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Them vs. Their: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on September 27, 2023
“Them” is an object pronoun, used to represent the object of a verb or preposition; “their” is a possessive adjective, describing ownership.

Key Differences

“Them” and “Their,” while both pronouns, serve distinct purposes within the structure of a sentence. “Them” is an object pronoun, which means it represents the object of a verb or preposition. It is typically used to refer to specific people or things previously mentioned, understood, or implied in the context. On the other hand, “their” is a possessive adjective used to show ownership or possession. It describes something as belonging to or associated with the people or things previously mentioned or easily identified.
In the usage of “them,” it replaces the names or nouns previously mentioned to avoid redundancy, offering a coherent and concise structure to the sentence. For instance, in “I gave the kids some candy. I wanted to please them,” “them” refers to “the kids.” Conversely, “their” is employed to attribute possession or relation to a previously identified noun or pronoun. It emphasizes the sense of belonging, such as in “The kids forgot their backpacks,” where “their” signifies the backpacks belonging to the kids.
The pronoun “them” functions as the object of verbs and prepositions, working to indicate the entity that is acted upon or involved in the action, while not conducting the action themselves. “Their,” however, functions as a modifier, providing additional information about the noun it precedes by attributing ownership or possession, and it’s crucial in elucidating the relationship between the subject and the object in possessive constructs.
The understanding of “them” and “their” is crucial for grammatical accuracy and clarity in communication. While “them” is pivotal in clarifying the object being referred to without redundancy, “their” is vital in expressing possession, ensuring that the ownership of an item or a characteristic is correctly attributed to the previously mentioned subjects, thereby avoiding ambiguity.
In English grammar, correct usage of “them” and “their” determines the coherence and clarity of expression. Using “them” accurately ensures succinctness and avoiding unnecessary repetition of nouns, and employing “their” correctly assures the right attribution of ownership or association, creating sentences that are both grammatically correct and clear in conveying meaning.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech

Object Pronoun
Possessive Adjective


Represents the object of a verb or preposition
Shows ownership or possession


Replaces the names or nouns previously mentioned
Attributes possession or relation to a previously identified noun or pronoun

Position in Sentence

Used as the object of verbs and prepositions
Precedes a noun it modifies


I saw them at the mall.
Their car is very fast.

Them and Their Definitions


A word that replaces specific nouns to avoid redundancy.
The students were noisy, but the teacher calmed them down.


Used to attribute possession or characteristics to a previously mentioned noun.
The trees are losing their leaves.


An object pronoun used to represent a previously mentioned group of people or things.
We invited the neighbors to dinner and enjoyed meeting them.


Modifies the noun that follows it to elucidate possession.
Their opinion was highly valued.


Utilized to represent the object that a verb or preposition affects.
She baked cookies and distributed them to her friends.


A possessive adjective used to show ownership or association with a noun.
The kids forgot their homework.


Used as the object of a verb to refer to people, animals, or things mentioned earlier.
We gave them a hearty welcome.


Denotes something belongs or relates to the people or things mentioned.
Their response was quite surprising.


Employed when the action is on the mentioned nouns or pronouns, not by them.
I borrowed books and read them.


Establishes the relationship of possession between a noun and its owner.
The team showcased their skills.


"Them dogs will find the end of them footprints before ten o'clock" (William Faulkner).


Used as a modifier before a noun
The politicians boasted of their accomplishments. “It is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex” (Virginia Woolf). See Usage Notes at he1, they.


(in the plural) Those ones.


Belonging to, from, of, or relating to, them (plural).
They will meet tomorrow at their convenience
This is probably their cat


Used as the direct object of a verb.
She treated them for a cold.


Belonging to someone (one person, singular).


Used as the indirect object of a verb.
She wrote them a letter.


Misspelling of there


Used as the object of a preposition.
Give it to them.


The possessive case of the personal pronoun they; as, their houses; their country.
Nothing but the name of zeal appears'Twixt our best actions and the worst of theirs.


(in the singular) A single person, previously mentioned, especially if of unknown or non-binary gender.


Used as the direct object of a verb.
If a student has an inappropriate question, whatever you do, do not berate them.


Used as the indirect object of a verb.
If one of my patients calls, please bring them their dinner.


Used as the object of a preposition.
If someone comes and asks for the ticket, just give it to them.


(dialectal) Those.


The objective case of they. See They.
Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father.
Little stars may hide them when they list.


Does “their” show ownership?

Yes, “their” is a possessive adjective that shows ownership.

Is “them” an object pronoun?

Yes, “them” is an object pronoun.

Does “them” refer to the object of a verb or preposition?

Yes, “them” represents the object of a verb or preposition.

Can “them” replace nouns previously mentioned?

Yes, “them” is used to replace nouns previously mentioned to avoid redundancy.

Is “their” specific to a number or gender?

No, “their” is gender-neutral and can refer to one or more owners.

Is “them” used for singular or plural nouns?

Them” is typically used for plural nouns but can be used singularly in informal or nonbinary contexts.

Is “their” used before a noun it modifies?

Yes, “their” precedes and modifies a noun to show possession or association.

Can “their” be used to show something belongs to people mentioned?

Absolutely, “their” denotes that something belongs or relates to the people or things mentioned.

Is “their” an adjective?

Yes, “their” is a possessive adjective.

Can “them” be used to refer to animals as well?

Yes, “them” can be used to refer to both people and animals.

Can “them” be used as a subject pronoun?

No, “them” is an object pronoun and should not be used as a subject pronoun.

Can “them” refer to things as well as people?

Yes, “them” can refer to people, animals, and things.

Does “their” always precede a noun?

Generally, “their” precedes the noun it modifies, but it might not immediately precede it.

Can “them” be used to refer to a single nonbinary individual?

Yes, “them” can be used as a singular pronoun for nonbinary or gender-nonconforming individuals.

Is “their” only used for plural nouns?

Typically, but “their” can also be used singularly to refer to one person whose gender is unknown or unspecified.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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