Common English Grammar Mistakes

Let’s face it. The English language isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to writing things down. If you are struggling to learn English, here’s a quick look at the top English grammar mistakes. Each mistake includes an explanation of why it is wrong, along with examples of the mistake and the corrected response.

Subject-Verb Agreement

There are many different rules for how verb needs to be written based on the subject. The main thing to look at is if the subject is singular or plural, or if it contains a combination of subjects. The most basic rule is if there is a singular subject(Tim, cat, he) needs a singular verb(is, goes, walks), while a plural subject (they, dogs, we) needs a plural verb(are, go, walk). There are other rules, but knowing this basic one while help.

Incorrect: The recipes is good for new cooks.
Correct: The recipes are good for new cooks.
Incorrect: Matt are walking down the road.
Correct: Matt is walking down the road.
Incorrect: They works at the bakery.
Correct: They work at the bakery.
Incorrect: We will helps our mother.
Correct: We will help our mother.

Incorrect Word Usage

Using the wrong word in a sentence is mainly due to how words in English can sound different than they are written. Even for native English speakers this is a common mistake. Since there are hundreds of commonly confused words it is best to check the definition and correct spelling of the word when in doubt.

Incorrect: What is the affect of her being late?
Correct: What is the effect of her being late?
Incorrect: He held his breathe for one minute.
Correct: He held his breath for one minute.

Sentence Fragments

Fragments are sentences that are incomplete since they do not have an independent clause. it is easy to spot a fragment since it might be lacking a subject, a full verb, or even both. These will usually appear after the independent clause that they are describing.

Incorrect: We rode in the car. The top was down.
Correct: We rode in the car with the top down.
Incorrect: From Monday to Thursday.
Correct: Jack worked from Monday to Thursday.

Missing A Common In Compound Sentences

It is necessary to use a comma to separate two or more independent clauses in compound sentences that are separated by conjunctions. The comma is placed between the first clause, and the coordinating conjunction separating the clauses. There can be multiple clauses where more than one comma is necessary.

Incorrect: Tim swam in the morning and walked back home before his wife cooked breakfast.
Correct: Tim swam in the morning, and walked back home before his wife cooked breakfast.
Incorrect: He was strong and he was handsome but was grumpy at times.
Correct: He was strong, and he was handsome but was grumpy at times.

Incorrect Usage of Homophones

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning. The following are the most commonly misused homophones.

1. There/They’re/Their

To understand the correct usage of these three words, you must know the correct definition. There, an adverb, means “at or in that place.” They’re is a contraction of the words they and are. Their is simply the possessive case of they.

Incorrect: Pam sat the chair over their.
Correct: Pam sat the chair over there.
Incorrect: There going to the store.
Correct: Their cat is black.

2. It’s/Its

Another homophone, it’s is a contraction of it is, while its is the possessive form of the pronoun it.

Incorrect: Its time for bed.
Correct: It’s time for bed.
Incorrect: Every dog has it’s day.
Correct: Every dog has its day.

3. You’re/Your

You’re is a contraction for you are, while your is a possessive adjective used to modify a noun. Another way to distinguish them is by remembering you’re is actually being something, while your is owning something.

Incorrect: Your a fast runner.
Correct: You’re a fast runner.
Incorrect: How are you doing on you’re diet?
Correct:How are you doing on your diet?

4.To/Too/Two

This is another commonly confused homophone. To best understand the correct usage, you have to know their meaning. To means “towards” or is used in the infinitive form of a verb, “to walk.” Too means “as well” or “also.” Two means the number 2.

Incorrect: Jane is going too the store.
Correct: Jane is going to the store.
Incorrect: Alex wants some cake two
Correct: Alex wants some cake too.
Incorrect: She is to years old.
Correct: She is two years old.

Misplaced Apostrophes

Common Mistakes Grammar Misplaced Apostrophes

Putting apostrophes in the wrong place is a very common English grammar mistake. To make things easier, follow these simple rules.

    • Be aware that an apostrophe is used to show possession. Where it is placed is determined by the number of owners.
    • If there is only one owner, the apostrophe goes in front of the “s.”
    • For two or more owners, it goes behind the “s.”

Incorrect: The girls’ jacket is missing. (meaning one girl)
Correct: The girl’s jacket is missing. (meaning one girl)
Incorrect: The girl’s horse is brown. (meaning two girls)
Correct: The girls’ horse is brown. (meaning two girls)

Incorrect: The dogs’ bowl is outside. (You are showing that the one dog has a bowl)
Correct: The dog’s bowl is outside. (You are showing that one dog has a bowl)
Incorrect: The dog’s collars are in the house. (You are showing that one dog has a collar)
Correct: The dogs’ collars are in the house. (You are showing that more than one dog has a collar)

Using Then/Than

“Then” and “than” both look and sound similar, which often leads people to use them incorrectly. Then is used to indicate something follows something else, such as when planning a schedule or giving instructions. Than is used to compare something.

Incorrect: She is better at math then him.
Correct: She is better at math than him.
Incorrect: We’ll go to the store, than the bakery.
Correct: We’ll go to the store, then the bakery.
Incorrect: There were more sandwiches then plates.
Correct: There were more sandwiches than plates.

Who vs. That

Both who and that are used to describe someone or something in a phrase. Who should be used when describing a person. That is used when describing a thing.

Incorrect: Kate is the girl that likes cake.
Correct: Kate is the girl who likes cake.
Incorrect: Her phone is the one who overheats a lot.
Correct: Her phone is the one that overheats a lot.

Pronoun Errors

The first pronoun error occurs when pronouns do not agree with the number of nouns they are referring to. If the noun is plural, the pronoun must be plural. If the noun is singular, the pronoun must also be singular.

Incorrect: Alice must bring their own lunch.
Correct: Alice must bring her own lunch.
A second pronoun error occurs when it is hard to understand what or to whom the pronoun is referring to. This can happen when the sentence is fairly complex.

Incorrect: When Jenny finally rescued her cat from the tree she was so happy.(Who is happy Jenny or the cat?)
Correct: Jenny was so happy when she finally rescued her cat from the tree.
Incorrect: Unplug the computer charger, take out the battery, turn off the computer, and fix it. (Fix the charger, the battery, or the computer?)
Correct: Fix the computer after you turn it off, unplug the computer charger, and take out the battery.

Incorrect Prepositions

Common English Grammar Mistakes For ESL Students Incorrect Prepositions

Prepositions are small phrases, such as to, for, in, and on, that create lots of problems for anyone learning grammar. The best way to learn to use them properly is by doing as many worksheets and quizzes as possible.
Incorrect: What did Mary do at class today?
Correct: What did Mary do in class today?
Incorrect: Matt walked to school at the morning time.
Correct: Matt walked to school in the morning time.

Me vs. I

To best understand how to refer to yourself in a sentence, you should learn the following rules.

    • If referring to yourself and someone else, their name should always go first.
    • When trying to decide whether to use me or I, remove the other person’s name and decide which one sounds right.

Incorrect: Me and Gus are going to school.
Correct: Gus and I are going to school.
Incorrect: Give the papers to John and I.
Correct: Give the papers to John and me.

How Can I Fix These Common English Language Problems?

Immerse yourself in English through videos, songs, reading and practice speaking whenever you can. You also need to think in English! When you wake up in the morning start off the day by naming things you see in English in your thoughts. Plan out your day by thinking about what you will do in English. Change your inner voice to English instead of your native language. As your English improves teach others English who are at a lower level than you. Do not worry if you are not a perfect teacher. As you teach, it improves your abilities and most people like free English lessons. A true win-win situation.

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