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6 of the Most Common - and Easily Fixable- Grammar Errors

Updated on December 17, 2015

Good grammar - Is it really that big a deal?

Making basic grammar mistakes has a significant impact on the way people are perceived, both personally and professionally. A recent Huffington Post article reports that having good grammar skills could be a major factor in whether people receive promotions .Many businesses are investing in training so that their employees can professionalize their written communication, including grammar More and more, people on online dating sites are rejecting potential partners who can't spell or use good grammar. The success of book Books like I Judge You When YouUse Poor Grammar reflect our awareness that using good grammar is important.


Now what?

So how do we use good grammar? First, we identify the most common mistakes - and learn how not to make them.

They may seem small, but they have a significant impact on how you as a writer and a speaker are perceived.

The good news? These common mistakes are easily explained - and even easier to learn to avoid.

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1. Your vs You're

The important thing to remember here is why you're using the word. "Your" is a possessive pronoun in the same category as my, his, her, our, and their. You always use it with a noun. "Is this your book?" "Your chin has some ketchup on it." "Your" always has an object that it refers to.

"You're," on the other hand, is a contraction for "You are" - that's what the apostrophe is for. You would never say "This is you are taser," would you? However, you would say,"You are a monster," or "You're a monster!" if you are speaking quickly and need a contraction to ensure a quick getaway.

So there you have it- "your" is a possessive and always needs a noun. "You're" is a contraction and stands for "You are." Now that you have your facts straight, you're less likely to make a mistake.

You might be single for quite  a while with that t-shirt.
You might be single for quite a while with that t-shirt. | Source

2. Its vs It's

This is a very similar situation to the abovementioned your/you're confusion. "Its" is a possessive pronoun, so there is no apostrophe needed. You will always use it with a noun to describe something that cannot be described as "he" or "she" or an object. "I see a cat- I don't know if it's male or female, but its fur is very long." "I really love her car. Its interior still has that new car smell."

On the other hand, "it's" is a contraction of "it is." "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," for example.

So there you have it. "Its" is a possessive and will always refer to a noun. "It's" is a contracted form of "it is."

It's not that difficult, is it?

Nobody's perfect.
Nobody's perfect. | Source

3. Me, Myself, and I

Okay, this one is a little tougher. It's a mistake you really want to avoid making, though. First, "me" and "I." At a staff meeting, my manager urged us to "Talk to Nick or I if you have any questions." I couldn't help judging her a little. This is the mistake people who want to sound intelligent usually make, which has the opposite effect on those who know the difference.

The key? "I" is used as a subject pronoun; "me" is used as an object pronoun.

Use "I" any time you would put a subject in a sentence. Would you say "Me went to the store for some retail therapy?" No, you would use "I." Would you say, " Talk to I if you have any questions" Me hope not. Even if you have more than one object, you still use "me," even if you think "I" sounds better. If you're not sure, take the first subject out of the sentence and see if "I" makes sense. "My friend and I hatched a cunning plan." Take the first subject out. Does "I hatched a cunning plan" make sense? Then you're using "I" correctly.

"Myself" makes it a little trickier." Myself" is a reflexive pronoun, which means you only use it when you've also referred to yourself earlier. "I could have kicked myself," is a good example of this use. Do not use it in place of "me" as a subject. "My friend and myself are completely fed up," is not correct. What would you use in that case- "me" or "I"? That's right - "I" is correct because it's the subject of the sentence. Well done.

"Are you talkin' to I?"
"Are you talkin' to I?"

4. Then vs Than

This is often more of a spelling mistake than a grammar one. Just remember to use "then" when you're talking about time or sequence of events. For example, "We had a slice of cake, and then we sampled a piece of pie." One event happened, and then the next event occurred.

"Than" is used when you are making a comparison. "That grammar point is much harder than the first one."


5. Apostrophe or no apostrophe? Soup's or soups?

This is a mistake seen on restaurant menus and signs everywhere. The main point to remember is that if a noun is plural, it doesn't need an apostrophe. "We had a wide selection of soups, main dishes, and desserts to choose from."

If you use an apostrophe, you might be showing possession: "That soup's spices are puzzling." "That dog's bark is not worse than his bite."

You may also be showing a contraction of the noun and "is." For example, "Soup's on!" is a shortened version of "Soup is on!"

The meaning is pretty easy to figure out in context.

There is never a reason to use an apostrophe with a plural noun. "I would like two soup's and two salad's," makes no sense. Two soup's what? Two salads is what?

Once you get this, you are going to chuckle or shake your head at a lot more signage around you.


6. Subject/verb Agreement

This is a mistake that is harder to correct when you're speaking but should never be allowed when writing.

Make sure you have a singular verb with a singular noun. Use a plural verb with a plural noun.

It may seem counterintuitive, but most plural subjects don't have verbs with "s." Singular subjects, on the other hand, always have some form of "s."

"They play with their food," but "He plays with his food." "We watch a lot of TV," but "She watches a lot of TV."

You may find a few tricky situations; the solution is to decide if the subject is singular or plural.

"A promotion and a date are possible with good grammar."
Remember that if you have two subjects with and, this is the same as "they" and should be considered plural.

"A promotion or a date is possible with good grammar."
If you have two subjects with or, they should each be considered a single noun, and your verb should be singular.

"Each of the dresses is/are a different price." Singular or plural? Each is singular ("Each one of the dresses"), so the verb should be singular (is).

Similar to each is one. "One of the movies is playing now."

Don't be fooled by a singular noun that ends in 's.'
"All the news is bad. \"
"Politics is not a profession for the faint-hearted."

If you have a phrase referring to time, money, or weight, it takes a singular form.

"300 dollars is too much to pay for a shirt."
"20 years is a long time to spend in prison."
"50 pounds is a significant amount of weight to lose."

Remember to decide whether the subject is singular or plural, and then make sure the verb agrees with it.


You're ready to go

There you have it - the six most common errors and how to avoid making them. It may take a little time, but using the correct forms will not only improve you're -oops- your grammar, it may even land you a promotion- or a date.

If you need a quick reference, Grammar Girl's website with its "quick and dirty tips" will keep you -and your grammar- honest.

Take two - how's your grammar now?

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    • ghalkett profile imageAUTHOR

      Genevieve Halkett 

      3 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

      Ha ha! Thanks! It takes a while, but when you get it, you've got it.

      And thanks for welcoming me to the hub.

    • TheHoleStory profile image


      3 years ago from Parsons, West Virginia

      Great informative hub, however I only scored 50% on the quiz. I think I'll try again after I brush up on my grammar.


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