If you want to use the English language well, you must learn to avoid common grammar mistakes. The following grammar examples can help.
The English language is full of potential errors, from putting the apostrophe in the wrong place to not capitalizing words that need a capital letter, like proper nouns. Learning how to spot poor grammar examples, and fix them, is critical to being a skilled user of the English language.
Here are ten common errors found in English, with examples of what you need to do to fix them. Study these examples so that you can avoid these errors in your writing.
$30 per month
$79 per year
$20 per month
1. Errors with Verb Tense
When writing in English, you need to use the correct verb tense and keep that tense consistent in the sentence and usually in the entire paragraph or story. Changing between verb tenses confuses the reader. For example:
- She will go to the store, and she bought a dress.
In this sentence, “will go” is future tense, while “bought” is past tense. Is she going to the store later, but she has already bought a dress? This structure is confusing.
Instead, keep the verb tenses consistent:
- She will go to the store, and she will buy a dress.
- She went to the store, and she bought a dress.
2. Double Negatives
If you’re writing a sentence with a negative statement, you only need to say the negative statement one time. Saying it twice cancels it out, and this is a grammatical error.
Here are several examples of double negatives:
- I do not want no seconds.
- She won’t do nothing about it.
- They couldn’t hardly believe their ears.
The words “not,” “no,” “couldn’t,” “won’t,” “nothing,” and “hardly” all have negative meanings, so saying it twice means the opposite of the intended meaning. Instead, say:
- I do not want any seconds.
- She won’t do something about it.
- They could hardly believe their ears.
3. Subject-Verb Agreement Errors
When writing, you must have a subject and a predicate or verb, and they must agree in number. A plural subject needs a plural verb, and a singular subject needs a singular verb. This error often happens when the subject and verb have a prepositional phrase dividing them, and the prepositional phrase contains singular or plural nouns that do not agree with the subject.
- My desire in all seasons are to be true to myself.
In this sentence, the subject is “desire,” which is singular. However, the word “seasons” is plural, so you might instinctively use the plural verb “are.” Instead, it should read:
- My desire in all seasons is to be true to myself.
Here is another example:
- John and Sarah is planning a birthday party.
John and Sarah is a plural subject, so this should read:
- John and Sarah are planning a birthday party.
If the subject contains the conjunction “or” or “nor,” then the subject-verb agreement follows the number of the subject closest to the verb. For example:
- John or Sarah is planning a birthday party.
In this case, the singular verb is correct because Sarah is singular, and John or Sarah uses “or” as the conjunction.
4. Pronoun-Antecedent Errors
Pronouns are replacements for nouns, and they must agree with the noun they replace (antecedent) in number and when working with singular pronouns or gender.
For example, if you read:
- The girl gave the Mother’s Day card to his mom.
And you know that “his” refers to “The girl,” then you have a pronoun-antecedent error. This should read:
- The girl gave the Mother’s Day card to her mom.
This error is obvious, but sometimes with number agreement, the issue is less obvious, especially if gender is unknown. For instance, you might say:
- The child gave the Mother’s Day card to their mom.
Since we don’t know the gender of the child, this sounds right. However, it’s not. Instead, say:
- The child gave the Mother’s Day card to his or her mom.
This sounds awkward, but it’s correct English grammar, even if you would not use it in all instances. If possible, avoid the “his or her” construction by knowing the gender of the individual and using the correct personal pronoun.
5. Run-On Sentences
Run-on sentences occur when you take two independent clauses, which function as complete sentences, and combine them without a comma/coordinating conjunction, semicolon, or subordinating conjunction. For example:
- John drove too fast the cop pulled him over.
Though this might sound ok, it should have some division between the sentences “John drove too fast” and “The cop pulled him over.” You can do this in several ways, including:
- John drove too fast, so the cop pulled him over.
- John drove too fast; the cop pulled him over.
- John drove too fast until the cop pulled him over.
6. Dangling Modifiers
A dangling modifier occurs when you have an adjective or adverb phrase that is not clearly connected to another word in the sentence. For example:
- While driving to our vacation, a car accident was witnessed on the other side of the road.
While you can guess that the passengers witnessed the car accident, it’s not clear in the sentence. Grammar rules state it should be, so you should have written:
- While driving to our vacation, we witnessed a car accident on the other side of the road.
7. Passive Voice
Passive voice is a sentence construction that occurs when you state the subject of the sentence receives the action of the verb. For example:
- The candle was lit before John carried in the cake.
While this is technically not wrong, it’s not ideal writing, either. Active voice places “candle” as the direct object and tells you who did the action, as in:
- John lit the candle before carrying in the cake.
8. Split Infinitives
An infinitive is a verb construction that uses “to” with the present tense of the verb. A split infinitive occurs when you place an adverb in between these two words. For example:
- They decided to instantly stop the diet.
The inclusion of the adverb breaks up the infinitive, and it is better written:
- They decided to stop the diet instantly.
Split infinitives are common in spoken English, making them more challenging to spot.
9. Ending a Sentence with a Preposition
Prepositions start prepositional phrases. They require an object of the preposition and thus should not end a sentence. For example:
- They found someone to give the money to.
Though this sounds good based on spoken English, it is incorrect. You could, instead, say:
- They found someone to whom they could give the money.
Though this sounds more awkward, it’s more grammatically correct.
10. Using the Wrong Article
Articles, including “a,” “an,” and “the,” have grammar rules. “A” and “an” are indefinite articles. They should show up when you refer to something for the first time or if referring to the member of a group. “The” is the definite article. Use it in instances when you’re talking about something that has a known identity. For example:
- I finally have the good job.
There is no single good job out there, so “the” is incorrect here. Instead, say:
- I finally have a good job.
Further Reading – If you want more grammar help, please read our article offering some helpful grammar tips to make your writing even stronger.
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