In one of our previous articles, we talked about grammar and spelling mistakes celebrities make on Twitter. These mistakes are visible to everyone and we can all criticize them.
While we may assume that some of these slip-ups are made on purpose (to draw attention), most are definitely a result of pure ignorance. However, even if you pay attention to the words you put out to the public, you may occasionally oversee a mistake.
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Ways to Learn English Online
This is why this post discusses 10 most common grammar mistakes almost everyone can make.
Yes, that includes you, as well! So, pay attention and learn.
1. Using “Whom”
“Who,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they” are all nominative pronouns, which are used in subject positions in a sentence or a clause. Along with “him,” “her,” “it”, “us,” and “them,” “whom” is an objective pronoun that appears in object positions. This is what determines their correct usage.
Practically, you should use “who” wherever it corresponds with subjective “he” or “she.” Similarly, it should be possible to see the correspondence of “whom” with “him” or “her” in object positions.
- Who is there? He is there.
- I saw her yesterday. Whom did you see?
2. Who / Which / That
We use “who” or “whom” when we are referring to persons; “which” should only be used to refer to animals or things, while “that” can be used in both cases. Bear in mind that there is a structural difference between the two – namely, we should never use a coma before “that,” while we must sometimes use it when separating a sentence with “which” or “who.”
If a clause adds information about a subject, we use a comma before “which” or “who”; if a clause identifies a subject, we don’t use a comma.
- John, who was here yesterday, won’t be back tomorrow.
- The boy who was here yesterday is my cousin.
- Maddy, which is my Mom’s cat, is not allowed on the couch.
- The cat which sat on the couch is a Persian.
- The house that stands on a mountain is unique.
3. May / Might?
The modal verb “may” should be used when there is less possibility that something will happen, as opposed to “might,” which implies much more uncertainty.
- “You may get hurt if you enter a lion’s cage in a zoo” implies a real possibility.
- “You might get there tomorrow if you manage to catch the bus tonight” implies less possibility.
4. Lay / Lie
This is where English spelling and usage get tough even for native speakers – distinguishing between “lay” (past: “laid”) – a transitive verb – and “lie” (past: “lay”), which is an intransitive verb. In a sentence, “lay” will always be used with an object, while “lie” doesn’t take any object.
- “Lay down your weapon,” the police officer shouted.
- The man laid down his gun and then the police arrested him.
- “You should lie down on the bed,” his mother advised.
- He lay on the bed until noon.
5. Using quotation marks
According to the US standard, quotation marks should always be put after and NOT before a period, comma or colon. Closing quotation marks should be put after a question mark, too, unless the whole sentence is a question.
- She asked, “Are you ok?”
- She replied, “Yes.”
6. There / their / they’re
“There” can specify a location or act as a sentence subject with an empty meaning.
“Their” is a possessive form of the pronoun “they.”
“They’re” is short for “they are.”
- There are two trees in the garden.
- The students took their bags.
- They’re going to the cinema tonight.
7. Affect / Effect
Though it shouldn’t be very difficult to distinguish between these two words, people often misuse them, probably because of their similar pronunciations. The major difference is in that “affect” is almost always a verb and “effect” is almost always a noun. The latter is a result of an action that is implied by the first.
“Affect” means to influence or cause:
- Internet use significantly affects students’ ability to use correct spelling.
“Affect” can in very rare cases be a noun but then it is a term of psychology and refers to a particular emotional state.
“Effect” is the outcome of a force that has been acting upon something.
- The effect of his speech was very positive.
The word effect can also be used as a verb but such usage is not very common and should be undertaken with care.
8. Its / It’s
This is another frequent mistake made by both native and non-native speakers of English. The distinction between the two is very simple: the form “its” represents a possessive of the pronoun “it” and “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.” The correct usage requires you only to think twice before actually writing down either of them.
- It’s sunny outside.
- The cat licked its paws.
9. Am I nauseous?
This pair of words has a very problematic usage. For some reason, many people think the word “nauseous” means to be sickened, whereas its true meaning is the ability to produce nausea in others. The correct equivalent for “being sickened” is actually nauseated.
- I was nauseated after eating a sandwich there.
- This week-old cookie must be nauseous.
10. Fewer and Less
“Less” is used with uncountable nouns. “Few” and “fewer” are both used to denote the quantity of countable items.
- It takes less courage to remain silent than to say the truth.
- Fewer than ten people were actually brave enough to tell the truth in that moment.
Most frequently Misspelled Words
English spelling rules are a constant source of trouble for almost every learner. Even native speakers tend to make mistakes when not paying attention to what they write. Here are the 35 most commonly misspelled words by both native and non-native speakers of English.
address: double d and double s
accommodate: double c, double m
allege: ends with ege
apparent: double p, e not a
biased: one s
business: remember the i
category: e not a
committee: double m, double t, double e
commemorate: double m, single m
controversy: use o after the t
Caribbean: one r, double b
definite: i before the t, not a
desiccate: one s, double c (the opposite to how it sounds)
desperate: use e after the p, not a
disappearance: a not e after the the r
disappointment: double p
embarrass: double r, a, double s
extraordinary: don’t forget to use both a and o
fluorescent: remember uo and sc
focused: one s
fulfill: both single l (unlike full and fill)
glamorous: or (not our, as with glamour)
government: remember to use the n
necessary: one c, double s
Mediterranean: one d, one t, double r, single n both times
millennium: double l, double n
obsess: one s, double s (unlike possess)
possess: double s, double s (unlike obsess)
precede: c not s (unlike supersede)
privilege: i, i, e, no d
recommend: one c, double m
separate: a (not e) after the p
skillful: single l
supersede: s not c (unlike precede)
withhold: spell with double h
If you found more than one example of your own mistakes, think about the words you use most often. Make sure you remember their correct spelling and then move on to mastering other complicated words and learning appropriate contexts for using them.
Remember: you must be aware of your own mistakes so you would be able to correct them.
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