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it's/its - your/ you're

Discussion in 'English Only' started by DBM, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. DBM Junior Member

    Spanish, Spain
    Hi everyone!!:

    Ok, I'm a native speaker of Spanish and I find really interesting (smoothing the adjective) that native English people commit mistakes such us: "the bedroom has just one door. It's :cross: knob is wooden", or right the other way round: "Its :cross: an awe-inspiring landscape". The same thing usually happens with "your" and you're". Even professors :eek: make this mistake. I can tell!

    My question is addressed to native English speakers: can you find any particular reason for this kind of understandable mistakes?

    Thnx a lot!! :)
     
  2. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Uh, people are idiots? :eek: Seriously, a lot of people are not taught their native language well, and many people simply don't invest much effort in learning to write correctly. The distinctions between its/it's and your/you're (as well as their/there/they're) are very simple, but as you note, people mistake them in writing with alarming frequency. I don't have a better answer for why.

    Ciao,
    Elisabetta
     
  3. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    The simplest memory device is:

    It's is a contraction.

    So whenever you stop to wonder which to use, if you are saying IT IS, then it's going to be a contraction. Otherwise, it will be a possive and you have to use its other form.

    Why do English speakers make mistakes?

    Well, one reason is that in general, we (at least in America) under value language education.

    Another reason is that as we communicate in writing more by internet, email, web forum, etc... we move to a stream of consciousness and pay less attention to proofing and correcting our text. After all, when we are engaged in give and take communication, we tend to think of it as "speech" more than "writing".

    Also among people who know better (if they stop to think about it), outside the conventional print media (books, newspapers, magazines), none of us have editors on staff to help proof our writing and keep us from clowning ourselves with silly oversights.

    I don't think that speakers (of every language) are less linguistically accomplished than before... I think that circumstances are conspiring against us to make it seem that way.
     
  4. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    As a teacher of English and ESL, I always tried to get my students to differentiate in their pronunciation of your and you're. The first pronounced as yore, the second pronounced as you+r. It was helpful to some, I'm sure. I have a brother who uses its, it's and its' indiscriminately. I'm not going to help him with it, however, until he asks.:)
     
  5. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    My guess is that you're familar with the written English of email or other informal correspondence and in such types of communication these mistakes do not cause confusion for or misinterpretation by the reader. If they did the writer would soon learn to use the correct form or find another way to express the same idea. However, by way of a warning, some people make judgements of writers based on their spelling and punctuation. So, it's best to stick to the accepted forms taught in school.
     
  6. jinti

    jinti Senior Member

    I can think of a couple ideas:

    1. Native speakers learned their native language as children by hearing it, not by seeing it. Mastering the spoken form is natural for anyone in their native language; mastering the written form is done with varying degrees of success depending on the education, natural learning proclivities, explicit instruction, etc. of the learner.

    Nonnative learners often wonder how anyone could make a mistake such as the common native speaker "would of" for "would have". It's because the native speaker making that mistake is very familiar with natural spoken English, but less adept with written, and the reverse is usually true for nonnative learners.

    I have the same reaction to some mistakes by native speakers of Spanish. I make horrible mistakes in Spanish all the time, but not the same mistakes that I commonly see from native speakers [a ver/haber, etc.]. My Spanish is, of course, much worse than theirs, but I learned the written forms at about the same time as the spoken forms, I learned them in a formal setting, and my English language background predisposes me to awareness of certain differences, even if they're not noticeable in spoken language.)

    2. Native speakers are used to using 's to indicate possession. Without being taught any rules to the contrary (and many, many people these days in the US -- and from what I hear, the UK -- don't learn English grammar in school), they naturally apply the same rule to pronouns: the dog --> the dog's bone .... so it must be it --> it's bone.... Wrong, of course, but you have to admit it's logical. ;)
     
  7. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    That's interesting. Do all Americans differentiate between your and you're in pronunciation?

    I believe they sound exactly the same in BE(at least in RP). Although I guess that's only in initial or stressed position. I have often heard our reduced to a schwa in what's your name?
     
  8. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    I pronounce you're and your in exactly the same way.

    Jinti's explanation is excellent. I don't have much to add, then, except that in French as for jinti in Spanish, I've found the same sorts of phonetic-based errors. They are always a surprise, but they make me feel a little better about the ones that we Americans make....
     
  9. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    I think it would be difficult for Italian students to hear a difference between yore and you+r let alone generate them. Additionally, British production EFL books are based on RP in which you're and your have identical pronunciation. So, I think it would be confusing to students to suggest a difference.
     
  10. DBM Junior Member

    Spanish, Spain
    Well yes, I admit it's logical.
    What is unacceptable (sorry if I sound rude) is the lack of grammar teaching in schools!!! I just cant believe it! didn't know that.
    Here, in Spain, there is an extra emphasis on "writing well" and to me, a teacher who commits mistakes of such expanse (both in English and Spanish) loses all my "student respect", even though the teacher is not specialized on philology.
     
  11. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    See above answer.
     
  12. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Yes, well done Jinti :thumbsup:

    It does not necessarily have anything to do with education or will. I type quite quickly. I know most of the rules but my typing spelling is terrible - I have to reread things before sending otherwise there is always an error, and often I miss one anyway.

    At the end of the day "mistakes" occur because there is nothing "absolute" about these orthographical rules. They are arbitrary so it's just a memory test as to which you use.

    The "would have" "would of" debate is particularly enlightening. We pronounce both identically and neither as they are written which makes it particularly difficult. A long time ago I had quite a heated debate with a foreign speaker of English (whose English was of a very very high standard) who was irate at how selfish English speakers were to misspell such words without taking - what was for her - a little bit of care to get it right and not confuse foreign speakers. These idiosyncracies are always more noticable to good foreign speakers of a language because they have learnt when to look for the difficult traps. Getting things like this wrong is not selfish - it's just difficult to remember all the time because on a very real level there is no difference.
     
  13. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Some of my students also still write "would of" instead of "would have", and we've been working on there/their/they're and its/it's/its' all year. We do daily grammar exercises, as well as a lot of creative writing, because grammar and spelling aren't things that come automatically for many of us. George Bernard Shaw wanted to eliminate contractions altogether, which is why his plays are peppered with cant, shouldnt, etc. I like contractions myself, because they remind us where we came from.

    The students' grammar problems frequently aren't their fault - they write what they hear, and a lot of teachers out there aren't aware of their own grammatical shortcomings. I can't fix the system, but I do ensure that my own students leave my hands with a good grounding in the nuts and bolts of their language. It helps that I've matched them all with francophone penpals or hispanic penpals, so that they've learned to be very precise in their writing.

    I've received notes from francophone parents with a low level of formal education where ses/ces are mixed up, adjectives disagree, horses are chevals instead of chevaux, to name just a few problems. My Bolivian friends, many of whom received only a few years of formal education, write letters where they switch b and v, c and z, etc., not to mention writing haber as aber and abeja as habeja.

    What we have to remember is that standardized spelling is very recent (and non-existent in some languages), and standardized punctuation even more so. It's only in the last couple of centuries that spelling conventions really became important - previously the attitude was that if you could the word, what more did you want?
     
  14. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Well, I don't know about unacceptable, as that word conveys a certain value judgement.

    Traditionally, American schools focused on the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic. But today, there are other subjects that could be argued as being more important than writing. Computer literacy, technology and the sciences... these are fields in which America has (so far) set many of the world standards.

    My problem is that schools aren't teaching much of ANYTHING, writing or otherwise, and parents aren't able to communicate any ambition, and the media is more than willing to provide the entertainment.

    I'd say its a recipe for disaster, except its not a new recipe. So who knows what the future will bring?
     
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    My learner model (the almost-6 WMPG) often makes the "would of" kind of mistake in speech. As her reading skills improve, and she writes more, she is now recognising mistakes like this as mistakes - and self-correcting.

    It is time for another PR campaign for THIS SITE - it seems to be almost six months since last I mentioned it. Please have a go - and enjoy, especially, the examples of apostrophe abuse.
     
  16. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Timpeac, in what context is the written use of "would of" correct? The pronunciation of the contraction would've is virtually identical to "would of", but isn't that actual string of words meaningless?

    Confused in my anal-retentive world, ;)
    Elisabetta
     
  17. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Hi Trentina - I couldn't possibly comment on your lavatorial habits ;), but as to "would of" - I never said it was correct, did I? My whole point was that the pronunciation of the two is identical so this means that sometimes people write "would of" instead of "would have" which is interesting because neither is a perfect written representation of what we actually say (so it is a conflict of writing something "meaningful" - "would of" is at least made of recognizable words as opposed to "wuduv" which isn't )so it is clearly not a case of "pronunciation representation" taking all or we'd write wuduv by accident not "would of".
     
  18. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Ciao, Chaska. May I inquire what grade/age your students are?

    Bring back phonics and grammar workbooks! :) When I was in grade school in the early 1960s, my mother learned English by doing my homework with me. She attended school only through 8th grade in Italy, never studied English formally, and emigrated to the U.S. at age 25, but she now writes better than most of Appalachia.

    I think there is a word missing above. Understand, maybe? You raise an interesting point, but I'm not sure what it explains. Individual people don't live for centuries -- in our lifetimes, spelling and punctuation have been standardized, so that's what we know and expect.

    Interestingly, those fields require, in many instances, even more attention to piddling details than the fine points of grammar do. And success in those fields still requires one to be able to communicate.

    Did you substitute its for it's as a comment on the thread? ;)

    Elisabetta
     
  19. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    And that's true of many words in English that are not spelled phonetically. My quandary arose because there is no context in which I could imagine pronouncing or writing "would of" because that string of words makes no sense. I see what you mean now.

    By the way, I work in litigation consulting with a specialization in accounting, so precision about both words and numbers is deeply engrained in my daily life. :D

    Elisabetta
     
  20. James Stephens Senior Member

    Oklahoma, USA
    English, USA
    its, it's; your, you're -- Speaking and writing are different skills, often even different dialects. Many people are simply are not writers; they are not good spellers and they don't know punctuation rules. They are not schooled in the elements of composition. That says nothing about their intellects or their other skills.

    I do not judge harshly a person who makes these errors in notes, emails, and other informal communications. They are making good-faith efforts to transcribe speech; they are not writers, nor do they pretend to be.

    When I see these same errors in a paper purportedly produced by a writer of any ilk, I consider them egregious and inexcusable errors. My bottom line is this: I notice the error, but I consider the source.
     
  21. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Now it's YOUR TURN for the quote of the year. And it's only the first week of January to boot.

    If only everyone could have such grace.

    I would only add, that when produced by a writer of any ilk, you usually also have a proofreader and/or an editor to blame as well.
     
  22. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Hi, Elisabetta

    I teach a Grade 5/6 split, just a delightful group of kids.

    You were right about the missing word - I think "understand" was indeed what I meant to say.

    I'd say IN OUR CULTURE, rather than in our lifetimes, spelling and, to a lesser degree, punctuation, have been standardized - there are still plenty of languages which have only recently been transcribed for which there is no standardized spelling.

    The memorization of standard spelling is (unless we're discussing dyslexics) an indicator of the level of formal education attained, not the ability to communicate in writing. Some of the most descriptive, eloquent writing I've seen has come from people whose spelling is all over the map. Although I'm strict about grammar conventions, I still believe that written language is about communication, not memorizing standard forms. It's when the spelling is so random that the writer can't communicate that it becomes a problem.
     
  23. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    American Heritage Dictionary offers one standard pronunciation of you're (yoor) and three for your (yoor, yôr & yōr). I think it would be more confusing to change the vowel sound of you: just are the r sound, which is the word that one is adding to the original word.
     
  24. whatonearth Senior Member

    UK, English
    Everyone should be forced to read 'Eats, Shoots, And Leaves' and be done with it...
     
  25. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Be done with this discussion? Be done with the mistakes themselves? :confused:

    Elisabetta
     
  26. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    No, it's a set phrase meaning "and that's all that's necessary" - it's a bit jokey and colloquial.
     
  27. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Yes, I'm familiar with the expression. ;) I was (lamely) joking back, i.e., if we all read it, we won't have anything more to discuss vs. if everyone read it, there would be no more mistakes of this kind.

    Cheers!
    Elisabetta
     
  28. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    It's not only logical, it's apparently also the way it used to be!
     

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