Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SPAG Woes - you're / your

I've been spurred into writing another SPAG Woes post: this time it's problems with when to use your and you're, and it was accompanied by the same old argument that comes pre-packaged with most of these punctuation and grammar issues: I didn't get it as a child, so I'm never going to get it.

Piffle. Tosh. Rubbish. Cop-out. This situation is one of those with a couple of fairly simple rules that you need to get your head around. Once you've sorted those, then you're away and your writing becomes that little bit easier to read. As with learning anything the trick is to do it in little chunks, get those sorted and then move on. Here are a couple of those chunks.

When to use "you're"

As I've mentioned in at least one other SPAG Woes post, that apostrophe* shows that there's something missing. In this case,
stands for
you are
If you're not sure whether "you're" would work in your sentence, try it (in your head) with "you are" instead. If "you are" doesn't work, then neither will "you're".

Some examples for you:
  • "Get on you're bikes and ride!"
What I've just typed, if I write it out fully, is "Get on you are bikes and ride!" which makes no sense at all, so it should have been "Get on your bikes and ride!" Much better.
  • "You're overly obsessed with getting your spelling right."
Swap the "you're" for "you are" and see if it works: "You are overly obsessed with getting your spelling right." Bingo.

When to use "your" (or "yours")

This is even easier, and there are two ways to think about it:
  1. (The cheater's way) Use it when "you're" doesn't make sense.
  2. Use it when you're talking about something belonging to someone.
Easy. Now for some examples (you'll recognise the first one):
  • "You're overly obsessed with getting your spelling right."
The first "you're" is right as we've seen before because "you are" fits in its place. The second "your" is right because you're talking about my spelling: it belongs to me.
  • "This is your fish!"
That's my fish, there, and you're being kind enough to point out that it belongs to me, so "your" fits. Let's get it wrong for a moment:
  • "This is you're fish!"
What you're really saying there is "this is you are fish!" which is gibberish.
  • "This fish is yours!"
You're telling me that the fish is mine: it belongs to me: "yours" fits. Note that there's no apostrophe* in "yours". There's no such word as "your's". That apostrophe doesn't belong there. Never. It's an abomination.

Why do I care so much?

I've covered that in this post.

To SPAG-Nazi types

As always, feel free to correct anything you think is wrong with what I'm saying, or to point out any typos or mistakes that I have made myself, but please try to distinguish between genuine mistakes and matters of personal style, experimentation, deliberate rule-breaking and possibly ineffectual attempts at humour.

* That's this thing --> '