Grammar

You’re or Your? One of the Biggest Grammar Pet Peeves

A computer keyboard with the word Grammar in red across one of the buttonsDeposit Photos

Do you mean you’re or your? People commonly confuse the words so often that this kind of mistake really grates on people’s nerves.

I recently saw a simple question posted on social media: What’s your biggest grammatical pet peeve? I saw plenty of interesting answers. But one that I saw over and over again was “You’re or Your.”

It seems that this particular pair of homophones really sets people off when they see them misused. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings. They may have the same spelling — like read, which is something you might do with a book, and read, the past-tense form of the same verb. You pronounce the former with a long E so that it rhymes with seed. You pronounce the latter with a short E that rhymes with red. (That places that form of read and red as homophones, too!)

Since homophones can easily be confusing, you’d think people might be willing to cut others a bit of slack. But when the error involves confusion over the commonly-confused words you’re or your, you won’t find much slack.

You’re

The little apostrophe should be enough to make the meaning of you’re clear. Too often, it seems, that little apostrophe fails to attract enough attention to itself.

We use apostrophes in contractions to indicate letters that have been omitted to form a shorter word or to combine two words into one.

Can you guess the missing letter? Of course, you’re is missing a letter A, beecause you’re means “you are.”

Instead of saying, “You are going to be responsible for paying the bill,” we can say “You’re going to be responsible for paying the bill.”

You’re with that little telltale apostrophe is always a contraction for “you are.” Always. If you mean to imply ownership or possession of something, you want your.

Your

The word your is a special kind of pronoun known as a “possessive determiner.” Suppose someone finds a pair of sunglasses near where you were sitting at a coffee shop. The person might approach you and ask, “Are these your sunglasses?” In this case, your is possessive and it modifies sunglasses.

Your can only serve as a modifying pronoun for a verb that specifies ownership or possession of the noun.

If you mean to say “you are,” then you never mean your. You have to have the word with the little apostrophe.

Why the anger?

Maybe, as the character of Archie Bunker once said in an episode of All in the Family, “It’s the little things that torture a person.” That’s one of my all-time favorite lines from that series.

He does have a point.

Of all the major controversies and issues we face, it seems difficult to believe that people can’t master something that should be so simple in the grand scheme of things.

Also, we live in a world of autocorrect. Granted, autocorrect doesn’t always correct everything. Sometimes, autocorrect can step in and make a bad situation worse. But while I’ve seen autocorrection assistance on my iPhone suggest we’re instead of were, I’ve never seen it get confused over you’re or your. That one, at least, is a pair that even it can figure out.

Maybe that’s part of the reason confusing the two sets people off as much as it does.

But knowing that it does, you’re going to want to double-check your writing before you hit publish or send!

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.