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“You are” vs. “you're” — what is the difference between them?

I get confused between the two a lot. I want to understand how to use them appropriately, because I hate making mistakes.

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jul 24 '14 at 3:55

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    There is no difference. You are is normally contracted to you're in speech, because English doesn't like two vowels without a consonant to separate them, and one of them gets deleted. Either you're or you are can be used; speaker's choice. The same thing applies to I'm, he's, she's, we're, and they're, among other contractions. It's just colloquial English, that's all. – John Lawler Jul 24 '14 at 2:45
  • If there is a difference (outside of the most formal usage), it is that you are (and other forms that don't use contractions) are more emphatic and separable. You are going to be doing it makes a slightly different point from You are going to be doing it. – Stan Rogers Jul 24 '14 at 3:15
  • @JohnLawler I’m betting that non-native speakers are seldom taught that many such “contractions” occur naturally in speaking because of reduction of unstressed pieces — more than we write, in fact. (Like in “I’ll’ve given ’er another chance by then.”) And that they all originated in that fashion. – tchrist Jul 24 '14 at 3:25
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    I'm wondering if you actually meant to ask about the difference between "your" and "you're". – Martha Jul 24 '14 at 3:29
  • @Marthaª Good question! If so, then it is a duplicate of english.stackexchange.com/q/3738. – tchrist Jul 24 '14 at 3:32
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There is no difference in meaning although there are a few differences in usages. Here, there is virtually no difference:

You are flying to Belgium tomorrow.
You're flying to Belgium tomorrow.

However, there are places where the two are not interchangeable. For example, this particular contraction cannot be used at the end of a sentence, or as a standalone sentence:

Who is flying to Belgium tomorrow?
CORRECT ANSWER: You are, Tim.
INCORRECT ANSWER: You're, Tim.

The same principles hold true for the other related contractions:

I'm ➝ I am
He's ➝ He is
They're ➝ They are
We're ➝ We are

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You are and You're are the same. You're is the contraction of You are.

dictionary.com

However, in formal writing it is more appropriate to use "You are" as opposed to "You're".

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    That depends on the formality and the level of relationship. No matter what your English teacher told you. – John Lawler Jul 24 '14 at 3:03