How do you explain “you’re” and “your” to your students?
Both L1 speakers and English language learners get these homophones confused. This is probably the most common mistake I see in newspapers, in signs, on social media, etc. Students of all levels could likely use a reminder of when to use you’re and your. Try my tricks for remembering which is which!
You’re is a combination of the second person singular or plural pronoun and the Be verb. It stands for "you are." It can be used as the subject of a sentence or clause.
You’re comes at the beginning of a sentence or clause.
Say you are to yourself as you read or write the sentence. If it’s possible to say you are, write you’re, not your.
- You’re great students. (You are)
- If you’re not going to the party, I’m not going, either. (you are)
- You should pay attention in class so that you’re not missing anything important. (you are)
Your is a second person singular or plural possessive adjective. It indicates possession, ownership, and belonging.
Your comes before a noun.
Say you are to yourself as you read or write the sentence. If it’s not possible to say you are, write your, not you’re.
- Can I borrow your pencil? (not you are pencil)
- Your brother is really cute. (not you are brother)
- I wasn’t sure if your friend was coming with us or not. (not you are friend)
Another trick is to notice if there is another verb in the sentence. You’re already has a verb, so there won’t be another main verb in the clause. Your needs a verb, so there will be a main verb in the clause.
- You’re the best soccer player on our team. (no other verb)
- I really like your new car. (like is the verb)
Now you’re sure your students get it, right?