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What is the difference between their and theirs, and how is should use them?

Sometimes I get frustrated, because I do not see their difference.

  • 1
    As a dictionary of your choice will be quick to point out, the difference translates perfectly to your mother tongue: leur vs. le leur. – ЯegDwight Mar 7 '14 at 0:34
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Their is not an adjective. Their is a determiner: It's their house. It's their car. It's their business.

We use theirs when the object is left out (instead of the noun you put the ending -s): Our house is number 25, and theirs is just opposite. (taken from Longman Dictionary)

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4

Their is an adjective. It is used to modify a noun:

This is their ball.

Theirs is a pronoun. It is not used to directly modify a noun, although it does require an antecedent noun:

This ball is theirs.

In practice, their and theirs are basically equivalent in meaning, and you can use either one according to how you wish to word your sentence. In the sentences above, "This ball is theirs" puts slightly more emphasis on the ownership of the ball than on the ball itself, whereas "This is their ball" could emphasize either the ball or its ownership, depending on context.

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  • Although their modifies a noun, I believe @darkbluecherry is right to call it a determiner. – Mark McClelland Mar 7 '14 at 7:20
  • Actually they both are pronouns (forms of the possessive case of they) but function differently: ‘This is their ball’. Here the word ‘their’ functions as attribute adjective, before a noun. ‘This ball is theirs’. Here the word ‘theirs’ functions as predicate adjective, after a noun or without a noun. (This is theirs). – Lucian Sava Mar 7 '14 at 8:12

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