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Proper Grammar and Spelling - A Simple Guide for Commonly Misused Words and How To Correct Your Grammar

Updated on March 9, 2013

Individuals from all walks of life make spelling and grammar mistakes. You can find them in advertisements, web pages, chat rooms, and even educational papers. Once you know what mistakes are, you will start to see them everywhere. Many people simply don't know the proper use or spelling of certain commonly used words. Particularly if nobody points out the mistakes, they tend to continue.

This guide will explain how some commonly misused or misspelled words should be used. It is guide meant to cover common errors and describe them in a simplified form.


Your and You're


Your: Used when describing something belonging to someone, or something that someone is in possession of.

- "I love your dress."
- "I want to ask for your advice."
- "Your mother called here for you."

You're: Is a contraction for "you are."

- "You're too funny."
- "I'll go if you're going."
- "Every time I come here, you're here too."

Hint: When you write a sentence using the words your or you're, try to say it out to yourself and ask if it can be said "you are." If so, the you're spelling is correct.


Then and Than


Then: Used when describing a time, a past time, future time, or order/sequence of time.

- "Then there were none."
- "First we'll make dinner, then we'll have coffee."
- "Things were so much better back then."

Than: Used when making comparisons.

- "I'm older than your mother."
- "Gold costs more than silver."

hint: when using the words then or than, ask yourself what you are trying to say. Are you giving a comparison such as "The color___ is darker than ___?" Or are you describing a point in time such as "Mary was much chubbier back then?"

Examples of tricky sentences:

"I'd rather walk than run." = The person is saying they would prefer one option over another.
"I'd rather walk, then run." = The person is saying they would rather do one activity followed by another.


We're, Were, and Where


We're: Is a contraction of "we are."

- "We're going to have so much fun."
- "They don't know we're coming."
- "Tell them we're leaving."

Were: Used to indicate or reference a past event or situation.

- "There were seven children playing."
- "Were there any survivors?"
- "We were much braver than they were."

Where: Is describing a location or point in time.

- "Where have you been all my life?"
- "I don't know where he is."
- "This is the point where I say goodbye."

Hint: The "we're" and "were" spelling are the most commonly confused out of these three words. When using one of these three words, first ask yourself if you are describing a location or point in time. If so, use the spelling "where." If not, ask yourself if the word you are using can also be said as "we are." If so, use the word "we're." If not, use the word "were."


They're, Their, and There


They're: Is a contraction for "they are."

- "They're coming for us."
- "Do you know if they're bringing snacks?"
- "I wonder what they're doing."

Their: Used when describing something that is possessed by "they," or something belonging to another person or thing.

- "Their car is on fire."
- "I love their new home."
- "We are going to their game on Friday."

There: Used when referring to being in or at a certain place or point, or used as a verb when introducing a sentence.

- "There was once a restaurant there."
- "I wonder if there will be food."
- "My sister went there once."

Hint: When writing a sentence using one of these words, ask yourself if the word can also be said as "they are." If so, use the word "they're." If not, ask yourself if you're referring to a place, point in time, or introducing a sentence as a verb such as "there he goes again." If so, use the word "there."

Can you see how all three words may be used in one sentence?
"They're going to be upset when they see that their car is no longer there."


Its and It's


Its: Used when describing something that is belonging to or possessed by.

- "It glared at us with its eyes."
- "The mother bear was with its cubs."
- "The house looks great with its new paint."

It's: Is a contraction of "it is."

- "It's going to be beautiful outside."
- "I wonder if it's going to rain."
- "I don't know for sure if it's the meal I want to choose."

Hint: When using the word its or it's, ask yourself if you are able to say the sentence with "it is." If so, use the it's spelling.


Effect and Affect


Effect: Used when referring to the result of something, something that was produced from a cause, the power to produce a cause, an intention.

- "The play had a profound effect on my life."
- "The wilted plants are an effect of the sun and lack of rain."
- "The effect from the coffee is that she is hyper."

Affect: Used when referring to a feeling or an emotion, something that influences something, or something that evokes a response.

- "The rain will surely affect the crops."
- "The humidity will affect my hair."
- "The coffee will affect her sleep."

Hint: Affect is usually used as a verb and effect is usually used as a noun. You can kind of think of them as cause and effect with "affect" being the cause. Very rarely will effect be used as a verb or affect as a noun.

Could of, Should of, Would of/Could Have, Should Have, Would Have


Could of, Should of, and Would of are commonly misused terms that are typically used in replacement of the correct terms Could Have, Should Have, and Would Have.

This is probably due to the ways in which these terms are usually spoken. When "have" is spoken in sentences, it can sound similar to saying "of."

Examples:

Incorrect: "I could of done it if she wasn't watching me."
Correct: "I could have done it if she wasn't watching me."

Incorrect: "He should of done it when he had the chance."
Correct: "He should have done it when he had the chance."

Incorrect: "They would of done better if it wasn't raining."
Correct: "They would have done better if it wasn't raining."


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    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      nmdonders. This is very useful advice for those of us who may be grammatically challenged. Everyone on HubPages should read this. Voting up and sharing. Great job.

    • nmdonders profile image
      Author

      nmdonders 4 years ago

      Thank you. I hope it can help a few people out. I appreciate your comment.

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great advice, also voting up and sharing. Another good one to add is "its" and "it's".

      Its is possessive, showing ownership. It's is a contraction of it is.

      The fever will have to run its course.

      It's going to rain today.

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 4 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Thank you nmdonders. This hub is bookmarked. God Bless you for sharing.

      I can see how spelling properly makes a big difference in the content of the sentence. WOW Up!!! I am honored to meet you and know you.

    • nmdonders profile image
      Author

      nmdonders 4 years ago

      I've added the "it's" and "its" descriptions as per your advice. Thank you :) I would love to hear any other suggestions as to what could be added to the list. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Two quick ones, the first should be obvious, whether and weather and maybe the second less obvious, me and I.

      Whether or not your carry an umbrella depends on the weather outside.

      Bob and I (not me) are going to the movies. (alone would be: I am going to the movies, not me am going to the movies).

      Give the tickets to Bob and me (not I). (alone would be: give the tickets to me not give the tickets to I).

      The rule is: if used alone, I or me, which would sound correct? Use that with more than one person.

      (Me hopes that makes sense :-)).

    • mattdigiulio profile image

      mattdigiulio 4 years ago

      nmdonders, I'm a total grammar dork, I'm voting this up. Thanks for the great tips here!

    • yoginijoy profile image

      yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Great idea for a hub! I'd love to see more on the same topic! With twitter and texting I think folks have lost the ability to spell! Voting up, useful and awesome!

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

      I am sharing this hub because I thought it was very useful and I will come back to this hub again when I need to.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 4 years ago from Florida

      nice job..sometimes when people write, the brain moves faster than the fingers and vice versa...thanks for noting the differences...

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 4 years ago from Thailand

      This will be very useful for EFL learners. However, I am sure that we're all guilty of a few mistakes on these lol

      Shared, up and useful.

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Wow the English language is challenging! I'm glad I have had most of these memorized since I was young, but then and than give me a bit of trouble sometimes. Good hub!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Love this article. It is a pet peeve of mine when I read something that I make sure that many of these words that you talked of are used in the proper English context. I hate seeing improper English when reading and try so hard when I am writing to make sure to use words in their proper context. Thank you for this and will be sharing and voting up.

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 4 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      Exactly you said the right thing... Even in my comments you can see misspelling words... Thank you for sharing this...

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      How about considering adding "can" and "may".

      Can: I am able to do something I may or may not be allowed to do.

      May: I have permission to do something I have the ability to do or don't have the abilility to do.

      Can I ride the bike? (Do I know how to ride a bike)

      May I ride the bike? (May I have permission to ride the bike).

    • zsobig profile image

      Sophie 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      English language can be challenging at times, this is a great hub to memorise all these words. Thanks for sharing, voted up!

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      Excellent review. I like the choice of words that you used as well as the examples you provided. Good grammatical and writing skills are essential if you want to become a good writer. I agree with Janine. Another pet peeve of mine is when I hear someone using the verb went instead of gone. The use of these irregular verbs are often misused even by those people who speak perfect English.

    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 4 years ago from Bangladesh

      Very nice written. Examples are excellent. I think this hub is very helpful for the learner who are learning English grammar like me.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      This is a well laid out reference. Voted up and useful.

    • littlemarkiesmom profile image

      littlemarkiesmom 4 years ago from The hot, humid South

      Great hub! I was just talking about this earlier today. I know I'm a little OCD, but it's such a pet peeve of mine. ;)

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

      Lots of great tips in this hub....the worst part of writing hubs is trying to make sure you do not make any really bad mistakis....lol.....This hub should help out many of us that need more grammar and spelling lessons. I need one on run on sentences and when to use , or : or ;....that is what I stumble on all the time. Voted up and useful.

    • ellenmatis profile image

      ellenmatis 4 years ago

      Ah, a hub that everyone should read.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      Good advice on its and it's. That's the one I always mess up!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great advice - these are some common mistakes, thank you - voting up/useful

    • profile image

      New Newbie 4 years ago

      I havnt written much more than grocery list for many years WOW did my spelling suffer. This is good refresher info.

      ...useful and interesting

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 4 years ago from A small southern town

      Timeless advice and guidelines...........

      While some of us may have it mastered, there is always a new generation of learners.

      Well written and useful.

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