Those Confusing Words



Its, it's, we're, were, where, they're, their, you're and your




People often confuse these words:


     Your              you’re

     Their             they’re     there

      Its                it’s  


                          we're       Where?       were


          Your, their and its are words in themselves. They are possessive pronouns – that is, they describe ownership.


          Your is the possessive pronoun used when one person owns something – it is the possessive form of you.


           That is your book.   (You own the book.)


            Which one is your house?   (Which is the house you own?)


            That’s your opinion.       (That’s the opinion which you hold.)


[In the example above, note also the abbreviation ‘that’s’ – short for ‘that is’.]


          ‘Their’ is the possessive pronoun used when more than one person owns something. It’s the possessive form of ‘they’.


                That is their daughter. (They have a daughter – that’s her.)


                Their house is the one with the blue door. (They own the house with the blue door.)


                Which is their car? (Of all the cars in this car-park, which is the one they own?)



          Its is the possessive pronoun used for inanimate objects or animals.


                The dog wags its tail.   (The tail belongs to the dog.)


                The cat is chasing its toy. (The toy belongs to the cat.)


                The saucepan needs its handle mending. (The handle belonging to the saucepan needs to be mended.)


          So if you are describing something belonging to someone or something, use YOUR, THEIR or ITS.


                For the use of the possessive apostrophe, as in Aysha’s toy or Dan’s blog, see here.

         You’re, they’re, we're and it’s are NOT words in themselves. They are contractions of two words. The apostrophe marks where letters are missing.


                You’re = you are


                They’re = they are


                We're =  we are


                It’s = it is.


                You’re spilling coffee on your jacket. (You are spilling coffee on the jacket belonging to you.)


                We're going to be late.  (We are going to be late.)


                They’re looking forward to their holiday. (They are looking forward to the holiday belonging to them.)


                Look at the cat - it’s chasing its tail. (It is chasing the tail belonging to  it.)


          So, if in doubt, think about what you’re saying. Do you actually mean ‘it is’? If so, then write it’s.


          If you mean that something inanimate belonged to something else inanimate, then use its‘The robot picked up its arm.


                If what you mean is ‘they are’ then use they’re. If you’re talking about something belonging to more than one person, use ‘their’ – ‘I need permission to use their name.


               There and where are words about place, about space in the world.

                WHERE is also used to ask questions.


                 Where do you want me to put this dish? (In what place do you want me to put this dish?)


                  Put the dish down there. (Put the dish down in that place.)


                  Or - 'Oh, just put it down anywhere.'


Why do you want to go there?


Where do you want to go?


          You can also say:


                There’s a good book on that subject.(There is...)


                There’s a good programme on telly tonight.



               WERE is an entirely different word again. It’s the past tense of ‘be’ –



I am    Thou art    You are

We are     They are



I was    Thou wert    You were

We were They were


           You are at home? (present tense - talking about now.)


           You were late yesterday. (Past tense - talking about the past).


           We are shopping.  (Present tense)


           We were in Birmingham last week.  (Past tense)


          So, to sum up:-


          Think about what you're saying.


          If you are talking about something being OWNED - use your, their or its.


          If what you are saying is really 'it is', 'you are', 'we are' or 'they are', use it's, you're, we're or they're.


          If you're talking about where something is, or saying that there is - then use 'where' or 'there'.


          If you're using the past tense - if you're saying 'that's how things were' - then use 'were'.