Common Errors in Written English: Your, You’re

How Confusing Is Your You’re?

by Owen Fourie

For native speakers and writers of the English language, confusing your and you’re seems to be an odd thing to do. One reason for the misuse of these words is the failure to understand the use of contractions.

To test your usage, choose the correct word of the pair listed in each of the following sentences:

  1. Justin, I know that (your, you’re) going to town today.
  2. Please take this check to (your, you’re) bank and bring me the cash.
  3. (Your, You’re) a good friend, and I trust you with this errand.
  4. Emma told me that (your, you’re) planning to take her to the jewelers.
  5. I can hardly believe it; (your, you’re) telling me that (your, you’re) trip was ruined by a bank robbery.
  6. Not only did they take my cash, but they also escaped in (your, you’re) car.

You’re

You’re is a contraction of two words: you and are, and it is often followed by a present participle such as going, planning, and telling in the above examples.

It is indicating that you are doing something or that you are something.

The contraction you’re has nothing to do with possession. You cannot say you’re car or you’re money.

Normally, you would avoid the use of contractions in formal writing, so you would always write you are, not you’re. Writing a story with dialogue, you certainly would use the contracted form.

Your

Your speaks of possession. It is the possessive form of the word you, and it is a possessive adjective which needs a noun to follow it, such as bank, trip, and car in the above examples. It is your something–something that belongs to you.

With only these few points about your and you’re, you will be able to choose the correct form in your writing.

If you are uncertain, simply use the word my to see whether to use your or you’re. My is also a possessive adjective. If it fits, use your. If it does not fit, use you’re.

Substitute my for all the correct choices below, and you will see that it fits only where your is used.

Here are the correct choices for the exercise above:

  1. Justin, I know that you’re going to town today.
  2. Please take this cheque* to your bank and bring me the cash.
  3. You’re a good friend, and I trust you with this errand.
  4. Emma told me that you’re planning to take her to the jewelers.
  5. I can hardly believe it; you’re telling me that your trip was ruined by a bank robbery.
  6. Not only did they take my cash, but they also escaped in your car.

*British spelling

Here is an example of wrong usage taken from the Internet:

“… and while your in edit mode … ”

This occurs frequently. It seems to indicate that the writer is not even aware of the existence of you’re and uses your to mean you are as well as the possessive your.

Yore?

There is another word that could be mistaken for your or you’re, but this is not easily done because it is a word that seldom occurs outside the pages of classical literature.

That word is yore and it refers to a time long past.

American author and poet Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) used it well in his poem “The Raven,” and here is one stanza where you can see this:

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

http://www.heise.de/ix/raven/Literature/Lore/TheRaven.html

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If there are other contractions that have confused you and caused you to use them incorrectly, let me know, and we can discuss them here. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

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