Using 'they,' 'them' and 'their'

Few words cause more problems than these three, especially the first one: ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘their.’ People misuse them constantly, in writing as well as in speech. Don't you do it!


Here are some Egregious Examples, from various sources (hint: a company or other entity, such as a government agency, is an 'it' not a 'they'). The correct phrase is in boldface, inside parentheses.


Jupiter Saddle Shop will celebrate its 10th anniversary on June 19. They are (The store is) located in the Winn-Dixie Marketplace at the corner of Wellington Trace and Greenview Shores Boulevard.


ABC Homes builds successful adult communities because they understand (the company understands) the unique needs and desires of active adults.


When an interior designer talks about the “backgrounds” of a home, they are (he or she is) referring to the ceilings, walls and floors.


The following sentences were culled from students’ descriptions of whether an advertisement is a good or a bad visual.


Note how many times the word "they" does not refer to anything at all; a company name would help.


This ad is no good. I don’t know what they are trying to sell.


The advertisement for Paradise Inn is ineffective because they are stating that they have beautiful resorts, yet the ad doesn’t depict one.


This ad for lipstick is a good one. They are advertising red lipstick, and the girl’s light skin contrasts well with the bright red.


Toyota’s ad lets readers know that the cars they make are safe.


The ad is boring. It has too much empty space. They show only a bar code.


Dunkin’ Donuts’ ad is good because it provides great information about the products they are selling.


The following are from students’ summaries of news events.


I read an article about Target and how they want help from suppliers to prevent customers from looking at a product at the store and then buying it later online.


The vice president of NBC Sports Group said that they already have lined up advertisers for the Summer Olympic Games.


Kellogg’s bought the Pringles potato-chip brand from Procter & Gamble recently. Kellogg wants to expand their business in snacks as much as they have with cereal.