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Teaching Tips: You're & Your

June 28, 2013

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!

1. You’re

Meaning

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.

Structure

You’re comes at the beginning of a sentence or clause.

Trick

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)

2. Your

Meaning

Your is a second person singular or plural possessive adjective. It indicates possession, ownership, and belonging.

Structure

Your comes before a noun.

Trick

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?

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Comments (2)

Tara Benwell(Author)

One problem with homophones is that our brains don't always talk to our fingers. Many people (teachers and writers included) who understand the rules for words such as to, too, two still make these mistakes often. We usually catch them when we look back at our writing if we give it some space before publishing. If you look back at your texts and social media comments even a moment later, you may notice your mistake and wish you coud correct it. I wonder if there are any tips for avoiding these homophone 'typos'. :)

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Tanya Trusler(Author)

Good point, Tara. Often we're typing too fast to catch all those little mistakes! The way I (most of the time!) avoid mistakes without having to proofread is to actually say something out loud (or in my head) to myself as I'm typing. I really do this! I always say 'you are' as I type you're/your, 'it is' as I type it's/its, and 'they are' as I type they're/their/there. (If it's at the end of the sentence, it's almost always 'there'. At the beginning, for they're/there, saying 'they are' usually works because you'll see the verb after; e.g., There are two cats on my bed = 'They are' are two cats on my bed...you'd catch the mistake right away.)

For two/to/too, 'two' is usually obvious and not commonly mistaken. I usually remember 'too' is almost always at the end of a sentence, and that's how I catch my to/too mistakes.

That's what works for me. I wonder if any other teachers have tips? :)

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