Guest Post: 10 Common Grammatical Errors and How to Avoid Them!

By Priyanka Misra

Not particular about your grammar? Using incorrect English can diminish your charm. Here is some help.

Your ideas are only as good as the words you use to express them. The more vivid and fluently you speak and write, the more chances that people perceive you as intelligent, charming, funny or persuasive. There are 10 mistakes that we see repeated, way too often. These mistakes can ruin your efforts and put you on the back foot.

Here is a list of 10 mistakes, and how to avoid them.

1. Use of Apostrophe S

Apostrophes can be really tricky if you are unfamiliar with their rules. Many people incorrectly use apostrophes to write plurals. Others mess them when they are talking about possession. Some might even mess it up with contractions. In other words, the apostrophe S is messed up in every way it can possibly be. Harsh on it, don’t you think?

The S is used after an apostrophe when denoting a singular possession, like a boy’s football. It is, however, used BEFORE the apostrophe, when used with a plural noun. For example, boys’ shoes. It is never used to make a word plural. You can also use it for contractions, like “it’s” for “it is.” But do not use apostrophes unnecessarily, like in this second mistake.

2. Your/You’re

This set of homophones is used incorrectly, too often. The former word is used to show possession whereas you’re is just a short hand for—you guessed it right—“you are.” Here are a few ways we see people mixing them up:

3. Fewer/Less

The only reason this mistake does not get caught as often is because many people cannot tell the difference. But you know it now. Fewer is used for things that are countable, like days or hours or apples. Less, on the other hand, is used for items that you cannot count individually like water, air. Here is how you ought to use them:

4. To/Too

Homophones are most prone to be mistaken. This fourth mistake is another set of homophones that is likely to be confused and incorrectly used, way TOO many times.

‘To’ is the infinitive form of a verb, like to eat or to sleep. It can also be used, sometimes, as a short form of towards. ‘Too,’ however, means also. It indicates the presence of something that exceeds expectations. Here is how to use them:

5. Then/Than

8 out of these top 10 mistakes in this article are homophones. That puts the confusion with homophones in the right perspective. Here is the next one.

Many people mix up then and than, unaware of the totally different context of words. Than is used exclusively for comparisons. Then, however, is used to indicate a time sequence. For example, “till then.”

6. There/They’re/Their

This set of homophones is so often mistaken, that even spell check confuses them. Here is how to correctly use them.

There is a reference to a place which is away, much like the opposite of here. There is also used to state a fact, like “There is too much pollution in New Delhi.” Their reflects possession of a thing: something that belongs to “them.” They’re is a shorthand for “they are.”

7. Who/Whom

One who makes a mistakes is the one with whom you can discuss the point. Get the difference?

Whom refers to the object of a verb or preposition, whereas Who refers to the subject of a sentence. If you are confused between who and whom, try to check whether he or him would fit in the sentence. Use “who” for “he” and “whom” for “him.”

8. Effect/Affect

Despite a very subtle difference, using these words interchangeably can put you in bad situations. Put simply, one is a verb and the other is a noun. Affect, the verb, means to influence or have an impact on something. Effect, the noun, is the result of being AFFECTED by something.

9. Me/Myself/I

Beatles once used the triplets pretty well in “I Me Mine.” Oh, they did not use myself? Never mind, it is always a good time to listen to a Beatles number.

I is used when referring to a person performing the action in the verb. Me is used when the person is being acted upon (funny, right?), or to whom a preposition refers. Myself is used only if you have used I as the subject of the verb. Take a look at the examples:

10. E.g./I.e.

Exempli Gratia, id est tough, isn’t it? That is the reason why we use abbreviated forms, e.g. and id est (i.e.). Id est means “that is.” It is used to further explain something. Consider it similar to saying “in other words.”

Exempli Gratia (e.g.) is an abbreviation of “for example.” It is used to provide instances or examples of a particular type. Here is how to use them:

Which ones have you seen mixed up? Have you mixed up some of them yourself? Share it with us in comments, and let us laugh them off. This way, both of us will learn something new today.

Priyanka Misra is the Managing Editor at EnglishEdge.

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