• 2-minute read
  • 7th October 2018

Word Choice: Your vs. You’re

Mixing up ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ is a rather common problem. But while this might simply prompt a pedantic reply on social media, it will look much worse in formal business or academic writing. Check out our guide below, then, to make sure you use these terms correctly every time.

Your (Belongs to You)

The word ‘your’ is a possessive determiner, similar to ‘my’, ‘his’ or ‘her’. We use this term when something belongs to a ‘you’ (either singular or plural):

Your handwriting is very neat.

‘Don’t forget your homework tomorrow,’ she told the class.

In the sentences above, the use of ‘your’ shows us two things:

  1. The speaker is addressing someone directly (i.e. speaking to a you)
  2. That the person being spoken to possesses something (i.e. neat handwriting or homework that is due tomorrow)

These will apply whenever this term is used. In all cases, therefore, the word ‘your’ indicates that a ‘you’ owns or has something.

You’re (You Are)

‘You’re’ is a contraction of ‘you’ and ‘are’. For instance, we could say:

You are a very good dancer.

You’re a very good dancer.

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These sentences mean exactly the same thing. The only difference is that the second has shortened ‘you are’ to a single word, indicating the missing letters with an apostrophe. Keep in mind, though, that you would not normally use contractions like this in formal writing.

Your or You’re?

These words look similar written down, but it’s easy to tell them apart once you know what they mean:

  • Your is a possessive determiner used when something belongs to a ‘you’.
  • You’re is a contraction of the words ‘you are’.

Remember that ‘you’re’ is short for two words. So, if you are unsure about which term to use, you can try the sentence with ‘you are’ instead:

Your hair looks nice.

You are hair looks nice.

You are very clever.

Your very clever.

Above, for example, we could use ‘you’re’ in the ‘very clever’ sentence because ‘you are’ fits. However, it would not work in the ‘hair looks nice’ sentence. Other than that, all you need to know is to use the full words in formal writing. And if you need help checking your spelling, let us know.

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