• 2-minute read
  • 25th September 2018

Word Choice: Your vs. You’re

Wanted dead or alive.
Wanted dead or alive.

Language changes with use. Even something that started out as an error can become a normal part of how we write if enough people do it. And that’s why we’re worried about ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. In fact, these words are now so commonly confused it has become a meme.

But these words are also importantly distinct, so mixing them up can affect the clarity of your writing. Join us, then, in our quest to make sure saying ‘your stupid’ is never grammatically acceptable.

Your (Belonging to You)

The word ‘your’ is a possessive determiner (e.g. like ‘my’ or ‘our’). And since this is a second-person possessive determiner, we use it when something belongs to a ‘you’. For example:

Your dog is very handsome.

Here, ‘your’ shows us that the dog belongs to the person being addressed.

So handsome.
So handsome.
(Photo: Josch13)

You’re (You + Are)

‘You’re’ is a combination of the words ‘you’ and ‘are’. We could therefore say either of the following:

You are welcome to visit again any time.

You’re welcome to visit again any time.

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These both mean the same thing, but the second uses a contraction instead of writing the words ‘you are’ out in full. The missing letters are then indicated using an apostrophe.

Using contractions like this can make writing seem friendlier since it’s similar to how we speak on an everyday basis. However, you should avoid ‘you’re’ and other contractions in formal writing.

Your or You’re?

This one is easy once you know that ‘you’re’ is a contraction!

If in doubt, though, try using ‘you are’ in the sentence you’re writing. If it fits, the correct word will be ‘you’re’. Otherwise, you may need the possessive determiner ‘your’ instead (i.e. the one without an apostrophe). And remember:

Your (possessive determiner) = Belonging to you

You’re (contraction) = Short for ‘you are’

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