There are many homophones in English. Homophones are words that sound the same, but mean different things. Words that sound nearly the same are called near homophones.
Homophones and near homophones may be similar in pronunciation, but sometimes they aren’t even the same part of speech. That is the case with are and our: two words which confuse many writers.
In this article, I will compare are vs. our, which aren’t exact homophones but sound similar enough to cause confusion. I will use each word in an example sentence to illustrate its proper use. Then, at the end, I will show you a helpful trick to use if you can’t decide whether you mean are or our in your writing.
When to Use Are
What does are mean? Are is a verb. It is the present tense of the verb to be, which means to exist or engage in something. As such, it is incredibly common in English, since it can be used on its own or as an auxiliary verb.
Are is the second person present singular, and the first, second, and third-person present plural for to be. Here are some example sentences.
- Robert, you are insufferable when you talk about sports.
- We are so happy that you could join us for lunch today.
- You people are the best audience I’ve ever had, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
- The Martians are everywhere!
- Taxpayers will be on the hook for most of that amount because they are government-backed loans; ITT currently has about $90 million set aside to cover forgiven loans. –The Wall Street Journal
Are is also a helping verb. It is used in forming the present progressive, again, in second person singular, and in first, second, and third-person plural forms. The following sentences are examples for each of these tenses.
- You are going to clean your room, and you are going to do it now.
- Saoirse and I are having a small, intimate ceremony with family and a few close friends.
- You are deluding yourselves if you think you can take two out of three against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
- The Martians are attacking us with ray guns!
When to Use Our
What does our mean? Our is a first person plural possessive pronoun. It is often employed as an adjective pronoun, where it specifies ownership by a group of which the speaker is a part. Here are some examples.
- Our flight boards at 10:15am.
- This land is our land.
- We are going to build our house using sustainable materials.
- We often spend our own money to buy supplies and books for our classrooms, and we spend hours of our own time after school talking to our students, grading papers and completing mountains of paperwork required to justify keeping our jobs for another year. –The Washington Post
Trick to Remember the Difference
Here is a helpful trick to remember our vs. are.
- Are is a verb, while our is a possessive pronoun.
- They cannot be substituted for each other, and to do so would be a mistake.
Are is an important auxiliary verb. Since are and auxiliary both begin with the letter A, you can use this similarity to remember that are is a verb.
Is it are or our? Are and our are near homophones, but they are actually completely different parts of speech.
- Are is a verb.
- Our is a possessive pronoun.
- In no circumstances are they interchangeable.
You can remember that are is a verb since it is often used as a helping, or auxiliary, verb, and are and auxiliary both begin with the letter A.
Are and our are easy words to mix up if you aren’t familiar with the English language. Now that you’ve read this article, you’ll always know whether to choose our or are in your writing.