Thursday, March 11, 2010

English teacher: how to use your and you're

Last Thursday, I asked if y'all would be interested in reading a series of posts about English grammar. (If you missed that post, you can click here to read it.) Lots of people said "yes," so here we go!

Before we delve into today's topic, though, I want to make a point that's very important to me. I'm a grammar nerd, and I love to read things that are well-written. But the goal of blogging is most certainly NOT perfect grammar. Perhaps a paper that will be graded by an English professor needs to boast grammatical perfection, but blog posts do not. My hope with these lessons is to answer questions and to help people feel a bit more confident about their use of the English language. I think it would be awful if we all started worrying about whether our posts were grammatically perfect. But maybe we can all benefit from a little attention to using our language well.

All right, then, on to today's lesson!

Last week we talked about the use of the words its and it's. Remember: the word it's means "it is." And we never, ever use an apostrophe to form the possessive of a personal pronoun. As I said last week, people get confused about this because we DO use apostrophes to form the possessive of nouns. To form the possessive of a singular noun, we add an apostrophe + s. But pronouns are different. The rule for pronouns is to form their possessives simply by adding the s without the apostrophe.

Here's a review question for you. Is the following sentence correct?

I like to have a place for everything and everything in it's place.

Answer: NO! We don't want to have "everything in it is place." The word we need is its. The possessive form of it is its.

Today's lesson is similar to last week's. Question: What's the proper use of the words your and you're?
Just like the word it, the word you is a pronoun (a word that takes the place of a noun). Once again, the rule: Never use an apostrophe to form the possessive of a pronoun. So the possessive form of the pronoun you is your.

  • I really like your haircut!
  • Your house is decorated beautifully.
  • Could you move your car?
Anytime you want to indicate that something belongs to you, the word to choose is your.
The word you're is a contraction of the words you are. The apostrophe replaces the omitted letter "a." So use the word you're when you mean "you are."
  • I hope you're coming to the party.
  • You're doing a great job.
  • We think you're a great hostess.
If you're uncertain whether to write your or you're, mentally replace it with the words you are. Is that what you mean to say? If so, choose you're.

I hope this is helpful. Now, I need your help. Please leave me a comment with any questions you'd like me answer or points of grammar you'd like for me to explain. . . or even pet peeves you'd like for me to expose! I'd like for these little lessons to address issues that would be useful to you. So please let me know. And if you have a particular question you'd like for me to answer, feel free to email me (richellap (at) gmail (dot) com). I'd be happy to help if I can!


Kim Avery said...

Thank you so much for these grammar posts. You have no idea how much I need them (unless of course, you read my blog :)).

Okay, this is my question. No matter how many different ways people explain to me the usage of then/than, I can't seem to hold onto the explanation.

Do you have a catchy way to help this rule (whatever the rule is) sink into the grammar-resistant mind?

duchess said...

This is very helpful. Things like that are a pet peeve of mine although I am the queen of the run-on sentence. Good thing my blog isn't graded.
Thanks for the tips.

Melanie said...

I always loved English class in school. I use those word correctly but I don't speak correctly and probably make many errors in writing:(

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

The use of the semi-colon. I like the way they look, so sometimes I will stick one in. But I honestly have no clue as to how they should be used.

Kelly Howard said...

Thanks for the lessons! I am a homeschool mom of 13 yrs and grammar is a big deal to me, lol! Our curriculum calls for daily essays and good grammar is a real issue, one we work on daily! Here's a link to my 10 yr old's blog. She writes some really funny stories and her grammar is getting better every day!

Lisa @ Another Day Today said...

I'm with Amanda! I'm never sure when to use a semi-colon.

Also, lie/lay is something I can never get right.

Thank you for another great lesson :)

Rachelle said...

Great post! I can't think of a question right now, but I'm going to try and then I'll come back!

YOU'RE the best. ;)


linda m. said...

Thanks so much for the grammar lessons! You have explained it/it's so clearly, but what about "its'" ???
That's really my question: when do I put the apostrophe *after* ?

Stephanie said...

Love your grammar posts! One topic that I would like you to address is the use of the word "myself". Many seem to think that it's more sophisticated to say something like "Please give it to Harry or myself as soon as possible." What ever happened to the plain old "me"?

Denise said...

I totally get the your and you're - I still get annoyed when I see an adult type your instead of you're. I think that is the most common error (rather than you're instead of your) because of how it sounds... when we say "you're doing a great job" for instance, it will come out of our mouths sounding like 'your doing a great job' so I assume that's why people write it!
Anyway, my question.... I thought I also knew about the it and it's difference but I'm a little confused now, you say we still use an apostrophe to form the possessive of a noun - could you give me an example? I'm having a hard time thinking of what this would look like (trying not to feel dumb here) ;-)
Thanks Richella

Carmen said...

LOVE this!!!! Love it!!! My pet peeve is bad grammar. And the your/you're thing is top on my list. hehe

Carmie, the Single Nester said...

I cannot tell you how many profiles I read with major errors of grammar and shall I say, common sense. Ugh! Such a turnoff. Your next post should explain the difference between to, too and two. :)

Tonya said...

This totally cracks me up! Simply b/c I'm obviously a grammar nerd too! Mistakes when using your/you're, they're/their/there, to/too/two and its/it's drive me crazy!!!

Just reading through the other comments reminded me how common grammatical errors are these days and how annoying they are to me!

I homeschooled my daughter for 3rd grade and the cirriculum we used covered most of the things mentioned extensively! Maybe some adults need a little A Beka 3rd grade English in their lives! ;)

wendywander said...

I find bad grammar to be stressful, and when communication is clear I feel soothed. I'm sure that would make me a grammar nerd too. :-)

One of my biggest grammar peeves is the double preposition. "Where's the book at?" *sigh*

Paula said...

This is a great idea for a blog series. I think we all could benefit from a refresher course.

I'm now following your blog. I don't want to miss any of your lessons!

emily said...

Ooo, I have one: The comma issue when you're talking about and naming someone. For example:

My husband, Ted, likes to eat squash.

or is it My husband Ted likes to eat squash?

I think it's the first, because I have one husband (and his name is not Ted, btw). But if I had more than one husband, would I need the commas? Does this even make sense?!

I love learning the grammar rules from smart people who know stuff.

Vonda said...

Commas, commas, commas; semicolons: colons


Brittany Ciara Sheets said...

How awesome is this! I found you on SITS and I am sooo glad I did. A question I can think of is the difference between effect and affect. I always get so confused on this! I'll be back for sure!

Happy Saturday SITS sharefest!

gringationcancun said...

I'm a copy editor, so I hear ya!

Thanks for sharing.

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Barbara@BabyBloggingBoomer said...

Yes. Let's see more.

Frugal Vicki said...

I have to tell you, I am a writer by heart, and I also make money on three websites from it. Plus, I want to write a kids book someday. and even after your lesson, I am looking at kids going "does that possessive need an apostrophe?"

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

Great grammar post...I have to think about that word a lot of times...Your blog design is glad that I stopped by...

Unknown Mami said...

I think it's (it is) great that you are doing these posts. I'm sure it's probably already on your list, but a good one to do is who vs. whom. I's love to see the semi-colon get a post too. Oh, and effect and affect. I see people misuse those often. I know how to use them, but I don't know how to explain the reasoning behind it.

Oh, I could go on and on with questions like, awhile vs. a while. I can't think about it too much or I would never write.

I appreciated that you included a section about not needed to be perfect as bloggers.

Thank you for visiting on my SITS day!

sonya said...

Great Post Richella! A suggestion for the future: you, your, you're. And then of course there, there's, their, theirs. The possibilities are endless!

a little bit of everything said...

As an English major, I applaud your tutorial on grammar! And thanks for commenting on my blog. I invite you to become a follower.

Meg said...

My big pet peeve is when people say, "me and him," or some variant of that; or they use "I" when they should use "me." It's so simple.

You always name the other person first and can take out that first person to test the sentence. "Jamie and I went to the store yesterday," and "The teacher asked to speak with Jamie and me." Me went to the store does not sound right, and the teacher would not speak to I.

Thanks for posting this! I look forward to following this series!

Sue said...

I, too, get a little bugged by improper usage, but I struggle with commas! Punctuation posts would be greatly appreciated.

Some suggestions for future posts are well/good, there/their, lie/lay, to/too, and me/I.

This is a great idea for a series of posts. It's very greatly needed.

The Scooper said...

How is it that I just found out about the grammar party? Here's my question {if someone hasn't already asked}: How do you know whether to use "which" or "that"? I don't think I ever learned.

ckm. said...

I would love a refresher on the appropriate use of semi-colons. Also, I can't help but notice people constantly misusing "there," "their" and "they're," so a lesson on that might prove helpful to many.


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