Verb Tense Errors


A common grammar mistake is known as a verb tense error. These errors occur when the wrong verb tense is used. The verb tense lets your reader know if the action in the sentence is taking place in the past, present, or future. Remember to always be consistent with verb tense, unless you have a valid reason to switch to a different tense.

Take a look at some examples of verb tense errors:

  • The dog chases the cat and the cat ran up the tree. Chases is a present tense verb. Ran is a past tense verb. Ran should be runs up the tree because both of these events are happening at the same time.
  • The moon will rise tonight after the sun went down. Will rise is a verb using future tense, but went is a verb using past tense. Because the moon is going to rise tonight, it is impossible for the sun to have already gone down.

Subject/Verb Agreement Errors

The subject of the sentence and the verb of the sentence has to agree. Remember that the subject is the person or thing that is doing the action, and the verb is the word that is representing the action. If they do not agree, you have incorrect grammar.

Take a look at the following subject and verb agreement errors:

  • The pizza are delicious. Pizza is singular, and are is plural. The sentence should read The pizza is delicious.
  • My friends and I eats at a restaurant. My friends and I are plural. Eats is singular. The sentence should read My friends and I eat at a restaurant.

Noun/Pronoun Errors

Pronouns sometimes substitute nouns that have already been mentioned in a sentence. The pronoun must always agree with the noun that it is replacing.

Here are some examples of noun/pronoun errors:

  • Rebecca put on their shoes. Rebecca is singular, and their is plural.The sentence should read Rebecca put on her shoes.
  • The children played with her toys. Children is plural, and her is singular. This should read The children played with their toys.

Double Negatives

Another type of incorrect grammar is double negatives in a sentence.

Take a look at some examples:

  • She doesn’t have no pets. Doesn’t and no are both negative words, which makes this sentence take on a meaning that was not said. The sentence as it is written suggests that she does have pets. This sentence should read She doesn’t have any pets.  
  • No one can’t make coffee the way I like it. No one and can’t are both negative words.

Sentence Fragments

A complete sentence must always have a subject and a verb. It also needs to express a complete thought. Otherwise, it is known as a sentence fragment.

Sentence fragments are incorrect grammar.

Here are some examples for you to look at:

  • The frisbee. This is a sentence fragment because it contains only the subject of the sentence. What happened to the frisbee?
  • Because of the stars. This is a sentence fragment because we do not know what the stars did or why.

Run-on Sentences

When two or more independent clauses (sentences that can stand on their own) are incorrectly joined together as one, this is known as a run-on sentence.

Here is an example:

  • We went to the restaurant we ate dinner. We went to the restaurant is an independent clause, as is we ate dinner. This sentence is incorrect because two independent clauses cannot be joined together without any punctuation.

In the above example, the run-on sentence could be fixed by adding a period or a semicolon.

Incorrect verb forms

It can be difficult for those learning how to speak English to use the correct verb form when combining with another verb. A few of the past participle forms include the auxiliaries has, have and had. The words do, does, and did are always used with infinitives. The only verb that can be used as both present and past participle forms is the primary auxiliary be (is, am, are, was and were).

Take a look at the following examples:

I am taking a nap.

  • I have taken a nap. (NOT I have taking a nap.)
  • Was I taking a nap? (NOT Was I taken a nap?)
  • Have you studied? (NOT Have you study?)

It is important to know what helping verbs are. They are a kind of verb that goes with auxiliaries.

It is also important to know what a gerund is. A gerund is a verb that is used as a noun, and it must always be in the –ing form.

Another type of verb that is often confused is active and passive forms.

  • Incorrect: I was tiring after my workout.
  • Correct: I was tired after my workout.
  • Incorrect: We was on a vacation.
  • Correct: We were on a vacation.
  • Incorrect: The book were suspenseful.
  • Correct: The book was suspenseful.

Mistakes like these are common because be (is, am, are, was and were) is used for both active continuous forms and passive verb forms.

  • We were swimming. (Active – past continuous)
  • We were famished. (Passive – past simple)

Passive verb forms and active perfect tenses are both made by past participles.

Look at these:

  • He was going. (Past continuous – active)
  • He was gone. (Simple past – passive)
  • He has gone. (Present perfect – active)

Sometimes the correct word is chosen, but an incorrect form of the word is used. This is known as word form errors.

Look at the following examples:

Incorrect: We drunk some water after swimming.
Correct: We drank some water after swimming.

There are eight groups of parts of speech in English depending on the function in a sentence. These groups are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles, and interjections.

Most words have different forms for the different parts of speech, but not all words have all forms. Furthermore, some words look the same for the different parts of speech.

Take a look at the table for some examples:



Corrected Examples:

Take a look at the following examples where the wrong part of speech is used.

Incorrect: Look at the different of the two horses.

Correct: Look at the difference between the two horses.

In this example, a word is used as a part of speech that does not exist.

Incorrect: She dramaticizes the ending of the book.

Correct: She dramatically talks about the ending of the book.

Take a look at the final example. The wrong noun form but the correct part of speech is used.

Incorrect: The teacher designation two of the children to be helpers.

Correct: The teacher designated two of the children to be helpers.


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