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English Lesson 2: Correct Use of Your, You’re, and Yore

March 22nd, 2008

your-you-are-english.jpgIn this second post on English usage, we will explore the issues related to the words your, you’re and yore. Misuse of these words has not only been running rampant throughout the Internet, but has also crept into email marketing and corporate documents. Occasionally I have even seen mistakes involving your and you’re slip past editors and find their way into printed publications such as owner’s manuals or instruction booklets. Naturally I am keen to stamp out this sort of ignorance before too many people forget (or never learn) how we are actually supposed to use these words.

First of all, your is the possessive form of the personal pronoun you, and is used in a similar fashion as the word their from last week’s lesson. It is commonly used as an adjective as in the following examples:

  1. This is not a permanent fix for the memory leak issue, but it will keep your Firefox extensions from consuming all of your computer’s memory. - Jared Hislop from Gearlive.com
  2. I do not recommend getting rid of all your gold because there are still offsetting factors, such as war with Iran, a falling dollar, a major terrorist attack, or a major purchase of gold by a central bank. - Gary North at LewRockwell.com

Meanwhile, you’re is actually a contraction of the words “you are”.

  1. No one ever came to me and said, “You’re a fool. There isn’t such a thing as God. Somebody’s been stuffing you.” - Frances Farmer, 1931
  2. You’re not stupid, just ignorant in this area of topics. - user Xevion at Ars Technica forum

Finally, yore, although sometimes written as a misspelling of your, is a relatively obscure word that means “time long ago” or “in times past”. It’s actually a pretty fun word to use, especially when reminiscing or entertaining romantic visions of enjoying life in a previous historical period.

  1. Pirates of yore attacked any ship that crossed their path. Today’s pirates plan their attacks and select their prey before they leave shore. - Cindy Vallar, 2000
  2. We were standing at a guard tower on the Great Wall of China, looking across to the expanse of Inner Mongolia and wondering about those barbarians of yore. - Elaine Lowe

Now we can look at some examples of correct vs. incorrect usage:

Incorrect: If your using yahoo, hotmail or msn, you might want to consider switching to gmail. - Michele Ballard

Correct: If you’re using Yahoo, Hotmail or MSN, you might want to consider switching to Gmail.




Incorrect: So you’re money woes may be a bit grating now, but they won’t be forever. - Brian Freedman

Correct: So your money woes may be a bit grating now, but they won’t last forever.




Incorrect: Wow man that is really nice, looks like you got yore money worth out of that chip. - user Kohan, Overclockers forums

Correct: Wow, that is really nice! It looks like you got your money’s worth out of that chip.




Incorrect: When yore done frying the lamb you just make a plain sauce with the cooking grease as base. - Kaftan Barlast, Obsidian Entertainment forums

Correct: When you’re done frying the lamb, you just make a plain sauce with the cooking grease as a base.




Next week we will tackle the infamous issue of its vs. it’s, which has probably manifested itself in more errors found on signs and other forms of advertising than either of the other two groups of homonyms that I have already covered.


16 Responses to “English Lesson 2: Correct Use of Your, You’re, and Yore”

  1. comment number 1 by: Jim Murdoch

    Oh this is so necessary. I see so much of misspellings around the net. Most of them I think are due to not proof reading your own work. I find many mistakes in my own writing after reading over it again. Even a small paragraph like this can contain several unseen errors. The spell checkers are great things.
    Thanks for the drop on my Entrecard - only 1 minute after I joined. :)

  2. comment number 2 by: Mom

    Love the image - great job! The examples are right on point. There are probably so many of these mistakes floating around that it was hard to pick examples, right? I am an optimist and so will agree with Jim - we make these mistakes because we are in a hurry and fail to proofread. On the other hand, I have seen these types of mistakes made in very public places (restaurants, grocery stores…) where you would think people would be more meticulous in ensuring correct English usage. So, just maybe, some of the problem is ignorance…

  3. comment number 3 by: Angelika

    Thanks again for the English lesson! I can’t wait for next week’s because I often get stuck on its & it’s. :-)

  4. comment number 4 by: Caren

    Don’t forget to do one on the different past tenses! I’m tired of hearing ” I have went” from people (even teachers!).

  5. comment number 5 by: arnold

    Handy as always. Sometime in the future I would like to see a few tips on the correct usage of ‘ie’ and ‘eg’. If you keep this up you will make an Englishman out of me.

  6. comment number 6 by: Karlonia

    @Jim Murdoch:

    Yes, the lack of proofreading skills and attention is a major part of the problem with usage errors. It is interesting to note that the spell checker programs you mentioned are often a double-edged sword. It is true that they can help in detecting some spelling and typographical errors, but they have also enabled a certain laziness and false sense of security among writers. This is why I have chosen these kinds of homonym groups to begin the English usage series. Errors that involve these kinds of words will usually slip past spell checkers because the words are still read as valid English words even when they are obviously used incorrectly.

    @Mom:

    While there are certainly plenty of mistakes floating around, finding images of these specific errors was somewhat difficult. Many of the available images either featured a different mistake or were not legible enough to be used on the site. Fortunately some of the links that you’ve sent me recently have expanded my collection of relevant images for use in future posts.

    @Angelika:

    I’m glad that you seem to be enjoying this series of articles. I never realized that this topic would be relatively popular. This is a good thing because there is an ample supply of material on this particular subject. The its vs. it’s issue is definitely one that needs to be covered; in fact, after looking at the available images, it seems that these kinds of errors are being made more frequently than any of the others overall.

    @Caren:

    Yes, the “have went” phrase is definitely one that makes me cringe. Others in the same category include “have ran”, “have drank”, and “have swam”. Eventually I will cover the past vs. past participle tense issue; I have seen these kinds of mistakes being made by otherwise reputable Internet marketers recently, and I have a feeling that this is not helping their sales conversions.

    @Arnold:

    Yes, the i.e. and e.g. abbreviations seem to confuse many folks. The short version of the topic is this: both are Latin abbreviations that mean “that is” and “for example” respectively.

    I.e. can be used in place of “that is” or “in other words” to indicate that you are explaining what has been stated in the first part of a sentence in a different way.

    E.g. can be used in place of “for example” or “for instance” to indicate a series of examples of the preceding word in the sentence.

    Both sets of abbreviations should be used with a comma after the second period. I have found that they are best used as shorthand expressions in relatively quick, informal writing such as instant messaging or electronic bulletin boards, otherwise known as forums. In most types of formal or semi-formal writing, however, I have found that it is easier to just use the words “that is”, “for example”, or similar variants of these.

  7. comment number 7 by: Adam Hyman

    Thanks for setting the record straight!

    So many young adults (and old ones too) use incorrect grammar.

    You’re amazing. Your skills at linguistics are refined!

  8. comment number 8 by: CAROL LUTHER

    I have been an editor and proofreader since high school. My mom was an English teacher, so I helped her grade papers. Years later, I am horrified by the decline in the use of the King’s English. It seems that most people never heard of it! This is not just on the Internet. Has anyone ever listened closely to the newscasters on TV? The “grammar police” have a lot of work to do!

  9. comment number 9 by: Shari

    It seems grammar is of great interest to a large audience. (I hope I spelled that correctly!) LOL! Thank you for advertising on my site, Sharishops.com through Entrecard. In appreciation, I have written a brief review of your site with links to the home page and one to this posting. Happy blogging!

  10. comment number 10 by: Karlonia

    @Adam:

    Thanks - and nice use of the relevant keywords too!

    @Carol:

    We seem to have some things in common - my mother was also an English teacher in her early years, although now she teaches mostly science-oriented subjects. The decline in proper English usage has been an ongoing problem both online and offline. Worse yet has been a trend that I have seen in some circles toward apathy or even hostility to learning or using correct grammar.

    I even had one political blogger (a neocon Republican type that I disagreed with on about 80% of issues) tell me to “get a life” after I did a thorough proofreading of his post and made a list of the needed corrections to obvious typo and grammar errors. Apparently his position was that I was only allowed to comment on the content of the posts and could not “attack” his grammar. Even after several months, he has never made a single correction to any of his error-riddled posts and seems to take pride in putting his ignorance on display. Not surprisingly, he has not seen any repeat visits from me.

    Meanwhile, I have looked at your site at EditFast.com and was favorably impressed. I have been doing various editing and proofreading tasks for many years now but have never had the chance to do it professionally (not including the maintenance of this site). You may have a few more article submissions coming your way after I figure out how to allocate more time for generating additional content.

    @Shari:

    Wow, thanks for the review! Since I’m somewhat of SEO enthusiast, I may be sending some traffic and backlinks your way.

  11. comment number 11 by: Carol Luther

    @Karlonia

    I think that everyone should know that business English requires the correct usage of grammar rules, punctuation, and spelling. The problem is that the lines between colloquial English and business English seem to be getting more blurred everyday. We can thank CNN (among others) for this. After all, they invented the word - factoid. That’s an oxymoron, if ever I heard one. Nouns are used like verbs, i.e. Google (the company) is now a verb - to google (search). Yes, the language should grow and change, but we can’t just throw out all the rules.

    One wonders where will it all end?

  12. comment number 12 by: Karlonia

    @Carol:

    You raise an interesting point - when does colloquial English officially become part of the language, and when do colloquial terms become acceptable for use in a business environment? Will modern dictionaries now classify Google as a verb in addition to a proper noun?

    I agree with you that CNN and other mainstream media outlets are responsible for blurring the lines. Although from what I have seen, we would be making progress if the media could simply produce clean copy and eliminate the obvious errors that are not being caught by spell checker software. For example, last year I discovered an online article published by one of our local television stations here in Corpus Christi that contained several sloppy mistakes. I made a post on it last June (now updated) that can be found here:

    KRIS-TV News Report Riddled with English Usage Errors

  13. comment number 13 by: arnold

    Thanks so much. I was not aware of the comma after the second period when using i.e. and e.g. One is never too old too learn.

  14. comment number 14 by: Karlonia

    @Arnold:

    You’re welcome - I will probably cover the i.e. and e.g. issue in a full post eventually. Currently I still have many other common English usage issues to deal with first, e.g., proper use of the words to, too, and two.

  15. comment number 15 by: Tim

    Could you provide a lesson for the usages of sometime, sometimes, some time

    Thank you

  16. comment number 16 by: Karlonia

    @Tim:

    Good suggestion — I have added this to my list of ideas for future articles.

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