Your vs You’re – What’s the Difference?

AN INTRODUCTION TO YOUR VS YOU’RE

Let’s talk about YOUR and YOU’RE! The words “your” and “you’re” are a great example of confusing homophones because although the rules are straightforward, even native English speakers frequently mix up this pair of words.

English has a lot of words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. We call these words homophones and surprisingly, they can be confusing even for the most advanced English learner.

You’re probably reading this on your smart device right now, and I hope you noticed that I just used you’re and your in the same sentence. Can you explain the difference between the two? If not, read along and discover when you should use your versus you’re.

WHEN TO USE YOUR

“Your” is a possessive adjective. In other words, we use it when we are referring to something that a person has or owns.

For example:

Where did you park your car?

“Your” lets us know that the car belongs to the person we are speaking to. I do not want to know where I parked my car, I want to know where you parked your car.

Other examples:

How much money do you have in your wallet?

I really like your outfit!

Your dog can do some very cool tricks!

Now, what about the grammatical structure?

“Your” is an adjective, therefore it will always be followed by a noun. In the examples above, we can see that “your” is followed by a noun.

Another way to remember when to use your can be to always keep in mind that “your” simply means that something belongs to you.

WHEN TO USE YOU’RE

“You’re” is a contraction. To put it another way, a contraction is two words that are made shorter by using an apostrophe.

Therefore, “you’re” is a contraction of the two words “you are”.

Other examples of contractions include:

I’m: I am

He’s: He is

She’s: She is

We’re: We are

They’re: They are

It’s: It is

Isn’t: Is not

You may be asking yourself, is one form better than the other? The simple answer to this question is no.

Let’s take a look at the following example:

You’re a great student! (contraction)

You are a great student!

Both sentences mean the same thing. The only difference is that you are shortening the word in the first example. The apostrophe helps us indicate the place of the missing letters. In the word “you’re”, the apostrophe shows us that the letter ‘a’ is missing.

Most native English speakers tend to use contractions when they are speaking and engaging in informal conversations. In addition, native English speakers who write a letter or text message to a friend or family member will typically use many contractions in their writing as well. This is because contractions help us sound more friendly and casual.

AN IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE

It is important to keep in mind that contractions are typically frowned upon in academic or professional writing. If you are writing a research paper or a business email, it is best to avoid contractions and instead write out the two words completely. Doing so will help you deliver your message using a more serious tone. Therefore, instead of writing your professor or boss an email using “you’re”, remember that it is considered informal and you should use “you are” in this type of situation instead.

WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID MAKING THIS COMMON ENGLISH MISTAKE

Mixing up “your” and “you’re” might seem like a minor mistake, but it can actually make people have second doubts about you and that can lead to you losing your credibility. Moreover, using these words incorrectly will completely change the meaning of the sentence and this can sometimes lead to an uncomfortable situation.

For example:

Imagine that you are text messaging your friend.

Tom: Alyssa, I want to tell you that I think your amazing. (Incorrect)

Alyssa: My amazing what? I think you forgot to finish your sentence.

Tom: What do you mean? Your an amazing person!

Alyssa: I think what you meant to write is you’re or you are.

Tom: Isn’t it all the same?

Alyssa: I’m sorry to break this to you, but no. Talk to you soon, I guess.

Tom: Would you like to grab lunch with me tomorrow?

Alyssa: …

As you can see in this example, learning that somebody does not know the difference between “your” and “you’re” can lead to trouble!

The next time you are confused about which word to use, ask yourself the following questions:

Question 1: Am I talking about possession in my sentence? If the answer is yes, then you must always use “your”.

Example: I need to use your pen to sign the form because mine ran out of ink. (correct)

In this example, I am asking somebody to let me use the pen that belongs to them.

Question 2: Can I use the combination of the two words “you are” in my sentence and have it still sound correct?

Example: I need to use you are pen to sign the form because mine ran out of ink. (incorrect)

In this example, writing you are or you’re ruins the meaning of this sentence. If you cannot expand the word “you’re” to “you are” in your sentence, then it will always be wrong and you should use your instead.

Lastly, let’s take a look at both “your” and “you’re” in the same sentence correctly.

Your sister told me that you’re going to visit California next month.

OR

Your sister told me that you are going to visit California next month.

Remember, these two words will never be able to replace each other because although they sound exactly the same, they have very different meanings.

I hope this lesson helped you improve your English writing skills!

Let’s keep learning! Read this lesson on homophones and how to pronounce the words “to,” “two,” and “too.”

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