There, their, they’re: a quick grammar guide

grammarFrom a previous post, we can identify these three little words, there, their, they’re , as homophones – they sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.  But they are so easy to confuse, particularly if you are concentrating hard on the content of the writing!  So, a quick and basic reminder of how these are used:



This is a contraction of they are.

The word they is a pronoun in the same way that she is a pronoun.  A pronoun is a word that takes place of a noun.  (He, she, it, we, they for example).

They are becomes they’re and is generally pronounced the same as there and their.


Sammy and Jane are having a party tonight.  They’re inviting the whole street.

Tell me what they’re doing!

Be cautious when using this in writing:  this is a very common spoken form but take care when you are using it in writing.  Although contractions are increasingly common in formal writing, there is a time and a place to do so.  Be very aware of the audience that you are addressing.


Used as an adverb


(place)  On Tuesday, I went to the farm with my friends.   I met them there.

(point/case/idea) I disagree with you there.

Used as a pronoun

It is used with a verb especially to be.  The verb must agree with the true subject that follows.


There are some sweets left in the packet.

There is a dog in the room.



Belonging to:

They were delighted when their dog won the show.

Their delight was obvious when their dog was awarded a prize.

For more information on there, their, they’re see



Whiling away the hours

I was getting creative today and I faltered over the spelling/grammatical accuracy of the phrase ‘she whiles away the hours.’  It is something that I have said frequently and yet, I don’t think that I have ever seen it written.  Is it while or wile?

The Collins online dictionary

while away



(transitive, adverb) to pass (time) idly and usually pleasantly

So it could be used to say:  she whiles away the hours

A search for ‘wile away’ does not produce any results but has a very different meaning if the word ‘wile’ is used as a verb:




(transitive) to lure, beguile, or entice

And yet, the examples of sentences using ‘wile’ given by the Collins use wile away in the same sense as above.

Historically, there are examples of the phrase being used with both spellings and my research suggests that both are technically correct.  However, ‘whiles away’ is the spelling in more common usage and hence the one that I will be using.