You’re asking where your kids are? They’re playing with their toys over there.

This message is about one of my pet peeves. Namely, using the word ‘your’ when you really mean ‘you are’, and using the word ‘their’ or ‘there’ when you really mean ‘they are.’

I just want to say at the outset that, in my opinion (I’ll let you be the judge of just how humble it is), one of the fastest ways to make yourself look like an uneducated rube is to misuse the words listed above.  For me, it is like the difference between leaded crystal and lead.  And as far as a resume or cover letter is concerned, misuse of these words will cause your communications to hit the circular file (along with any hiring consideration) so fast it will make your head spin.

OK.  So first, let me make clear the grammatical construct known as a contraction.  A contraction is a single word formed by combining two words, discarding a letter or two of the second word, and using an apostrophe (you know, one of these: ‘) as a placeholder for the missing letter or letters.  Now, that may not be an Oxford dictionary definition, but it is (it’s) good enough for this discussion.

To the matter at hand.  The word ‘you’re’ is a contraction formed by combining the two words ‘you’ and ‘are’, discarding the letter ‘a’ in ‘are’ and replacing it with an apostrophe.

So, when you are (you’re) writing and you are (you’re) about to say something about, let us (let’s) say, your car, can you really say with a straight face: ‘you are car’?  Or, ‘you’re car’?  Of course not. That would sound really stupid. (Now, if you’re learning english as a second language, we can make an exception here.  After all, you’re learning the language and bully for you!  Keep it up!  You’re doing fine, and on your way to better writing!  But as for you native-born english speakers, for shame if ‘you are car’ sounds just as good to you as ‘your car’.)  If you are (you’re) having trouble with your use of contractions, the safest bet is simply not to use them until you get the hang of it.  Notice how the word ‘your’ simply indicates possession.  It is NOT a substitute form of ‘you’re’.  Don’t ever make that mistake again!

It should be obvious by now that ‘they’re’ is a contraction of ‘they are’.  I’m sure ‘they are car’ makes no sense to you when you really mean ‘their car’, which indicates possession.  Similarly, ‘the car is over they are’ is nonsense when you really mean ‘the car is over there’, which indicates location.  So, they’re sitting in their car over there, right? Right!

I hope this helps.  Please use you’re, your, they’re, their and there properly from now on, and go forth to make the world a better place…one contraction at a time!

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This entry was posted in We're Number One! (Really?) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to You’re asking where your kids are? They’re playing with their toys over there.

  1. gen-z says:

    I think your on to something. Ain’t sure what’s it is, though. Poor grammar/spelling is a sure sign of a maroon. check out this articles from Reuters, no less. The first sentence blows me away:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67J0PN20100820

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