Common mistake #1: You're your own worst enemy

There are certain grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes that I see over and over again, both in the course of my editing work and just generally, out in the wild. In the interests of making the world (and the web) a better place, I’ve decided to run a series of posts on these common – and easy to avoid – language errors.

First up is the epic battle between YOU’RE and YOUR. People mix these two up all the time, saying things like “Your too good for me” and “You’re place or mine?” If you can’t work out why these two sentences are wrong, best you read on attentively.

Here’s how it works:

  • YOUR (pronounced “yore”) is the possessive form of “you”. This means that it indicates something belonging to “you”, as in your car, your house, or your excellent sense of humour.
  • YOU’RE (pronounced “yure”) is a contraction of “you are”. That’s what the apostrophe* means – a letter has been left out. One could say that you’re adorable, you’re witty, or you’re looking for trouble.

When writing “your” or “you’re”, avoid this mistake by asking yourself, “Can I replace this word with “you are”?” If the answer is yes, then you should write “you’re”. If the answer is no, write “your”. It really is as simple as that.

* I’ll cover the abuse of apostrophes in a later post.

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5 thoughts on “Common mistake #1: You're your own worst enemy

  1. Lookit http://www.eatsshootsandleaves.com/ESLquiz.html for a little apostrophe game. Apostrophe abuse is my favourite pet hate :)

  2. Strongbad had some songs about grammar and spelling. This one was:
    “Y O U R”, “Y O U apostrophe R E”
    They’re as different as night and day
    Don’t you think that night and day are different
    what’s wrong with you

    Ooh, even better, a link with an mp3:
    http://www.lionking.org/~hekima/thestick/grammar.html

  3. The possessive apostrophe is on its way out of the English language. As a composition teacher, I keep teaching it, but I often find it omitted not only from my students’ papers and online texts, but also from billboards hovering over US highways.

    Hard-copy publishers repeatedly demonstrate lower editing standards, so even if print practices somehow still set the standard, less and less is there a standard within print to govern practices outside of it.

    We can prescribe grammar all we want, but descriptively, we have to admit that language changes even when we don’t want it to.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate your noble efforts.

  4. I hope that the people that need help here take you’re advice here. Nice blog. Rather jealous that your based in Cape Town. Some people have all the fun.
    Cheers

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