Sentence 021 Let the cat out of the bag.
021 The Montgolfier Brothers experimented with flying between 1782 and 1784.
021 Their was the first hot air balloon that carried people in 1782.
021 Theirs was the first hot air balloon that carried people in 1782.
021 There was the first hot air balloon that carried people in 1782.
Leslie: Based on the first Sentence, which is the worst continuation and why?
Petra: I think that it is ’There was the first hot air balloon that carried people in 1782.’ It must be the worst because it has no link with the first Sentence that sets the situation.
L: Why isn’t there any link between the first and the second Sentences?
P: ’There’ is not a Possessive Pronoun. It is a Dummy Subject and as such it is doesn’t refer to The Subject of the first Sentence. As a result, the second Sentence doesn’t continue the first.
L: It is like another first Sentence, building up another story. Which Sentence is also wrong?
P: The Sentence ’Their was the first hot air balloon that carried people in 1782.’ is also bad but for a different reason.
L: What’s wrong with it?
P: Something is missing. It is difficult for me to tell the real reason because we can hear Sentences like this a lot from native speakers of English.
L: You are right: something is missing here. The word ’their’ has double functions. On the one hand, it is a Possessive Pronoun showing belonging or a relationship. On the other hand, it cannot stand alone.
P: This is what I called ’there is something missing’.
L: We call the Possessive Pronoun a Pronominal Adjective. It always goes together with, actually standing before a Noun, or Noun-Phrase.
P: How does it sound in our Sentence?
L: The word ’their’ refers to the relationship between the Mongolfier Brothers and the hot air balloon, so the Sentence would be very funny: ’Their hot air balloon was the first hot air balloon that carries people in 1782.’
R: It is really very clumsy. So the word ’their’ refers to the Montgolfier Brothers and the Noun-Phrase that follows is ’hot air balloon’.
L: Exactly. To avoid this clumsiness, we have to use an Absolute Possessive Pronoun ’theirs’ whose meaning includes the meaning of ’hot air ballon’.
P: And this is why the third Sentence is correct.