Common Grammar Mistakes … And How to Avoid Them

Millie Slavidou

Millie is a British writer and translator living and working in Greece. She writes about etymology on Jump! Mag and has published fiction for kids with Jump! Books

If you spend any time at all on internet forums or various social media outlets, by now you will probably have seen people criticizing each other for their use of grammar. Sometimes you are left wondering what the problem is!

There are some very common grammar mistakes, and avoiding them will make communication easier and help to keep your blood pressure down as people won’t be annoying you by criticizing your grammar!

This is an extract from our book on Grammar for Parents and Teachers, available to download here.

 

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The internet abounds with people telling you how much they hate the would of / could of confusion, with reactions ranging from grinding teeth to suggesting capital punishment for those that make this mistake! So naturally it comes first on our list.

Where does this confusion come from? You may think that people are saying ‘would of’, but it is actually a contraction of have. What you hear is:

would’ve     could’ve 

would have     could have 

If I’d been there I would of bought the bag. 🙁
If I’d been there I would have bought the bag. 🙂

You could of done it if you’d tried harder. 🙁
You could have done it if you’d tried harder. 🙂

 

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Another favourite for grammar pedants to pick out is when people confuse these three words. They may all sound the same in speech (although in some dialects they may be pronounced differently), but the meaning is not the same.

THEIR is a possessive and means “belonging to them”

They all put their coats on.
Their books were all on the desks.

THERE is an adverb, commonly used to mean “in that place”

The cat is over there.
I went to London and saw a play at the theatre there.

THEY’RE is a contraction of ‘they are’

The children have run off and I don’t know where they’re going!
They’re increasing the tax on oil.

 

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This one is an old favourite for grammar pedants to comment on: the difference between you’re and your.

YOU’RE  is a contraction of you are.

Hurry up Lucy! You’re late for school!
You’re wearing a smart hat today.

YOUR  is a possessive, and it means ‘belonging to you’.

Have you got your coat?
This is your book.

 

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Still on the subject of confusing similar sounding words, we have affect and effect. They are really quite different, and once that difference is made clear, you may find it easier to keep them separate in your mind.

AFFECT  is a verb. It largely means ‘make a difference to’ or ‘influence’.

The sunshine really affects my mood and I feel so much happier.
The company was badly affected by the recession and went bankrupt.

EFFECT  is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it means ‘result’, ‘consequence’ or ‘change’.

Smoking has had an effect on my health.
The speech had an effect on increasing attendance.

As a verb EFFECT means ‘bring about’, ‘cause’.

It is very difficult to effect change in people’s attitudes.
Politicians effect policy changes.

 

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These next words may sound slightly similar, which is why people confuse them, but in fact they are pronounced differently.

LOOSE is pronounced ‘loos’. It is an adjective and a verb. As an adjective, it means ‘not tight’ or ‘relaxed’

She was wearing a loose dress.
The rules are quite loose, really. No one takes them seriously.

As a verb LOOSE means ‘set free’ or ‘release’.

Rachel loosed the dog from its chain so that it could run about.
Robin Hood loosed an arrow and it flew through the sky.

LOSE  is pronounced ‘looz’. It is a verb, meaning ‘no longer have’ or ‘be unable to find’, or ‘not win’.

Sally loses her car keys all the time.
Johnny will lose his job if he is not careful.
My children don’t like to lose the game.

 

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We have already talked about this one in detail in the section on apostrophes. Just a quick reminder: it is just like the other examples mentioned here regarding possessives and contractions.

IT’S is a contraction and means it is or it has.

What a lovely day; it’s so sunny!
See that train? It’s got six carriages.

ITS is a possessive and means ‘belonging to it’

Never judge a book by its cover.
The dog’s name was written on its collar.

 

If you are unsure whether to use an apostrophe, try replacing ‘it’s’ with ‘it is’. If the sentence still makes sense, then you need an apostrophe!

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Another set of old favourites!

TOO means ‘also’ or ‘as well’ OR ‘a very large number’, ‘more than necessary’

Do you like ice-cream? I do too.
The children ate too many sweets.

TWO is the number 2.

I saw two people.
There were two choices facing me.

TO is a preposition and has many uses.

There far too many for us to describe in detail. If the word you want to use fits into one of the previous two categories, then use too or two. Here are a few examples of to:

I gave the book to Mary.
I walked to the school.
Harry said it to Mike.
I don’t know what to eat!
There’s nowhere else to go.

 

If you would like to brush up on your grammar or help your child with their homework, download our eBook Grammar for Parents and Teachers here. Check out our reviews:

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Featured Image by Luis Llerena/Unsplash

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