around in a crisis."

"____ building ____ new house down ____." Which is correct?

They are the ones building, the house belongs to them and we know it's down there. So, "They're building their new house down there."

"____, they know ____ seen as more than the sum of ____ parts." Which is correct?

At that place (there), they know they are (they're) seen as more than the sum of parts that belong to them (their). That gives us, "There, they know they're seen as more than the sum of their parts."

"If you go ___, you could get stuck ___, and it sucks ____." Which is correct?

Yep, it's all the same again! We're talking about one place, which is always "there," which means we get, "If you go there, you could get stuck there, and it sucks there."

"____ mostly not interested, but some of ____ friends might want to go ____." Which is correct?

They are the ones who are not interested (they're), these friends belong to them (their), and there is a place under discussion (there). Hence, "They're mostly not interested, but some of their friends might want to go there."

"I admired ____ looks, ____ poise, and ____ elegance." Which is correct?

The looks, the poise, and the elegance all belong to them. Hence, the possessive "their" shows up three times, to give us, "I admired their looks, their poise, and their elegance."

"____ definitely ____ best selves when ____ under pressure." Which is correct?

They are (they're) the ones who are a certain type of selves. The best selves belong to them (their). They are under pressure. Hence, "They're definitely their best selves when they're under pressure."

"____ counting ____ chickens before ____ hatched." Which is correct?

They are the ones counting, and the chickens belong to them. That gets us, "They're counting their chickens." However we then consider who is hatching, and of course the answer is that the chickens are doing that. So we get another "they're," but referring to the chickens, for a resulting sentence that goes, ""They're counting their chickens before they're hatched."

"Is ____ any ____ ____?" How could this possibly be a sentence?

"Is there any 'there' there?" is a common way of asking whether there is any substance to the matter at hand. It comes from the idea of investigating, as in ,"There's nothing there," or "There you go, there's something." If there is in fact something there, that can be referred to as "there" in this context. Hence, "Is there anything there" becomes colloquially turned into, "Is there any 'there' there?"

"____, ____, ____ probably just jealous of you." Which is correct?

Saying "there, there" is a slightly archaic way of showing sympathy. When someone is upset, you might say. "There, there, it'll be better soon." It's a way of saying something rather than just sitting there in silence. So in this case, clearly the only way to make a meaningful sentence is to deploy this particular figure of speech to fill the first two gaps. Then we reach the third gap, where we can see they are (they're) jealous. This gives us, "There, there, they're probably just jealous of you."

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