EWS Blog

Nov 02, 2017

English Basics: Your vs. You’re

Chalkboard with Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think you can or you can’t - you’re right.”
Since you’re on this page, the difference between “you’re” and “your” is probably one of your biggest questions on the English language. The technical explanation is that “your” is the second person possessive adjective, while “you’re” is a contraction which often comes before a present participle verb or clause, but if you feel like that explanation doesn’t need an explanation of its own, you probably didn’t need to read this blog post in the first place, so let’s go ahead and break things down a little further.

“Your” is a possessive word used to indicate ownership in the second person (that is someone you are talking or writing to, just as I am writing to you right now). It is always followed by a noun (a person, place, or thing) or a gerund (a verb that acts like a noun, often by adding an “ing” to the end).

Here are a few examples of the right way to use the word:
  • Your house is very nice.
  • Your car is running low on gas.
  • Your cat has very pretty fur.
  • Is this your phone?
  • Your child is quite cute.
  • Your writing has improved a lot!
  • Will your coming to the party be a problem?
  • Your owning three sports cars seems a bit much.
  • Your cooking is unbelievable!

In each of these brief sentences, the word following “your” is something that belongs to the person being spoken to. It is either a plain old noun (house, car, cat, phone) or a gerund (writing, coming, owning, cooking).

“You’re” is a contraction made by combining the words “you” and “are.” It is used in situations when you are describing something that is either happening right now, or is going to happen in the future.

Let’s take a look at some examples:
  • You’re coming to the party tonight, right?
  • I’m going if you’re going.
  • You’re not adding enough garlic to the sauce.
  • You’re giving me way too much pasta.
  • I need to know if you’re going to be available.
  • When will you know what you’re baking?
  • You’re hosting the event.
  • You’re running pretty far ahead of schedule.
  • If this makes sense, you’re doing great!

In each of these sentences, “you’re” is followed by an action. When you are talking about what a person is doing or is going to do in the future, you’re probably looking to use “you’re.”

The “ing” is Confusing
Now, this is where things might get a little tricky, and it’s because of those gerunds we discussed earlier. You probably noticed that a lot of the examples under both “your” and “you’re” included words that end in “ing.” 

This is where you’re going to see some overlap, but the “ing” words that come after “your” are different from the ones after “you’re.” In the case of “you’re,” they are all simply verbs–regular old action words.

In the case of “your,” they are more like qualities. “Cook,” “come,” and “write” are all verbs, but in the examples we used above they were changed to be something that the person being spoken to has. A person does not need to be cooking (verb) right this moment to possess good cooking (gerund) skills, that’s a quality they have whether they are actively cooking or not.

If all this talk about gerunds sounds complicated and technical, don’t sweat it. There’s an easy way to know which words to use if you’re having trouble, and that’s to break up the contraction. Just remember that “you’re” (with an apostrophe) really starts with “you” and ends with “are.”

If your sentence makes sense by replacing “you’re” with “you are” then you’ve got the right word; if it doesn’t, then your sentence needs to use “your.” Try it with the examples above, and you’ll see that “you are” makes sense for all the “you’re” sentences, but not the “your” ones.