Paul's Grammar Corner
There, Their, They're
Possibly the most common of the wrongly positioned word-sets in the English language is the misuse of there, their and they're. We've all read, "John and Mavis were happy with there newly adopted mongoose". Wrong.
There points to a physical or abstract location; "I want you to move over there"; "I am looking forward to heaven - it will be great there". The word there can also be used with the verb to be in its various forms: "there is more than one way to skin a hamster"; "there will be trouble if you use the word so at the start of a sentence".
Their is a possessive adjective and indicates ownership of a noun: "they celebrated their anniversary at McDonalds"; "they went there to declare their love for each other; they were sick to their stomachs for days".
They're is simply a contraction of the two words they and are. In informal writing and speech it feels more comfortable than the original words might: "They're getting away captain" sounds like Scotty; "They are getting away" sounds like a Dalek. If you want people to read your writing and truly hear your voice then you'll use contractions. However, don't use contractions in formal writing where you're trying to create a professional feel. When I'm writing for others my first question is always "What "voice" do you want the piece written in?" To rewrite a sentence from above:
"However, do not use contractions in a sentence where you are trying to create a professional feel,"
It just shows how unnatural our own language can sound if we remove contractions.