English has a lot of words that sound exactly the same but have very minor differences, and this can be a little confusing. Is it “you’re welcome” or “your welcome?” Which one is going to get the grammar police on your case?
In this post, we’ll cover which one of these phrases is correct, why, and whether or not the other one should ever be used.
Your Welcome or You’re Welcome?
“You’re welcome” is short for “you are welcome,” and is the proper response to “thank you.” However, “your welcome” can be correct if you are specifying that a welcome belongs to someone, since “your” is possessive. “You’re welcome” is the most common and frequently used.
Unfortunately, this is one of those things that makes English so complicated.
Technically, either phrase can be correct so long as they are used in the proper context.
However, at least in this case, one of these is far more common than the other, and you’ll rarely be saying “your welcome” even if it could be right.
In almost every case of someone saying “you’re welcome,” it is in response to someone expressing gratitude, generally after doing something polite for them. In this case, “welcome” is being used as an adjective to describe the grateful person. You are saying what they are, thus, “you are welcome.”
“Your welcome” can only be used correctly in a situation where “welcome” is being used as a noun, and you are specifying that the “welcome” belongs to someone. Needless to say, this is not a very common thing to say, but it would not be grammatically incorrect in this context.
This phrase is almost exclusively used in response to someone saying “thank you,” though some people feel inclined to say “you’re welcome” after doing something nice even if no one thanks them.
In the strictest sense, “you’re welcome” originated from an older phrase meaning “esteemed guest.” However, this definition is rarely how it is used nowadays.
Today, it is primarily used as a form of acknowledgment, of accepting the gratitude someone has offered you. It’s something you say because societal convention says you should, because it is the polite thing to do.
It’s a lot like shaking someone’s hand after you have been introduced to them. The only real meaning today is that you are supposed to say it after being thanked, often as a sign of humility.
Note that you can use “you’re” and “you are” interchangeably. It’s often used as a standalone sentence:
- George: Thank you for coming with me to the grocery store.
- Hubert: You’re welcome.
- Smith: I must thank you for all of your hard work today.
- Wesson: You are welcome, Smith.
However, there is a different context in which this phrase can be used. “You’re welcome” can also be used in a sentence to say that someone is permitted or allowed to do something, such as saying “you are welcome to…”
Here are some examples of how the phrase can be used in this way:
- You’re welcome to come with us if you have nothing to do.
- If you have the time, you are welcome to eat dinner with us tonight.
- I heard that your car is in the shop, so you’re welcome to use mine to get to work.
- You are welcome to try your hand at this game, if you think you can do better.
- You’re welcome to play with me anytime, though you’ll never beat me.
This version of the phrase has very few, niche uses.
Because “your” is possessive, the phrase “your welcome” could only be used if you were saying that someone was in possession of a welcome, or that a welcome belonged to them.
This would be weird to say most of the time, but not incorrect.
The bigger hurdle is finding situations in which one could be said to “possess” a welcome. However, there are a few such scenarios. Imagine that you went to a fancy gathering that included a welcoming committee. Afterward, someone could say “I hope your welcome was pleasant.”
It would be appropriate in this case because there was a welcome specifically for you, making it yours. Thus, it could be said to be “your welcome.” Another situation in which this phrase would be permissible would be if “welcome” was being used as a synonym for “invitation.”
Finally, you could use this phrase if “welcome” was being used as an adjective for a noun that you were in possession of.
For instance, let’s say a party was being thrown for your first day at a new job. It’s “your party,” and it’s also a welcome party, so you could correctly say “your welcome party.”
- Your welcome was a little cold, but the kids will warm up to you eventually.
- I hope your welcome party was enjoyable.
- You have worn out your welcome.
- Try not to overstay your welcome at this estate.
- Were you pleased with your welcome?
Which is Used the Most?
According to this graph from Google’s Ngram Viewer, the phrase “you’re welcome” is far more common than the phrase “your welcome.”
This is mostly because “you’re welcome” is an expected response to another very common phrase, that being “thank you.”
On the other hand, it’s not that unusual to say “your welcome,” but compared to one of the most common phrases in polite conversation, it is not used nearly as often.
It’s just that “your welcome” can only be used in some niche scenarios, so it is certain to be said much less frequently.
Both “you’re welcome” and “your welcome” are correct in the right context. “You’re welcome” is a response to expressed gratitude, such as “thank you.” However, “your welcome” is used when you are specifying that a welcome, as a noun, belongs to someone, as “your” is possessive.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.