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Commonly Confused Words: Are vs. Our vs. Hour


Depending on your accent, you might find yourself confused between two of these words, or all three of them.

What does each word mean?

The word are is the present tense second person singular (as in ‘you are’) and the present tense first, second, and third person plural (as in ‘we are’, ’you are’, ‘they are’) of the verb ‘to be’.

Here is are used in some example sentences:

  • You are very good at spelling.
  • We are very good at spelling.
  • You are both very good at spelling.
  • They are very good at spelling.

TOP TIP: remember that ‘you are’ can also be shortened to ‘you’re’.

The word are is also used to refer to a metric unit of measurement which is equal to 100 square metres.

An hour is a period of time equal to 1/24th of a day. You can read the full Spellzone definition of the word here.

Here is hour used in some example sentences:

  • There are sixty minutes in an hour.
  • There are twenty four hours in the day.
  • From the colour of the sky, we can tell that the hour is late.
  • It takes me an hour to drive to work.

The word our is a pronoun used to indicate that something belongs to the speaker and one or more other people.

Here is our used in some example sentences:

  • Our school holiday is two weeks long.
  • Would you like to come over to ours?

TOP TIP: remember that you do not need to use an apostrophe in ‘ours’.

Where does each word come from?*

  • Are comes from the Old English ‘earum’ (Mercian) and ‘aron’ (Northumbrian), which began to replace the Old English ‘ben’ (meaning ‘be’) as the present tense first person plural for ‘to be’. In southwest English dialect, people still say ‘we be’ or even ‘us be’!

  • Hour comes from the Old French ‘hore’ which means ‘one-twelfth of a day’ (here the ‘day’ refers to the hours from sunrise to sunset). ‘Hore’ comes from the Latin ‘hora’ which means ‘hour, time, season’, and is from the Greek ‘hora’ meaning ‘any limited time’.

  • Our comes from the Old English ‘ure’ meaning ‘of us’.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • To remember how to spell are, it’s useful to think of its past tense form: were. Both ‘are’ and ‘were’ end in ‘re’.

  • If you struggle to remember that are needs to start with an ‘a’, try putting your sentence into the first person. “You are tired”, for example, would become “I am tired”, and the word ‘am’ should help you remember that ‘are’ also starts with an ‘a’.

  • To help you remember that our begins with an ‘o’, remember that word refers to the speaker plus others.

  • Think of the traditional shape of a clock to help you remember that hour has an ‘o’ in it. Remembering the time ‘half one’ may also help you remember how to spell the start of the word.

Avani Shah

*All etymologies are from The Online Etymology Dictionary.


07 Jul 2014
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