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Chapter 3 - “Your” and “You’re”

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Your leaving out the word are.”

Anyone who has ever joined a “thread” on the Internet has seen this mistake a thousand times. Of course, making the mistake on the Internet won’t harm your career, but if “your” instead of “you’re” shows up in your emails to customers or superiors, they will think less of you. Let’s fix the problem once and for all.

Your and You’re - An Overview

Early in 2001, I received an email from a friend—college educated, very bright, used to hold a top position in government. He wrote:

If your still looking for additional people, you might contact Fred.

The word your is the possessive form of the second-person pronoun you. Remember: you/your/yours. As in your house, your home, your family, your job, your life.

But your still looking?

Progressive Tense, Your looking…

The word looking is a verb. It’s the present participle of look. In the email quoted above, my friend was trying to form the present-progressive tense, second person. He was trying to write you are looking. Instead, he wrote your looking.

Remember how to form the progressive tenses? Just conjugate the verb to be and add the present participle. Like this:

Pronoun to be Present Participle Progressive Tense
you are looking you are looking

 

Creating a Contraction

My friend, of course, was writing as people speak, and when people say you are, they form the contraction you’re. But then they pronounce it differently.

Carly Simon sang, "Your so vain."

The song just would not have hit the charts if she had sung, You are so vain. So she wrote it in the contraction form: You’re So Vain. But she sang it like this: Your so vain.

Watch for these constructions of the verb to be:

You are + noun, adjective, phrase, or -ing verb.

Pronoun to be Addition Example Bad Result
You are noun a moron Your a moron.
You are adjective crazy Your crazy.
You are phrase in trouble Your in trouble.
You are -ing verb driving Your driving too fast.

 

You can get away with making this mistake in speech, for people cannot distinguish your from you’re very easily. But when you commit the blunder to paper or email, educated readers will spot the error and think much less of you.

 

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