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The English language has an abundance of confusing grammar rules. Whether you’ve been composing essays in college for months or just entering high school English courses, there are a handful of typical errors which can land you in a soup. Sometimes, even native speakers are prey to these! But don’t worry, because most common grammar mistakes have easy fixes.
As your editors and proofreaders, we understand the importance of correct grammar. So, it’s good for you to brush up on these details and ensure you’re clear about these rules. This way, you can showcase the best of your potential to your teachers and peers!
Listed below are the 10 most common grammar mistakes and tips to avoid them.
This is a simple but somehow incredibly common grammar mistake people make: mixing us “then” and “than”. (We get it, they sound the same and they’re almost spelled the same too.)
The best way to overcome this confusion is to be thoroughly clear about the difference in meaning between the two. “Then” is commonly used to designate the sequence of events. As in— you did x, then did y.
“Than” is used for comparing two things. As in, x is better than y.
This is a fairly common mistake that makes a world of difference! Again, it’s crucial to be aware of the difference between the two.
The word “you’re” is a shorter form of the phrase “you are”. This is known as a contraction.
“Your” is a possessive adjective (or a determiner), meaning a word that tells you something belongs to the person you are talking to.
There’s a simple tip to remember what to use when: read your sentence by replacing “your” or “you’re” with the phrase “you are”. If the sentence makes sense, then use “you’re”. If it doesn’t, then the word you’re looking for is “your”.
Using this technique, try to figure out how many of these sentences are correct. Tick the boxes with the correct sentences.
How many did you guess correctly? Let us know in the comments!
Just like you’re vs. your, this is a mistake that’s easy to make because all three words sound similar. What’s the fix? You guessed it—first, be clear about what each of these words means.
The word “there” indicates a location that is away from the speaker. It is the opposite of “here”.
We went to Spain last summer and had a lovely time there!
We are near the restaurant, we’ll meet you there.
The word “their” is the possessive version of the third-person pronoun “they”, used to indicate something that belongs to a subject that’s already been established.
Their grandfather is retiring next week.
The word “they’re” is a contraction of “they are”.
They’re studying for the geography exam.
Now that you know what each of these words means, see them all used in one sentence:
They’re working on their assignments there.
Can you identify how each word is used?
As far as common grammar mistakes go, this one is (unfornatunately) the most infamous. Sometimes even native speakers get this one wrong, so don’t worry if you’ve mixed these up a few times.
This notorious grammar error may seem minute, but it totally alters the meaning of what you’re saying. The difference between “it’s” and “its” is a matter of a simple apostrophe. Once you’ve figured out when and where to put it, you’ll be able to use both words with ease!
The word “its” (without an apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun, referring to objects and nouns that don’t have a gender. For example:
“It’s”, on the other hand, is the contracted form of “it is” or “it has”. Since it is a contraction, place an apostrophe after the “t”.
If you’re confused about whether you should use “its” or “it’s”, try the exercise from above. Say your sentence out loud using “it is”. If it makes sense, use the contraction. If it doesn’t, then you’re looking to use the possessive pronoun.
At a first glance, you may think that “fewer” and “less” can be used interchangeably since they, more or less, mean the same thing. But the key difference is the kind of nouns both words are used for.
“Fewer” is used for countable nouns, such as apples and books. “Less” (or lesser) is used while referring to uncountable nouns, such as time or water.
There are less books here than we thought.
There are fewer books here than we thought.
He usually takes fewer time than his classmates to finish class tests.
He usually takes less time than his classmates to finish class tests.
This is a common mistake found in college and high school essays. Both “i.e.” and “e.g.” are suitable abbreviations for the purpose of clarification. But contrary to popular belief, these terms should not be used interchangeably.
Generally i.e. and the clarification that follows ends a sentence. The e.g. abbreviation adds information whereas i.e. reinstates information. Here are some examples:
This is when you use the plural-form verb for a single-form noun or a single-form verb for a plural noun.
Verbs in the same clause should use the same tense when talking about a topic. Using different tenses can confuse the reader about the time frame covered by the action/s denoted in a sentence.
Wrong verb participle and present participle overuse are the two most common errors associated with the verb form.
British and American English may have different spellings for certain verb participles. For example, “learned” is used in the US, whereas both “learned” and “learnt” are accepted in the UK.
Generally, the present simple tense is used to discuss facts, habits, and the state or condition of something.
People often write incomplete sentences. Like this. And this. While sentence fragments are technically grammatically incorrect, they are acceptable in less formal situations (when you’re texting, writing them in dialogue, or when you’re writing blogs and other forms of conversational media). But do not use sentence fragments in academic or professional writing.
A sentence is considered fragmented when it misses a subject or a core figure of speech. Sometimes, phrases and clauses are considered sentence fragments.
Fragments often have an easy fix: you can either remove the unnecessary linking word (for example, “and”, as seen in the example above) or you’ll have to add the missing element (in the first example, which was missing a subject, we’ve added “I”).
We hope you’re now one step (or ten steps) closer to speaking and writing grammatically correct English. If you liked reading and learning about the 10 most common grammar mistakes, explore PaperTrue’s Resource Center for more ESL learning resources.
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