Theirs vs. their's

< Previous | Next >
Status
Not open for further replies.

Au101

Senior Member
England, English (UK)
Hi, I had a quick look and I couldn't see this question asked anywhere else. What I would like to ask is which is correct, theirs, or their's? e.g.

"Our project is not as good as their(')s."

Thanks.
 
  • audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi, I had a quick look and I couldn't see this question asked anywhere else. What I would like to ask is which is correct, theirs, or their's? e.g.

    "Our project is not as good as their(')s."

    Thanks.
    Hello,

    In my humble opinion, it's theirs.

    Audiolaik
     

    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Theirs.

    Their's does not exist in English.
    Of course somebody will come along and prove me wrong... :(
     

    Au101

    Senior Member
    England, English (UK)
    Thank you both of you. I think, upon reflection, you are probably correct, after all, their is possessive already, it is hence redundant to have a possessive apostrophe.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    As noted above, "their's" certainly does not exist in English, and it is as incorrect as spelling "his" as "hi's".
    *Ahem!* Their's certainly does exist in English. It exists as a nonstandard spelling which has even gotten into print: See here.

    Hi's, on the other hand, is both more questionable and harder to search for via the Internet, since many hits for hi's turn out to be the genitive form of the name of a man called Hi and others turn out to be the result of bad scanning from a book which was printed with no such apostrophe. But it is as absurd to say that their's is not an English word as to say that iz is not an English word: It may be misspelled, deliberately or not, but in context its meaning in unambiguous. Besides, no language is limited to its standard dialect or dialects.

    It is inadvisable to use their's, I agree. Just don't give as a reason that it "doesn't exist in English." That is as questionable an assessment as calling ain't "not a word."
     

    sundreez

    Senior Member
    *Ahem!* Their's certainly does exist in English. It exists as a nonstandard spelling which has even gotten into print: See here.

    Hi's, on the other hand, is both more questionable and harder to search for via the Internet, since many hits for hi's turn out to be the genitive form of the name of a man called Hi and others turn out to be the result of bad scanning from a book which was printed with no such apostrophe. But it is as absurd to say that their's is not an English word as to say that iz is not an English word: It may be misspelled, deliberately or not, but in context its meaning in unambiguous. Besides, no language is limited to its standard dialect or dialects.

    It is inadvisable to use their's, I agree. Just don't give as a reason that it "doesn't exist in English." That is as questionable an assessment as calling ain't "not a word."
    This same example also uses the word your's. Just because it is found in a book or the internet it does not follow that it must be correct. Books have incorrect words too as does the internet. Again I ask, what is their's a contraction of? Their's and your's do not exist in the English language.
     
    Last edited:

    Orreaga

    Senior Member
    USA; English
    Again I ask, what is their's a contraction of? Their's and your's do not exist in the english language.
    Apostrophes do not only represent contractions, they are also used in possessives, such as "John's dog". "John's" is not a contraction. Apostrophes are commonly added where they are not grammatically needed in non-standard English, in words ending in "s", especially plurals.
     

    sundreez

    Senior Member
    When used in the plural it is not a contraction, but John's is simply short for "belongs to John". Their's is not plural and it makes no sense to say "belongs to their".
     

    Orreaga

    Senior Member
    USA; English
    I am wrong, "John's" is considered by linguists to be a contraction of the Old English singular genitive ending, "-es". So supposedly "Johnes" became "John's" in Modern English.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    This same example also uses the word your's. Just because it is found in a book or the internet it does not follow that it must be correct. Books have incorrect words too as does the internet. Again I ask, what is their's a contraction of? Their's and your's do not exist in the English language.
    I was making no claim that their's was correct. Quite the contrary: I pointed out in the very first paragraph of my post that it is a nonstandard spelling. I later said that no language is limited to its standard dialect or dialects, an assertion that is relevant to the matter at hand and one which no modern linguist would question. Just because a spelling is nonstandard does not make it non-English!
     

    Philo2009

    Senior Member
    English
    *Ahem!* Their's certainly does exist in English. It exists as a nonstandard spelling ...is as questionable an assessment as calling ain't "not a word."
    I believe you'll find that the questioner was enquiring about the existence or otherwise of the form in question in the standard language (feel free, however, to check with him/her in person if you are in any doubt), and is consequently entirely unconcerned with its use by the semi-literate.  To all intents and purposes relative to this thread, and to this forum in general, the assertion of 'nonexistence' may be taken as meaning 'nonexistence in the standard language'.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    I was making no claim that their's was correct. Quite the contrary: I pointed out in the very first paragraph of my post that it is a nonstandard spelling. I later said that no language is limited to its standard dialect or dialects, an assertion that is relevant to the matter at hand and one which no modern linguist would question. Just because a spelling is nonstandard does not make it non-English!
    So anything and everything is still English, and only the opinion that something is non-English is intrinsically wrong.

    I think I've got it.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    So anything and everything is still English, and only the opinion that something is non-English is intrinsically wrong.

    I think I've got it.
    Your conclusion does not follow from what I said.

    Note that to say a word or expression is nonstandard when discussing English usage is to accept that the word or expression is English. There are things which occur in English-language texts which are not English: foreign words which have not been naturalized, for example, and garbled text. These are neither standard nor nonstandard English! Something like their's, used instead of theirs and iz, used instead of is, are, on the other hand, nonstandard English usages.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Sometimes an apostrophe represents a contraction, sometimes it does not. It represents no contraction in the following:

    mind your p's and q's

    Fred's

    one's

    the Smiths' daughter

    Those are standard usages. The apostrophe also occurs in some nonstandard usages:

    it's (a nonstandard genitive form of it)

    tomato's (an example of the greengrocer's apostrophe)

    your's (found in the source I cited earlier)
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Sometimes an apostrophe represents a contraction, sometimes it does not. It represents no contraction in the following:

    mind your p's and q's

    Fred's

    one's

    the Smiths' daughter

    Those are standard usages. The apostrophe also occurs in some nonstandard usages:

    it's (a nonstandard genitive form of it)

    tomato's (an example of the greengrocer's apostrophe)

    your's (found in the source I cited earlier)
    There's a difference between usages that are not Standard English and those that are widespread errors. "It's" (as a possesive), "tomato's" and "your's" are as erroneous as "their's" and should be considered as errors, they are not alternatives or part of a dialect.

    As for the other examples;
    "Fred's" and "Smiths'" are correct usages of the saxon genitive, "their's" is not.
    Personally I wouldn't write "p's and q's", and it's not required by traditional grammar rules, athough I understand that a significant number of people use it.
    "One's" could be a contraction of "one is", but it is also the accepted possesive adjective for one. The inclusion of an apostrophe in its structure is an exception amongst possessives.

    The possesive adjective for they is their and the possesive pronoun is theirs. There is no place for "their's" here.

    In general terms, there is some argument to be made for usage defining the language, but throwing away the rule book on the assumption that people will get what you mean is not a pathway to clear communication.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    iz may be non-standard (slang) but their's is simply incorrect. It implies a contraction where there is none.
    It implies no such thing. You are setting up a strawman argument. There is no more logical reason to believe that their's (nonstandard) must be a contraction of a nonexistent word than there is to believe that one's (the standard possessive form of the pronoun one,) or it's (the once-standard possessive form of it, now nonstandard) must be contractions of nonexistent words.
     
    Last edited:

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    There's a difference between usages that are not Standard English and those that are widespread errors. "It's" (as a possesive), "tomato's" and "your's" are as erroneous as "their's" and should be considered as errors, they are not alternatives or part of a dialect.

    ...

    In general terms, there is some argument to be made for usage defining the language, but throwing away the rule book on the assumption that people will get what you mean is not a pathway to clear communication.
    You are implying that I am throwing away the rule book, but from the very beginning I made a point of identifying their's as nonstandard. That is not throwing away the rule book: It is, on the contrary, an acknowledgment and acceptance of the rules.

    My objection to the claim by SwissPete, sound shift, and GreenWhiteBlue that their's does not exist in English is that it is an illogical statement on a par with "Ain't is not a word." Ain't is indeed a word and their's does indeed exist in English.

    Even before the age of the Internet, one would have been able to identify their's as English by the fact that it is given as a form of the word in the entry "theirs" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Six cites are given. (It gives no cites for hi's in the entry "his," by the way, although it has three cites for 's as a form of that word.) In that case, it's a matter of historical usage, of course, just as the variant it's as a possessive is a historical usage. But it's as a possessive is also a current usage--nonstandard, of course. The same is true for their's.

    Widespread errors such as tomato's and their's are nonstandard usages. A nonstandard usage is in contrast to a nonce error such as dord given as an entry in the 1934 Webster's New International Dictionary, and to a deliberately created false English word such as esquivalience, given in the New Oxford American Dictionary as a trap for plagiarists (See Michael Quinion's article here.) And, of course, in contrast to a nonnaturalized foreign word and to garbled text, as I mentioned in an earlier post.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    *Ahem!* Their's certainly does exist in English. It exists as a nonstandard spelling which has even gotten into print: See here.

    Hi's, on the other hand, is both more questionable and harder to search for via the Internet, since many hits for hi's turn out to be the genitive form of the name of a man called Hi and others turn out to be the result of bad scanning from a book which was printed with no such apostrophe. But it is as absurd to say that their's is not an English word as to say that iz is not an English word: It may be misspelled, deliberately or not, but in context its meaning in unambiguous. Besides, no language is limited to its standard dialect or dialects.

    It is inadvisable to use their's, I agree. Just don't give as a reason that it "doesn't exist in English." That is as questionable an assessment as calling ain't "not a word."
    If we say "their's" exists in English, we may as well say "thairz" exists in English. This forum aids those learning English. I feel it's wrong not to point out errors. (As to "ain't," I accept that as a word.)
     

    StrongArmingEvil

    New Member
    American English
    You are implying that I am throwing away the rule book, but from the very beginning I made a point of identifying their's as nonstandard. That is not throwing away the rule book: It is, on the contrary, an acknowledgment and acceptance of the rules.

    My objection to the claim by SwissPete, sound shift, and GreenWhiteBlue that their's does not exist in English is that it is an illogical statement on a par with "Ain't is not a word." Ain't is indeed a word and their's does indeed exist in English.
    Just because you've found proof that someone used "their's" does not imply that it is correct, or should be used by anyone. Theirs is possessive, and to say "their's" is to say "their is" which is grammatically incorrect.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Just because you've found proof that someone used "their's" does not imply that it is correct, or should be used by anyone. Theirs is possessive, and to say "their's" is to say "their is" which is grammatically incorrect.
    Nowhere did I say that their's is correct. Nowhere did I say that their's should be used. My objection is to the accusation that it is nonexistent in English.

    Theirs is indeed a possessive pronoun, but so is their's: It is theirs misspelled. That's from the modern point of view, of course: As a historical spelling their's goes back to a time when spelling was quite fluid and it would likely be as acceptable as once was the possessive it's. The second part of your last sentence is a non sequitur. There is not the slightest reason to believe that "to say 'their's' is to say 'their is'": The apostrophe serves many functions, and its use to stand in for letters when two words are combined into one, as in he's from he is, is only one of them.

    Note, however, that but for a historical accident, their's would be standard. As in the genitive form Fred's, the s in theirs is an example of the Saxon genitive. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology of theirs as:

    In form a double possessive, f. THEIR + -es (cf. hers, ours, yours). Of northern origin.
    The earliest cite in the OED spells the word as [th]ayres (where [th] represents the letter thorn). Other cites spell the same word with the endings -is and -ys. It was in just such forms that the last vowel came to be silent and was replaced with an apostrophe. That is, the apostrophe replaced a missing letter, but as a contraction of the genitive, not a contraction of two words. That the apostrophe was dropped in the possessive pronouns which stand in for nouns (It is yours. It is ours.) is not a matter of logic, but rather of style. That is, your implied argument that there is something logically wrong with the apostrophe in their's is, based upon the historical evidence, a completely fallacious one.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    one's is possesive, it's is a contraction of it is and ain't is a slang used in dialects. Their's is an incorrect spelling of theirs.
    One's is a possessive, a contraction of one is, and a contraction of one has.

    It's is a contraction of it is, a historical spelling of its, and a current nonstandard spelling of its.

    Their's is a historical spelling of theirs and a current nonstandard spelling of theirs.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    If we say "their's" exists in English, we may as well say "thairz" exists in English. This forum aids those learning English. I feel it's wrong not to point out errors. (As to "ain't," I accept that as a word.)
    In fact, thairz does exist in English. It was a spelling advocated in a spelling reform, as can be seen here.

    The spelling reform is a spelling reform to English, not to some other language. What you get when you read aloud the page cited above is English, not some foreign language.

    For that matter, any pronunciation spelling of an English word is just as much English as is that reform spelling. It's not French. It's not Klingon. It's English! Nonstandard English is still English.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    In fact, thairz does exist in English. It was a spelling advocated in a spelling reform, as can be seen here.

    The spelling reform is a spelling reform to English, not to some other language. What you get when you read aloud the page cited above is English, not some foreign language.

    For that matter, any pronunciation spelling of an English word is just as much English as is that reform spelling. It's not French. It's not Klingon. It's English! Nonstandard English is still English.
    As I wrote earlier, this is a forum to aid people who are trying to learn English. Learning that "thairz" is a misspelling of "theirs" does not help them in any way. Why encourage misspellings? Shall we teach them that "ghoti" is English for "fish." I would hope not.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    As I wrote earlier, this is a forum to aid people who are trying to learn English. Learning that "thairz" is a misspelling of "theirs" does not help them in any way. Why encourage misspellings? Shall we teach them that "ghoti" is English for "fish." I would hope not.
    We should not spread incorrect information in this group. To say that their's does not exist in English is just as incorrect as to say that ain't is not a word.

    As for what I have cited to back up my position, I'm sure some forum members, both native and nonnative speakers, have found it to be of interest, even if they disagree with my position.

    Besides, I agree with Anthony Burgess that it is important to the student to look at language from a linguistics point of view. He taught both native speakers of English and students of English as a foreign language, and he always taught linguistic concepts to his students that most teachers of English never touch on. I think it's important to get things right. Ain't is a word, a nonstandard word, and pointing that out is not equivalent to encouraging the use of ain't. Their's is an English word, a nonstandard spelling of theirs--and pointing that out is not equivalent to encouraging the spelling their's.

    It's also interesting that thairz was the spelling of theirs in at least one proposal for reforming English spelling, although it is only an unusual circumstance--that someone claimed it was nonexistent in English--that led to its being mentioned in this thread. It can't hurt the student of English as a foreign language to be aware of the fact, however, and, if he remembered thairz later, it might indeed help him by acting as a sort of mnemonic to remind him of the discussion in this thread, which would more likely than not cause him to steer clear of the spelling their's!

    Addition: It does not hurt to teach students the ghoti spelling of fish. My take on it, if I were to use it--and the following observation is not original to me--would be to show how the spelling actually breaks, rather than follows, the rules of English. Gh is indeed one spelling of /f/, for example, but it never occurs with that pronunciation at the beginning of a word in standard English spelling.
     
    Last edited:

    rpleimann

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi, I had a quick look and I couldn't see this question asked anywhere else. What I would like to ask is which is correct, theirs, or their's? e.g.

    "Our project is not as good as their(')s."

    Thanks.
    Poor Au101. The answer to your question is to leave out the apostrophe.
     

    Starfrown

    Senior Member
    English - US
    mplsray seems to be one of the very few voices of reason in this thread.

    Despite his very eloquently stated arguments, others continue to come forward saying that "their's" is absolutely incorrect.

    Very recently, I read an old edition of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park" that used "their's" entirely to the exclusion of "theirs" (likewise it had "your's" for "yours"). How, then, could I boldly state that "their's" is wrong? As mplsray stated earlier, but for unknown--unknown to me at least--historical accidents, "their's" might well have ended up the standard.

    Needless to say, the best advice to the original poster is to use "theirs" always, as that is the practice in contemporary English. However, it is my opinion that this forum ought to fully inform non-native speakers of alternate forms that he or she may encounter in some older texts, regardless of whether or not they were explicitly seeking such information.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes, it's a difficult one, Starfrown. I think your advice is wise: we should advise second-language learners to write theirs, but also advise them that they will sometimes come across their's.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    As we all seem to agree that their's should be avoided in current English, because it is a misspelled word, we can settle back and consider that in non-standard arithmetic, 2 +2 = 5 does exist. I'm sure a search engine will find numerous examples of that statement. It may even appear in publications by noted authors. It should nonetheless be avoided.

    Gimme also exists. So does wanna. Gunna may be a frequent misspelling of gonna, which in turn represents a common
    mispronunciation of an English term. While people draw up teams to argue over the taxonomy of these things, some calling them non-standard, and others declaring them wrong, and still others claiming that they do or don't exist, the advice to the non-native (and native) learner of English is the same: Avoid them. Or, add them to the pile of red herring in which thairz sits in all its (it's?) {itz?} fetid splendor.

    When teaching English, it is sometimes useful to point out that there are frequent errors in spelling of some common words.
    It may be useful to explain why and how these errors occur. If that helps students to avoid the errors, it is a good thing.
    If it encourages the students to indulge in such errors, on the flimsy grounds that lots of (lotsa) other people do so, it is not such a good thing.
     
    Last edited:

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    As we all seem to agree that their's should be avoided in current English, because it is a misspelled word, we can settle back and consider that in non-standard arithmetic, 2 +2 = 5 does exist. I'm sure a search engine will find numerous examples of that statement. It may even appear in publications by noted authors. It should nonetheless be avoided.
    Given "As we all seem to agree that their's should be avoided in current English, because it is a misspelled word," the second part of your post seems superfluous.

    But what you are doing, obviously, is trying to insult those who insist that their's in not nonexistent in English. Your argument is defective, however. If there could be constructed a "nonstandard arithmetic" where 2 + 2 = 5 made sense, it could not, from what I know of mathematics, succeed as arithmetic in the same fashion as a nonstandard dialect could succeed as a standard dialect. It could not accomplish everything that arithmetic does, in the same way that a nonstandard dialect could accomplish everything that a standard dialect does--indeed, all languages now having a standard dialect got that dialect from a nonstandard one.

    If English were exactly the same except that your's, our's, and their's were standard, communication would not suffer. The reason for using their's in such a hypothetical world would be its status as a prestige spelling, part of the lingua franca of the educated classes. The reason we should use theirs in our English is because it is the prestige spelling, part of the lingua franca of our educated classes.

    In short, your analogy is a poor attempt at a poor argument (a strawman argument).

    Note: The above represents a reply to a full post by cuchuflete, one which he has since expanded. His first paragraph nevertheless continues to represent a strawman argument, so I am leaving the above as is. I just want it to be understood that I am not accusing his entire post as it now stands as constituting a strawman argument.
     
    Last edited:

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Or, add them to the pile of red herring in which thairz sits in all its (it's?) {itz?} fetid splendor.
    A red herring is intended to mislead. By replying to a post which accused thairz of being nonexistent in English by demonstrating its existence in a serious, published work on a spelling reform of the English language, I was misleading no one.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This thread has long since lost value as advice to those confused about theirs and their's.
    If there is another topic, it is out of scope for this forum.
    The thread has therefore been closed.
     
    Status
    Not open for further replies.
    < Previous | Next >
    Top