5 Most Common English Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
As someone who often visits the comment section on YouTube, participates in film forums and reads book reviews online, I am here to tell you one thing: don’t feel frustrated at how many corrections your English written assignments get, for there’s nothing more native-like than making grammar mistakes!
From commonly mixed-up words to misplaced apostrophes, here is a list of the most frequent grammar mistakes made by native speakers (who shall remain nameless!) with real examples.
1. Possessive adjectives vs personal pronouns
“Your so right!”
“Its the first romance A24 has ever released.”
“Their such great singers.”
What do all these phrases have in common?
- I came across all three of them while procrastinating online.
- They all use possessive pronouns where there should be a personal pronoun and a form of the verb ‘be’.
‘Your’, ‘its’, and ‘their’ are possessive words. We should only use them to imply that a person or a thing has something.
‘You’re’, ‘it’s’, and they’re’ may have the same pronunciation as the words above, but they are completely different both in meaning and grammar — they are merely abbreviations consisting of one subject and a form of the verb be.
if you’re not sure which spelling you need in any given sentence —”you’re” or “your”, for example—try it with “you are” and see if it makes sense.
You’re coat is beautiful.
You “are coat” is beautiful? Wrong.
Then: Your coat is beautiful.
2. Subject-verb Agreement
“Each of these options are great for me!”
I beg to disagree with your subject-verb agreement choice, friendly AwardsWorthy forum user.
You see, subject-verb agreement means that a subject and its verb must be both singular or both plural. For example, a sentence like “the girls is beautiful” is clearly wrong because we are using a singular verb to modify a plural noun. However, making your subjects and verb agree is not always that simple.
- If you have two singular nouns linked by “and”, use a plural verb: Both Sweden and Luxemburg have won the Eurovision Song Contest several times in the past.
- However, if you have two singular nouns linked by “or” or nor, use a singular verb: Either Spain or France has the best chance this year. / Neither Ireland nor Italy stands a chance this time around.
- ‘Each’ and ‘every’ are grammatically singular, so they take singular verbs: Every movie he’s made defies genres conventions. / Each of these glasses contains a different type of wine.
3. The use of apostrophes.
“The Spice Girl’s reunion album is finally happening!”
Wait a minute. If it’s only one girl, what reunion are we talking about?
To avoid making mistakes when using apostrophes, bear in mind that:
We use an apostrophe +’s’ (‘s) to show that a person or a thing possesses something or is a member of something.
But what happens when the subject of the phrase is more than one person?
To express that something belongs to a plural subject, place the apostrophe after the plural ‘s’, but add no extra letter.
The boys’s father brought a gift for every one of his children. ✘
The boys’ father brought a gift for every one of his children. ✓
However, if the subject of your sentence is a proper name that already ends in ‘s’, it is acceptable to have an additional ‘s’ after the apostrophe:
James’ idea to bring gifts to his children was celebrated by everyone. ✓
James’s idea to bring gifts to his children was celebrated by everyone. ✓
4. Using adjectives instead of verbs
Remember when I said it is completely normal to make mistakes? That even native speakers make them sometimes?
Well, if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is consider the slogan Steve Jobs introduced in 1997 at Macworld Expo, “Think different.”
The catchy marketing phrase, which reassured fans that Apple was exiting its mid-1990s dark age, is essentially a grammatical error: it has an adjective where there should be an adverb.
In English, we use adjectives to describe things — “a different thought”, and adverbs to describe actions: — “think differently”.
While using adjectives instead of adverbs can result in a casual tone that may be acceptable in some contexts, it can also make you sound uneducated
Here are two generally accepted but grammatically incorrect phrases that you should avoid using if you don’t want to infuriate English teachers:
It was a real nice day today.
I ran quick to the bus stop.
5. Misplacing modifiers
“I almost worked for the entire day.”
Oh, it happens to me all the time. I mean to get a lot of things done but then all I do is procrastinate.
What? Oh, that’s not what you meant at all? Oh, I see.
English, like all languages, has a lot of words that help us add subtle meanings and connotations to our sentences. These words, called modifiers, allow us to turn “a sound” into “an eerie sound”, or “a view” into “a spectacular view”. The problem is that some of these modifiers are harder to place. “Misplacing your modifiers” means that you are putting these words too far away from the verbs or subjects they are meant to be modifying, resulting in nonsense or confusion:
The little boy ate a cold bowl of cereal. ✘
The little boy ate a bowl of cold cereal. ✓
Rather than calling out native speakers on their mistakes, the aim of this article is to show you that making mistakes is an inherent part of using a language. In fact, most of the mistakes listed in this blog keep happening because they don’t affect the effectiveness of your communications.
However, if you’re preparing for a job interview, an exam, or you just need to perfect your writing skills, you should do your best to master these tricky aspects of English grammar.
At Language Trainers, we work with English tutors who are not only native speakers of the language, but also highly qualified and experienced teachers.
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