I’m sure some of you have noticed that there is an unprecedented misuse of the homonyms “your” and “you’re.” There have always been cases of homonym confusion in the past, but today the “your” problem is out of control. It is used in all sorts of articles, e-mails, blogs, and ads by professionals, and is certainly more common among average people and youth than it was in previous decades.
What is interesting is that “your,” used incorrectly, appears with far greater frequency than an incorrect use of “you’re.”
“Your” (to mean “you’re”) is even used in the same sentence or set of points that also contains “you are.” To me, this is fascinating. What is the mechanism driving this?
- Perhaps “your” is seen as some kind of short form of “you’re,” or that they are interchangeable.
- Perhaps the meaning of the apostrophe is lost (like so many other forms of punctuation), and the s/’s problem could be related. (That’s the other plague that makes many people, and especially editors, rip their hair out—using apostrophes for plurals that are not possessive plurals.)
- Yet another reason may be that people use sound as their only guide to spelling, rather than applying the meaning of what they are saying.
This last point is one of my fundamental focuses when I teach writing.
An apostrophe is used to indicate when letters and spaces have been removed. So if you want to say “you are,” you have to use “you’re” (not “your”). The apostrophe indicates that two words, a subject and verb, have been contracted (shortened) to form one word by removing a space and the letter “a.” Ask yourself where is the verb in “your”?
- they are –> they’re
- he is –> he’s
- we will –> we’ll
- she would –> she’d
- we are –> we’re
- you are –> you’re
Don’t forget the apostrophe in “we’re” as well; otherwise you have “were,” which is also a word–a past tense verb.
Notice that homonyms and words that exist, even if they are improperly placed in a text (such as “we’re” and “were”), will typically not be picked up by a spell checker in a word processor, which is one of the reasons you need to edit the text yourself, and not just rely on the program.
So “your” and “you’re” are not interchangeable. One is a possession: “your hat.” The other is a subject and verb: “you’re = you are.” Think about what you intend to say and keep this in mind when editing your own work before posting, sending, or publishing. If you mean to say “you are,” then it’s “you’re” that you need to use, not “your.”
Your clear on all that now? No! It’s “You’re clear on all that now”–isn’t it?
© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.