6 Common Grammar Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Let’s face it, mastering grammar is torture in disguise for some. We make mistakes without even realising, and this can make the journey to fluency seem rather bleak. It’s frustrating, I know. But what if I simplified the process for you by revealing all of the most common grammar mistakes so that you can avoid them like the plague? Sounds too good to be true, am I right?

#1 There, Their, or They’re

All three words are pronounced the same, yet they are employed in different ways. 

“There” is used to specify a place, or it can be used with the verb “to be” to indicate the existence or the presence of something. Examples: My mobile phone is over there on the table. There are three local train stations.

“Their” is a possessive adjective. In other words, it is used to show belonging. Examples: That is their responsibility. She is their daughter.

Lastly, “they’re” is simply a contraction of “they are”. So, instead of writing or saying “they are”, you can simplify it to “they’re”. Examples: They’re going to join us later. They’re my best friends.

#2 Misplaced apostrophes

Misplacing apostrophes is a common mistake, even amongst native speakers. However, they’re actually not difficult to use once you remember that they have two basic functions, namely to indicate possession or a contraction.

  • Rule no 1. Use an apostrophe + s (‘s) to show that one person or thing owns something. Examples: Lisa’s car. Ben’s room.
  • Rule no 2. Use an apostrophe after the -s (s’) of most plural nouns to show possession. Examples: This is my parents’ room. The dogs’ collars.
  • Rule no 3. For plural nouns that do not end in an -s, then add apostrophe + s (‘s). Examples: The children’s toys. The mice’s cheese.
  • Rule no 4. For proper nouns that already end in -s, it actually doesn’t matter whether you opt for –‘s or -s’. The crucial thing is to be consistent. Example: Ross’ computer. Ross’s computer.
  • Rule no 5. An apostrophe is used in a contraction to represent missing letters. Examples: They’re = they are. It’s = it is. I’ve = I have. Wasn’t = was not.

#3 A or The

The battle of the articles. Now, it is important to note that many languages do not use definite and indefinite articles. As such, distinguishing between the two can prove to be a rather difficult concept to get your head around. Essentially, there are three ground rules that you can follow that will assist you when discerning between which of the various articles to use.

Rule no 1. “The” is a definite article and is used when you are referring to or talking about something specific. You know the person, thing or place.

Rule no 2. “A” or “an” are indefinite articles and are used when talking about something generally, or if you are talking about a thing, place or person for the first time.

And rule no 3. “The” is used when talking about something for the second, third, fourth, fifth etc. time. For example, you could say, “I’m going to read a book. The book is about …”. Here, when talking about said ‘book’ generally for the first time, the indefinite article was used. However, in the second sentence, the definite article was used because we are referring to this noun again. We are talking about one specific thing.

#4 Adjective order

If you’re using more than one adjective to describe a noun, bear in mind that these adjectives need to be placed in a certain order for the sentence to make sense. The general rule of thumb for adjective order in English is: 1. Quantity or number, 2. Quality or opinion, 3. Size, 4. Age, 5. Shape, 6. Colour, 7. Proper adjective, 8. Qualifiers. That is why “The white big house” doesn’t sound natural to the ear of a native as the adjectives have been misplaced. However, if you said “The big white house”, then that immediately sounds more idiomatic.

#5 Its or It’s

Similar to the confusion between “there”, “their” and “they’re”, learners of English often mix up “its” and “it’s”.

Albeit being pronounced the same, both have different meanings and purposes. “Its” is a possessive adjective; it shows belonging or refers to something. Examples: The city is known for its culture. A bike is not good without its wheels. On the other hand, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”, so it is the subject “it” plus the verb “is”. Examples: It’s a beautiful day today. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

#6 Using “could of” instead of “could have”

When learning a foreign language, deciphering what a native speaker is saying can pose to be quite a challenge. For this reason, misunderstandings often lead to grammatical errors. For example, when we speak, the contraction “could’ve” (could have) sounds an awful lot like “could of”. Essentially, “could have” is always correct; “could of” never is.

So, there you have 6 common grammar mistakes that are made by all English speakers. If you conquer these common errors and blind spots, then you will not only become more fluent, but more confident too!

Does English grammar leave you puzzled? Let us know your thoughts!