Commonly Misspelled Homonyms

It’s and its, you’re and your, who’s and whose: All these words are short and distinct in meaning, but despite their seeming simplicity, they are often misspelled.  These word pairs are homonyms, meaning they sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different definitions.  Sure, we know what we mean when saying these words, but spelling is a different story.  We’ve probably all experienced a glitch in our brain-to-fingertip connection at one time or another, and typed its when we mean it’s, or your for you’re.

In addition to being homonyms, each of these word pairs is made up of a contraction and a pronoun. A contraction is a combination of two words, or a shortened form of a word.  Don’t is a contraction for do not.  Every contraction contains an apostrophe, and the apostrophe takes the place of any missing letters.

Plainly put, a pronoun is word that replaces a noun or noun phrase.  She, he, I, they, it, you, and who are all pronouns.  Thanks to pronouns, we say things like “Suzy said she wants ice cream,” rather than “Suzy said Suzy wants ice cream.”  Nouns and pronouns are different in the way they show possession. While every possessive noun is noted with an apostrophe, most possessive pronouns do not include apostrophes.  If something belongs to Suzy, it’s Suzy’s, but if something belongs to her, it isn’t her’s, it’s hers.

Here are some brief definitions of these often-misspelled words, and a few examples of how to use them correctly.

its and it’s

Its means “belonging to it.”  Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it.

  • The dog wagged its tail.
  • The new store is open, but its sign isn’t up yet.

It’s is a contraction for “it is,” or less frequently, “it has.”

  • It’s so great to have you in town!
  • It’s a beautiful day.
  • I love my new car, but its sun roof is broken.  Since it’s been raining, it’s been a hassle to deal with.

whose and who’s

Whose is a pronoun meaning “belonging to who/whom.” “Whose jacket is this?” means “Who does this jacket belong to?” or “Who owns this jacket?

  • Whose car should we take to the movies?
  • I don’t know whose boots those are.

Who’s is a contraction for “who is,” or less frequently, “who has.”

  • Who’s going to the movies?
  • Who’s wearing my boots?

your and you’re

Your means “belonging to you.” Your is the possessive form of the pronoun you.  “Your scarf” means “The scarf belonging to you.”

  • Thank you for all of your help.
  • May I borrow your rain coat?

You’re is a contraction for “you are.”  “You’re welcome” means “You are welcome.”

  • You’re invited to my birthday party.
  • I know you’re going to have a great time in Spain.
  • If you’re available, I would really appreciate your help.

Even our bright and detail-oriented virtual receptionists make typing errors from time to time, which is why proofreading is the rule at Ruby.   We suggest you make a habit of it, too, and take special care with these same-sounding pairs.