52
votes

Most grammar checkers are capable of detecting the the misuse of "your" and "you're"; providing the necessary correction.

I'm curious though, is there any sentence that can be constructed where replacing "your" with "you're" keeps the sentence grammatically correct, but changes the meaning?

If this is not possible, what grammar rules are in place that prevents these edge cases from occurring?

7
  • 1
    I think it would probably have to involve homonyms. your would normally be followed by a noun phrase, while you're is followed by a verb phrase or adjective. And it would likely be a very short construct.
    – Barmar
    Jan 3, 2015 at 0:22
  • 5
    @Barmar I believe the word "fine" meets the criteria. "your fine" (as in a charge) and "you're fine" are both valid fragments. Jan 3, 2015 at 0:33
  • @ApproachingDarknessFish Can you make a complete sentence that's still grammatical with both phrases?
    – Barmar
    Jan 3, 2015 at 0:34
  • 8
    @Barmar Trivially: I know your/you’re fine is just one such.
    – tchrist
    Jan 3, 2015 at 0:56
  • 9
    In honor of the Beastie Boys: Your right to party and you're right to party! Jan 4, 2015 at 6:44

10 Answers 10

86
votes

a. I love you and your bananas.

b. I love you and you're bananas.

This particular case depends on the your/you're coming after an independent clause followed by "and," since its feasibility depends on functioning either as a second direct object or as another independent clause. It also depends on the noun serving either as a thing that someone might be in possession of (the bananas we eat) or as an adjective or noun complement describing a person (bananas=crazy). Easiest if that noun is plural or uncountable.

The same sentence could be constructed with nuts, garbage, and other nouns which I'll let you brainstorm because my stormer hurts.

You can also (and thanks to @Barmar for drawing attention to this) use verbs, in which case they act as a gerund with the possessive pronoun and a present participle with the "you're." As in:

a. I love you and your cooking.

b. I love you and you're cooking.

Or:

a. I despise you and your smoking.

b. I despise you and you're smoking.

10
  • 11
    I know your/you’re bananas.
    – tchrist
    Jan 3, 2015 at 0:42
  • 35
    The 'and' is not always necessary: I've heard your singing at the club / I've heard you're singing at the club. I can tell your family / I can tell you're family. Jan 3, 2015 at 0:58
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth That should probably be posted as a separate answer, since it's a different construct.
    – Barmar
    Jan 3, 2015 at 1:01
  • 2
    @Evorlor: Not necessarily. Most style guides (including Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Style Manual, and Garner's Modern American Usage) permit (if you in fact grant them authority) the omission of the comma before a coordinating conjunction separating independent clauses if those independent clauses are very short or closely connecting. I believe my independent clauses qualify as "very short."
    – Rusty Tuba
    Jan 3, 2015 at 15:00
  • 3
    You can also rearrange the bananas sentences - "You're bananas and I love you" vs. "Your bananas and I love you". :)
    – Rob Watts
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:37
41
votes

Forgive me if there's some subtlety of grammar that I've missed, but I believe the following sentence works:

I know your fine.

I am aware of the amount of money that you have been fined. Alternatively:

I know you're fine.

I am aware that you are doing alright.

In my opinion, both sentences would work better with a "that" inserted before your/you're, but I don't think it's strictly required.

6
  • 47
    This is also the basis for the "grammar" meme (which is really about spelling): Grammar: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit.
    – Alan Munn
    Jan 3, 2015 at 2:13
  • Also, "I know you're fine." = I know you're sexy.
    – miltonaut
    Jan 3, 2015 at 2:19
  • @miltonaut Shouldn't there be a comma for that to work? "I know your, sexy." And, now that I think about it, it should be "*I know yours, sexy.", so perhaps I'm misunderstanding the grammatical trickery. Jan 5, 2015 at 11:27
  • @camden_kid Both sentences are defined immediately after they are written. Jan 5, 2015 at 17:36
  • 1
    @miltonaut Oh, I see it now. I was misled by the equality sign, you see. Definition-wise speaking "being fine" isn't equal to "being sexy". The first is a superset to the latter. But that's a nerdy mathematics being nitpicking, so you need not to worry about that. :) Jan 6, 2015 at 17:50
39
votes

There's an old joke that goes like "A man walks into a psychiatrist's office. He's completely naked except that he's wrapped himself in Saran wrap. The psychiatrist takes one look at him and says 'well, I can clearly see your/you're nuts'."

7
  • Welcome to English Language & Usage @kyle. This is one of the few jokes I've seen here that actually work as an answer. But since I have no idea what Saran wrap is (this is an international site), I have to guess that it's clear.
    – user63230
    Jan 4, 2015 at 22:00
  • 1
    @andy256 Yes, it's a transparent, stretchy, very thin plastic material that comes in wound sheets. Jan 4, 2015 at 23:06
  • 1
    @andy256 Yes, I believe saran wrap and cling wrap are both specific brands of "plastic wrap." Jan 5, 2015 at 0:31
  • 1
    @TomRobinson "wound" as in the past tense of "wind"
    – Brian S
    Jan 5, 2015 at 15:44
  • 1
    @TomRobinson Another way to put it would be that it comes in "rolls", like a roll of aluminum foil or a roll of toilet paper.
    – mbm29414
    Jan 5, 2015 at 18:34
27
votes

Your right to believe what you want is important.

vs

You're right to believe what you want is important.

4
  • The first one lacks the predicate, hence not being a full sentence, right? Jan 5, 2015 at 11:28
  • 2
    @KonradViltersten Isn't the predicate of the first sentence just "is important"?
    – Ajedi32
    Jan 5, 2015 at 15:08
  • @Ajedi32 Of course. I missed that, somehow... Thanks! Jan 5, 2015 at 15:16
  • 1
    I misread it the same way at first. It's easy to misparse what you want is important as the object of to believe.
    – Barmar
    Jan 5, 2015 at 19:41
22
votes

"I know your trouble." = "I understand the trouble you have."

"I know you're trouble." = "I know that you are going to be a trouble (for me/us)."

16
votes

You're acting like your mom.

vs

You're acting like you're mom.

5
  • 13
    It's grammatical. Sibling A tells Sibling B, "You're acting like you're [our] mom."
    – 000
    Jan 4, 2015 at 7:03
  • 3
    @JoeFrambach: Technically in written English we conventionally capitalize "Mom" in the second instance, but it would be fine if spoken.
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 7:30
  • 1
    @user21820: I don't follow that convention though I suppose I've seen it. But yes in spoken English the distinction goes away. FWIW, in my dialect of spoken English, the two sentences are not pronounced the same either. They have different vowels and "you're" is "sesqui-syllabic", the only differences from "you are" being the timing and weakened/missing vowel from "are". Jan 4, 2015 at 11:56
  • @R..: Yes in my dialect too we pronounce the way you do, but I was assuming that many people pronounce them the same, giving rise to this question in the first place. I guess not everyone follows the traditional conventions in writing as well.
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 11:59
  • Deleting my previous comment, and upvoting your post. I can't explain why I hadn't see the grammaticality in sentence No.2.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 5, 2015 at 6:13
15
votes

Grammar is the difference between:

knowing your shit

and

knowing you’re shit

Both are correct, but obviously have very different meanings.

1
  • 8
    And etymology is a matter of knowing yore shit.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 6, 2015 at 10:45
7
votes

Your toast!

(...is getting very dark)

vs

You're toast!

(Gotcha!)

2
  • 2
    I'm pretty sure that the first one is a fragment, not a complete sentence. Jan 4, 2015 at 23:07
  • 5
    You could prepend "I see" for full sentences. Also "I see your home", "I see you're home." Jan 5, 2015 at 3:23
5
votes

greeting/insult: It's good to see you're/your back!

3
votes

Here's a wonderful comedy sketch based entirely on your/you're confusion:

Two Ronnies - Your Nuts, M'lord

which can be confused with the insulting You're nuts, M'lord!

2
  • This isn't an answer to the question. Some quotes from the sketch probably would be.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 6, 2015 at 12:39
  • 1
    Nice clip! Hope you don't mid the edit, but your post was being flagged for deletion, so I edited it to make the point clearer!:) Jan 6, 2015 at 15:53

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