Getting to grips with grammar takes time, there are many important differences to words and phrases that ensure a sentence is grammatically correct. It is an aspect of a language that can at times seem infuriating, with some differences being so small, yet changing the meaning of the sentence. There are plenty of common grammar mistakes that people make time and time again, and that’s not just restricted to people who are learning the language, plenty of native speakers continue to make these mistakes.
The best way to improve? Practice, practice, practice. Try sites like English Grammar and Perfect English Grammar, for some general grammar exercises. Below are 11 common grammar mistakes that often pop up in English. Look out for times when you use these words and phrases, so you can avoid making these mistakes.
1. Using I or me
Knowing whether to use I or me is a very common grammar mistake that plenty of English native speakers use all the time. However, there’s a simple trick to work out if it should be I or me. If you remove the other person from the sentence, would you use I or me? Whichever you use, should then be used when you add the other person back into the sentence, for example:
"Ben and I have finished the article" as you would say – I have finished the article.
"Can you come with Ben and me to the meeting?" as you would say – can you come with me to the meeting?.
Remembering this trick will make it much easier to differentiate when to use I or me.
2. Ordering names and pronouns
Another important grammatical rule to remember when talking about yourself and other people is the order in which you include yourself in the sentence. I or me always goes at the end of the list.
Incorrect: "Me and Ben" or "I and Ben"
Correct: "Ben and I" or "Ben and me"
3. When to use affect or effect
Affect and effect are very similar sounding words, so it’s easy to use them interchangeably. Understanding their definitions helps to clarify the difference between the two, as one word is a verb and the other a noun, so knowing which is which helps in understanding when each should be used. The dictionary definitions are:
"It will affect the whole company when we move location."
Effect. Noun. The result of a particular influence.
"Introducing new measures will have a large effect."
4. Subject-verb agreement
Ensuring to agree the subject and verb in a sentence is an important grammar mistake to avoid. When discussing a singular subject the verb must also be singular and if the subject is plural the verb must also be plural.
Incorrect: "The file are lost." or "The files is lost."
Correct: "The files are lost" or "The file is lost."
5. To take or to Bring
Whether to use take or bring can make for an easy mistake, both verbs refer to the movement of something or someone. Yet there is a clear differentiation as to when to use each verb.
To take indicates that the movement of something or someone is away from you.
"Please take these boxes to storage."
To bring specifies that the movement of something or someone is towards you.
"Please bring your notes when you come to the meeting."
6. When to use well or good
It’s a common grammar mistake to overuse the word ‘good’ when ‘well’ should be used instead. It’s important to remember that well is an adverb and good is an adjective.
Incorrect: "The event went good." Correct: "The event went well."
Incorrect: "It was a well event." Correct: "It was a good event."
Small mistakes like these are generally those that are easy to slip up on during conversation, check out our blog 9 Mistakes you’re Making When Speaking English at Work to find some more tips of improving spoken English.
7. When to use it's or its
In the case of its and it’s, the apostrophe is a small but essential component of the word that changes the meaning.
Its is a possessive pronoun, showing that something belongs to ‘it’.
"The laptop needs its battery changed."
It’s is short for it is or it has.
"It’s my laptop" - it is my laptop or "it’s been nearly a week" it has been nearly a week.
Therefore, when thinking about whether to use its or it’s, return it’s to the original form of either it is or it has, to check that it’s correct.
8. Whether it's since or for
Since and for are both used in reference to time. However, they are each used on different occasions.
Since is used when you have a time or date when something began, so it since that date.
"We’ve been working on it since summer."
"I’ve lived here since November."
For refers to a period of time, it’s been happening for this long.
"We’ve been working on it for 6 months."
"I’ve lived here for a year."
9.Using this, that, these or those
These pronouns can be easy to muddle up but remembering two simple rules will help to show you which is the correct word to use.
First if you are referring to something close, use this or these. Whereas if you are referring to something far away, use that or those.
When talking about to singular objects use this or that. When talking about multiple objects these or those.
"I think these documents came from that desk over there."
10. When to use your or you're
When to use your and you’re is a common grammar mistake that is seen in the writing of English natives all the time. Your is used to show possession for the pronoun you, whereas you’re is a contraction of you are.
"Is there a problem with your computer?"
"You’re going to have to get a new computer."
A good way to be ensure you don't make this common grammar mistake is to extend to it you are and check if it makes sense.
11. Using there, their or they're
This time there are three options of words that sounds exactly the same, so a little more time needs to go into the consideration of which word is correct.
There is used to discuss a place or positioning.
"We're going to have lunch over there."
Their indicates possession, it belongs to them.
"It’s their lunch."
They’re is a contraction of they are.
"They’re going for lunch at two."
Remembering some of these common grammar mistakes will help you to avoid making them in the future. Avoiding these common grammar mistakes and getting your grammar spot on is one way to make your English sound more professional, check out our blog Turn your Basic English into Business English for even more tips.