If you often mix up different versions of words, please know you’re not alone. English grammar is a winding road with plenty of potholes, so you’re bound to get lost or stuck along the way. But, it’s certainly not a hopeless journey if you learn where to look for guideposts. Today, let’s talk about when to use your, when to use you’re, and how to remember which version you need:
Your is a second-person possessive pronoun. Which is a fancy way of saying a couple basic things: we use this pronoun in second-person perspective, when we’re speaking directly to our audience, and it shows ownership of something belonging to our audience.
Example: Your understanding of the intricacies of language will improve as you try new writing techniques.
You’re is a second-person contraction. It contains the second-person pronoun you and the helping verb are. So, it indicates that the audience is performing some action.
Example: Now, you’re understanding grammar rules you had only memorized before.
The first example refers to the understanding of language that the audience (you) possesses, while the second example indicates that the audience (you) is doing something (understanding grammar rules). So, to show possession of a noun, use your. To show the performance of an action (which involves a verb), use you’re. Another helpful hint is that possessive pronouns don’t contain apostrophes; unless you need to make the contraction for you are, you don’t need to use you’re.
How can you always remember which version of this word to use? Well, you may not choose correctly every time. Mistakes happen. But, if you understand how each version works, you’re more likely to find your way to the right word, even if it means changing directions when you reach the editing stage.