Yours vs. your’s?

Yours” is the correct way to assign possession to “you” (a second-person pronoun). “Your’s” is a grammatical error.

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What is the difference between yours and your’s?

The use of “your’s” as a possessive pronoun is a sure way to drive your English teachers insane. The common misspelling of “yours” likely occurs because we use apostrophes with other types of pronouns. But when it comes to “you,” or nearly any possessive pronoun, we omit the apostrophe. 

The only time you’ll encounter “your’s” is if it’s a mistake or if the writing is from the 18th century. Even then, Garner’s Modern English Usage states that the spelling of “your’s” is isolated to this century and that it was “effectively eradicated” from standard English at the beginning of the 19th century (Garner 981). 

What does yours mean?

Yours” is a possessive pronoun that references one or many things that belong to someone you are addressing. For example, 

  • “The decision is yours to make.” 
  • “Do you know if this is yours?”
  • “I received mom’s letter, but I didn’t get yours.” 

What does your’s mean?

There is never a correct way to use the word “your’s” in the English language. This common mistake probably occurs because it deviates from typical rules and patterns for assigning possession to nouns (e.g., “Sarah’s book” or “granny’s cane”). 

How to use yours vs. your’s in a sentence?

Your’s” is a grammatical error, and we should avoid using this spelling at all costs. Correct uses and variations of the word “yours” are as follows:

  • “The world is yours.”
  • “All these examples are yours to take home.”
  • “If they aren’t yours, whose are they?”
  • “Are these Bobby’s or yours?”
  • “Are these your mom’s snacks, or are they yours?”
  • “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is yours.”
  • “I burnt my cookies. Did yours turn out okay?”

How to convey possession

Writers are more likely to misspell “yours” as “your’s” when they assume all references of possession require an apostrophe. After all, we use an apostrophe in sentences like:

  • “There is a lion on someone’s back.”
  • “That’s somebody’s baby cheetah.” 
  • “It’s anyone’s guess where those hyenas came from.”
  • “Whose bear is this?” That’s nobody’s bear.” 
  • “I think that’s my mom’s cat.” 
  • “That must be Terry’s new pet.” 

Each of our examples uses an apostrophe to convey possession, so it’s easy to understand why people misuse apostrophes for “your’s.” However, the only time we use an apostrophe to indicate possession is when we are using indefinite pronouns or a noun (such as “mom,” “Terry,” or “person”). 

Possessive pronouns like “your” or “yours” already demonstrate that someone belongs to someone else, so an apostrophe is entirely unnecessary. In fact, the majority of pronouns don’t require an apostrophe for possession. The only exception occurs when you write “one’s own.” 

Overview of pronouns

Possessive determiners: my, your, his, her, its, our, their. 

Possessive pronouns: mine, yours, his, hers, its, our, theirs. 

Personal pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, one. 

Using apostrophes for contractions

Many writers also struggle with contractions because they use apostrophes to indicate their shortened form. Some of the most commonly confused contractions include:

  • Had not = hadn’t
  • Have not = haven’t
  • He is = he’s
  • He will = he’ll
  • He would/he had = he’d
  • I am = I’m
  • I have = I’ve
  • She is/she has = she’s
  • They are/they have = they’ve
  • We have = we’ve
  • You would/you had = you’d 

Notice the use of personal pronouns? As we can see, the apostrophe does not reference a personal pronoun’s possession. Instead, the apostrophes indicate how the pronoun is part of a contraction. 

What is the difference between your and yours?

Yours” is a possessive pronoun used when a writer wants to assign direct ownership or possession to the person or people spoken to within a sentence or phrase.

More specifically, “yours” is a possessive pronoun when it appears without a following noun. For example,

  • “Whose world is this? Is it yours?”
  • “Take my heart. It’s all yours.” 
  • “What’s yours is mine.”

In the previous four examples, the word “yours” is not followed by a person, place, or thing, making “yours” a possessive pronoun.

Your” is a second person possessive adjective when it appears before a noun or gerund. For example,

  • Your singing is driving me nuts.”
  • “Make your choice.”
  • “It’s your world, and I’m just living in it.” 

In the previous examples, “your” comes before the nouns “choice” and “world,” making “your” a possessive adjective.

Its vs. it’s

Its vs. it’s is a parallel grammatical example where showing possession for pronouns or adjectives is easily confused. Similarly to “you’re,” “it’s” is a contraction to shorten the words “it is” to one word. For example,

  • It’s your life, do what you want.”
  • “I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”

Its” is the correct way to assign possession to the object or subject “it” references in a sentence. Just like the correct usage of “yours,” “its” possession is indicated without an apostrophe. 

Example:  “The rocket will knock the moon from its axis.”

For this example, no apostrophe is necessary to show the moon is associated with the axis.

Example 2: “The beast didn’t finish its dinner.”

Again, the sentence indicates the dinner belongs to the beast without using an apostrophe in “its.” 

How to remember the difference between yours and your’s?

The simplest way to remember the difference between “yours” and “your’s” is you that will never use or see the word “your’s” used correctly. When you want to indicate possession or ownership to the person you are directly speaking to, “yours” is always the correct word. 

Yours” is an absolute possessive, so you will absolutely always chooseyours.”

You’re,” the contraction for “you are,” is the only time you will ever see an apostrophe correctly used in a version of the word pronounced “yor.” If you see an apostrophe in “your” and it’s not immediately followed by the letters “re,” the word is incorrect. 

The bottom line:

Yours” will always be the correct choice when assigning second person ownership, association, or possession to the person/people “you” directly address. 

Additional reading: yours vs. your’s

To learn more about commonly confused words, check out the following lessons on The Word Counter:

Test Yourself!

Follow-up your lesson on yours vs. your’s with a multiple-choice quiz. 

  1. True or false: “your’s” was once an 18th-century spelling variant.
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The correct possessive form of “you” is ____________.
    a. Your
    b. You’re
    c. Yours
    d. Your’s
  3. Choose the correct word: “If you want my English textbook, it’s all ____________.”
    a. Your
    b. Yours
    c. You’re
    d. Your’s
  4. Choose the correct word: “If ____________ learning English, you should talk to native English speakers.”
    a. Your
    b. Yours
    c. You’re
    d. Your’s
  5. Choose the correct word: “Learning English is ____________ hobby.”
    a. Your
    b. Yours
    c. You’re
    d. Your’s
  6. Bonus: Yours versus your’s parallels to which commonly confused words?
    a. You’re vs you are
    b. It is vs it’s
    c. Its vs it’s
    d. That’s vs that it

Answers

  1. A
  2. A
  3. B
  4. C
  5. A
  6. B

Sources

  1. Garner, B. “Yours.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 981. 
  2. Yours.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  3. “Pronouns.” Grammarly Blog, Grammarly.com, 2021.  
  4. “Pronouns: possessive (my, mine, your, yours, etc.)” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.