It’s Time to Steer Clear of These 8 Awkward Grammar Mistakes
There is a reason why your English teacher at school used to stress so much on getting the grammar in an essay or even a sentence right. Grammar mistakes can spoil a reader’s experience in seconds, even if the content is interesting and highly informative. And no matter how careful you are about grammar, there are certain mistakes that tend to occur time and again.
So, we have decided to make life simple for you with this post. You will find out about the 8 common grammar errors even the best English language experts make and will be able to avoid confusion and embarrassment in future. Whether you are writing a novel, content for your website, an article or product descriptions for your ecommerce store, here are some top mistakes to avoid.
Table of Contents
1. Who or Whom?
Even experienced writers end up confusing between ‘who’ and ‘whom’. So, for starters, remember that ‘who’ is used for the subject in a sentence while ‘whom’ is used for an object in a sentence.
So, when to use which?
To keep things simple, if you can replace the word with any noun or he or she, then use ‘who’. And if you can replace the word with him or her, use ‘whom’.
Some examples will make it clearer.
Does this sound right to you – The maestro, for who the audience applauded, was an elderly man.
So, did the audience applaud ‘him’ or ‘he’? Obviously, they applauded ‘him’. This means, the sentence should include the word ‘whom’ and not ‘who’.
The correct sentence should be – The maestro, for whom the audience applauded, was an elderly man.
Take another example to see the other side of the coin.
Does this sound right to you – David shouted at Jay, whom seemed to be cowering.
In this case, ‘whom’ can be substituted with ‘he’ rather than ‘him’. So, the sentence should include the word ‘who’ and not ‘whom’.
The correct sentence should be – David shouted at Jay, who seemed to be cowering.
2. Who or That
Though this is a common and confusing grammatical error, it is easier to avoid than the confusion between ‘who’ and ‘whom’. All you have to do is remember that ‘who’ is used in case of a person and ‘that’ is applicable for an object or anything inanimate.
Example of ‘who’ – Tina is the one who will sing at the event or He is the one who knows how to throw a ball.
Example of ‘that’ – That is the book she wants to buy or Here is the pen that left a mark on his shirt.
3. That or Which
If I was paid for every time I noticed someone use ‘that’ and ‘which’ interchangeably, I would be very rich by now! However, such a practice is wrong.
Why? For starters, though ‘that’ and ‘which’ are both clauses, ‘that’ is restrictive and ‘which’ is not. Now, let’s take a closer look at what it means.
Restrictive clause – This refers to a part of a sentence that cannot be removed as it restricts another portion of the same sentence.
Non-restrictive clause – It is just opposite of a restrictive clause.
The following example will make the concept clear:
Sentence 1 – The hospital, which has those famous doctors, is based out of London.
Sentence 2 – The hospital that has those famous doctors is based out of London.
In the first sentence, the readers know which hospital is being talked about. In other words, if you take out ‘which has those famous doctors’; the sentence’s meaning will not change. This phrase simply offers more information to the readers, but they anyway know that the hospital is based out of London.
However, in the second sentence, if you take out ‘that has those famous doctors’ the readers won’t know which hospital you are talking about. ‘That’ creates a restriction in this case.
So, if you don’t know whether to use ‘that’ or ‘which’, first find out if the meaning of the sentence will change if you remove the concerned part of the sentence.
4. Less or Fewer
To keep this famous grammatical error at bay, just remember that ‘fewer’ can be used when you are talking about something that can be counted. And when any object seems uncountable, use ‘less’.
These examples will make it clear as to when you can use ‘fewer’:
There are fewer apples on this table than yesterday.
This summer, fewer children will go for camping.
In both examples, the nouns (apples and children) are countable and can be assigned numbers. Hence, using ‘fewer’ is correct.
Now, look at these examples for ‘less’:
A little less anger could have prevented this damage.
Arnold takes less sugar in his tea than Mary.
Since neither anger nor sugar can be counted, using ‘less’ is correct.
5. Me or I
The thing about pronouns is that they can take different forms to indicate the various roles they have in a sentence. For instance, ‘I’ and ‘me’ are the subject and object forms of the pronoun. And many writers often end up using the wrong form. So, how do you know when to use ‘I’ and when to use ‘me’?
Consider this example – My husband and me will go to the opera together.
It doesn’t sound right, right? That’s because, if you take away ‘husband’ from the sentence, then ‘me will go to the opera’ sounds strange. After all, ‘me’ is the object form of the pronoun and needs to be replaced with a subject form like ‘I’.
So, the correct sentence is – My husband and I will go to the opera together.
Here’s another example to help you understand where ‘me’ is needed.
Consider this example – The football coach helped my brother and I when we couldn’t get the moves right.
What’s wrong with it? Well, if you take out ‘my brother’, the ‘football coach helped I…’ doesn’t sound correct. Since the football coach is the subject in this sentence, you need to use the object form of ‘I’, which is ‘me’.
So, the correct sentence is – The football coach helped my brother and me when we couldn’t get the moves right.
6. Don’t Dangle the Modifier
Put simply, a modifier in a sentence is a word or phrase that provides information about another part of the sentence. And their incorrect usage can distort the meaning of a sentence completely. We will soon get to how that happens. But first, remember that modifiers must be positioned very close to the element they are supposed to modify. Don’t dangle the modifier, or place it somewhere where it ends up modifying the wrong element in a sentence.
This example will make it clear to you. Read this line:
After tasting their yummy first cookie, the second one will also be pretty good.
So many questions pop up in your mind when you read this sentence, right? Whose cookie? Who tasted the first cookie and found it yummy? Who will try the second one and also find it pretty good?
To avoid such confusing situations for the reader, you need to modify the ‘After tasting their yummy first cookie’ part.
The correct sentence can be like this or there might be other variations:
After I tasted their yummy first cookie, I think I will find their second one pretty good as well.
Note that the clause you use to begin a sentence should contain the same subject as the sentence. In this particular case, ‘I’ is that subject.
Here is another example to strengthen the concept of modifiers:
Running around in the rain, the fields have flooded in many places in the city.
On reading this sentence, someone might think that the fields were running around in the rain and have got flooded in many places in the city.
So, to put it right, you should introduce the subject with which you started the first clause and make it your sentence’s subject as well.
For example, the sentence is now more sensible:
Running around in the rain, Sally noticed that the fields have flooded in many places in the city.
7. Pronouns Ending in Self or Selves
This is one of the common and sometimes funny grammar mistakes. Pronouns that end with ‘self’ or ‘selves’ are called reflexive pronouns, and are widely used when you are referring to a personal noun or pronoun, which appears somewhere else in the same sentence. Hence, words like myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, and themselves are reflexive pronouns. Never forget that a reflexive pronoun cannot be the subject of a sentence (or the individual who is undertaking any action). Always use a reflexive pronoun as a sentence’s object. This means, it will be that element to which something is being done.
However, writers often use a reflexive pronoun instead of a personal pronoun mistakenly.
The following examples will help you to understand this problem better:
Jane and ‘myself’ like having cookies on weekends.
Do you think this sentence should have used the ‘myself’ reflexive pronoun? Confused? Imagine the same sentence with only you as the subject in it.
It will read something like this –
‘Myself’ like having cookies on weekends.
And this definitely doesn’t sound right. So, you shouldn’t use any reflexive pronoun here. The correct sentence can be something like:
Jane and I like having cookies on weekends.
Here’s another example where a reflexive pronoun has been wrongly used –
The principal did a lot for myself and my friends last year.
Again, the sentence sounds wrong. How can you check? Remove friends from the equation and say the sentence aloud with only you as the subject.
The principal did a lot for myself last year.
So, no, you don’t need a reflexive pronoun here. The correct sentence will read something like:
The principal did a lot for my friends and me last year.
The reason why I placed ‘me’ after ‘my friends’ is because, it is polite and the general convention.
8. Not All Verbs Have the Same Past Tense
To create the past and past participle of a verb, it is often enough to add ‘ed’ at the end. Here are some examples:
Walk, walked, (has) walked
Bake, baked, (has) baked
However, there are some verbs that take irregular forms (forms that don’t have ‘ed’ at the end) when used in the past sense. Some such verbs are given below:
Draw, drew, (has) drawn
Come, came, (has) come
Go, went, (has) gone
Run, ran, (has) run
Now, let’s look at some sentences, for a better idea:
Rita loves to talk, has ran for class president, and has a clever way of networking with people.
The use of ‘has ran’ is wrong here. The correct sentence should be:
Rita loves to talk, has run for class president, and has a clever way of networking with people.
To Wrap Up
Grammatical errors can cost you heavily, which is not something you want when your content is your marketing tool. Hence, keeping the common mistakes mentioned above can help you become more careful and create flawless pieces that are a joy to read, understand and share.