It is quite common to see the following words used interchangeably, as if there were no difference between them. Rules of spelling and grammar exist to avoid confusion in the written word when tone of speech or body language are absent to reveal context. Learning these rules will help your writing be clearer and more precise.
Their vs There vs They’re
“Their” shows possession, meaning that a group of people owns something. In “I like that soccer team. Their jerseys are really cool.” In this example, “their” refers to the soccer team that owns really cool jerseys.
“There” is a pronoun referring to a place or an idea. “Look over there! It is one of the soccer players now.” Here “there” is referring to the place where you should look. It can also be used abstractly as in, “There are so many ways that I love that team.”
“They’re” is a contraction of the words “they are”. It is a subject and a verb. “They’re winning the championship this year.” In this sentence, “they’re” suggests that a group of people are doing something.
It’s vs Its
Because possession is often shown with an ‘s, as in, “That is Bill’s toy,” the use of “it’s” and “its” can be confusing.
“It’s” is actually a contraction of the words “it is” or “it has”. “It’s not fair that my team didn’t make the championship this year,” is an example of the former. “It’s been a good season anyway,” shows the latter.
“Its” shows possession, as in “That soccer ball is weird. Its colors are indescribable.” Here “its” is referring to the soccer ball and the colors that it possesses.
Your vs You’re
These two actually use the same rules as “their” and “they’re”. “Your” is possessive, as in, “Your team is just no good.”
“You’re” is a contraction of “you are”. For example “You’re not going to make the playoffs.”
Then vs Than
“Then” is used in reference to time. As in “We went to the game, then we went for ice cream.”
“Than” is used in comparison. For example “I ate more ice cream than you did.”
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