Learning English is especially hard for non-native speakers when it comes to homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same but differ in meaning and sometimes also spelling.
Learn more about homophones.
We have already published some articles about different groups of words that sound the same and are thus easily confused. For example, how difficult it is to get the difference between there, their and they’re or when to use where, were, wear and we’re. Today, we will have a look at another pair of these, namely the difference between theirs and their’s.
What’s The Difference Between Theirs & Their’s?
To have a look at the difference between those two, lets see what they each mean.
Theirs is a possessive pronoun in third person plural. In a sentence, it is used as a replacement for their and the object of possession, a noun. Check out the following example sentences:
- I found some keys on the pavement. – Could be Carla and Ben’s, they lost theirs.
- I found some keys on the pavement. – Could be Carla and Ben’s, they lost their keys.
The last sentence under 1. substitutes the their + noun combination of the example under 2., their + keys.
The case with their’s is simple: it doesn’t exist. This common mistake is often made even by native speakers of English, however their’s with an apostrophe is never the correct expression of possession.
Why Is That So?
This misconception is actually quite understandable. The combination of apostrophe and s is used in virtually all other words to indicate possession:
- The dog‘s bone.
- Anthony‘s grades.
- My mother‘s new car.
However, when it comes to pronouns, the case it different. Similar to the question of it’s vs its, possession is not indicated with ‘s but rather without the usage of an apostrophe. The following cases behave exactly the same:
- I found Maria’s pen. At least I think it’s hers.
- Martin didn’t like my idea and quite frankly, I think yours is better anyway.
- It must be the Smith’s dog barking because ours is at the vet.
When it comes to expressing possession, pronouns do not use the ‘s form. The possessive-s is always added to the pronoun directly.