Your Versus You're

Today I'm inspired by a couple of listener questions.

Mignon Fogarty
Episode #067

Grammar Girl here.

Today I'm inspired by a couple of listener questions.

Hi, Grammar Girl. This is Katie, and I was wondering if you could touch on your and you're. There's not a day that goes by that I don't see this grammar mistake. Thanks a lot.

Katie called in a while ago, but recently Bill Mills made me aware of a weird ad campaign that seems to misuse the word your, so I decided it was a good time to tackle this topic.

Your Versus You're

First, I think people get these two words mixed up for a simple reason: they sound the same. You just have to remember the difference. Your, Y-O-U-R, is the possessive form of you. Does this belong to you? Is this your strangely worded ad campaign? Your: Y-O-U-R.

You're, Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E, is a contraction of two words: you are. Remember that an apostrophe can stand in for missing letters, and in this case it stands in for the missing letter a. It doesn't save much space, but it does change the phrase from two syllables—you are—to one syllable—you're, so I guess it serves an honorable purpose. You're the best listeners ever! You're:

Now that we have that squared away, you won't believe the ad campaign Bill pointed out to me. The company is Seagate, and the new tagline for one of its products is Your on—but not Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E on, as you would expect, but rather Your on—Y-O-U-R (possessive) on. I'm not making this up.

Bill thought it was a typo, but I've worked in marketing before and I know how many people have to sign off on something like this. So I figured the marketers must be trying to do something funky such as make the word on a noun. As in, Here, I have this on thingy for you. Wow, thanks! I've always wanted an on.

Not wanting to unfairly malign Seagate, I asked them what they were thinking and someone named Forrest Monroy was kind enough to reply. Here's his response:

"Your On" is spelled this way to indicate that Seagate is your (possessive) access to being "on." In essence, Seagate = On.

This version ties the connection more closely to Seagate (as your access to being 'on') as opposed to the more traditional spelling of "You're On," which places the emphasis more closely on the consumer and away from Seagate itself.

At which point, all I could really think was, “Huh. Really? OK, if you say so.” But, there you go, Bill. It's not a typo; it's intentional.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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