Common grammar mistakes could be just that, honest mistakes. But if done repeatedly, it could be a pet peeve to others.
As a writer, being keen on observing correct spelling and usage of the English language, or even Filipino for that matter, not only shows how educated a person is but also how someone respects the language. However, even educated men and women, those who have earned college degrees, commit these common grammar mistakes.
There are different reasons why people commit these common grammar mistakes. Among them are:
- Getting confused with contractions
- Reliance on autocorrect and
- Ignorance of the rules on grammar
Below are explanations of each mistake and hoping that you’ll learn a lot from them.
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. It’s easy to make mistakes with homophones because we say the words as it is more often than writing them down.
I was reading an e-book recently and found some misspellings in it. I thought it was just a case of typographical error. But when I saw the misspelled word again, I felt uneasy. I began to think that the author failed to consult an editor for her e-book and published it online immediately.
For one, I do have respect for authors who diligently check their grammar and have editors check it again before publishing. But then again, the e-book I was reading came from a free e-book site where most authors are amateurs in the publishing business.
For another, this is a good case of getting confused with homophones and other grammar rules. Here are some common homophones that confuse many.
Affect and Effect
“Affect” is a verb meaning to influence. “Effect” is a noun meaning result or to bring about.
“The policy changes will not affect our operations.“
“He wants to effect a change in the program’s schedule.“
“The long-term effect of global warming is being felt now.“
Lose and Loose
“Lose” is a verb meaning to shed, to get rid, or to get lost. “Loose” is an adjective meaning free or not tight.
“I need to lose a few pounds because my pants don’t fit me anymore or are no longer loose.”
Advice and Advise
Both terms are related to giving feedback, comment, or suggestion. “Advice” is a noun while “advise” is a verb. Remember: C is for the noun; s is for the verb.
“I’m just giving you a piece of advice.”
“Could you advise me on what to do?”
Breath and Breathe
Actually, they don’t sound the same. It just happens that this pair is also confusing to some writers. Both refer to inhaling and exhaling air. “Breath” is a noun, meaning the air brought in and exhaled when breathing. “Breathe” is a verb, meaning to draw air into your lungs and expel it again.
“Take a deep breath before starting your speech.”
“Breathe in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth.”
Complement and Compliment
Both words are derived from the same Latin root word “complere”, meaning to fill or fulfill. “Complement” means to complete something, like “Your shoes, bag, and other accessories complement your look today.”
“Compliment” means to praise, like “Your artwork deserves my compliment!” But when used with “of” as in “compliments of”, it means a free gift.
“We had a wonderful time at the resort, all compliments of Mrs. Lim.” (Mrs. Lim gave us a free stay at the resort.)
Already and All Ready
“Already” means before or previously. In some cases, it may also mean now or so soon. “All ready” means entirely prepared.
“I have already tried the brand you recommended and it’s good.”
“Is it dinnertime already?”
“Contingency plans ensure that the staff is all ready in case of catastrophe.”
Altogether and All Together
“Altogether” is an adverb that means entirely or completely. It can be replaced by the words “completely” or “entirely” in a sentence. “All together” means in one group.
“That kind of arrangement seems altogether wrong.”
“Let’s sing all together now!”
Take note that you can replace “altogether” with “completely” or “entirely” but not the second sentence.
“Maybe” and “May Be”
“Maybe” is an adverb meaning perhaps. It denotes a choice available to someone: either doing something or not doing something. “May be” is a verb phrase or a modal auxiliary verb that denotes a possibility. It is similar to “would be” or “could be.”
“Maybe she will go to the mall today.”
“It may be necessary to cut all ties with them.”
Take note that you can replace “maybe” with “perhaps” and “may be” with “could be” and “would be”. Also, you cannot start a sentence with “may be”.
Grammar is the difference between feeling your nuts and feeling you’re nuts.– anonymous
Eggcorns are a particular type of language error. It is a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase.
It started probably as an unintentional misuse through the confusion with homophones that became repeatedly misused over time. The word “eggcorn” is a misheard word for “acorn” after all. But unlike, homophones, eggcorns involve replacing unfamiliar terms with much simpler everyday words. Thus, becoming a butt of jokes online.
For All Intents And Purposes
This phrase is used to say that one thing has the same effect or result as something else. For example, “Their decision to begin bombing was, for all intents and purposes, a declaration of war.” (not “for all intensive purposes”)
Moot And Academic
The phrase could have started in the judiciary sometime in the 16th century. Back then there were moot courts, academic mock courts in which law students could try hypothetical cases for practice. Moot, as a term, was used as a synonym for debatable. But because the cases students tried in moot courts were simply academic exercises, the word acquired a second meaning. Now it means “deprived of practical significance; made abstract or purely academic.” Thus, the phrase “moot and academic” (not “mute and academic”).
A New Lease On Life
This phrase means “a chance to continue living or to become successful or popular again”. It uses the word “lease” meaning a continuity or an opportunity to continue. “The project gave me a new lease on life.” (not “a new leash on life”)
To The Manner Born
This phrase was first seen in Hamlet written by Shakespeare in 1602:
“HAMLET: Ay, marry, is’t: But to my mind, though I am native here and to the manner born, it is a custom,
more honour’d in the breach than the observance.“
It is clear that Hamlet knows the custom being spoken of because he is native there.
If used in present times, here is a good example:
“Helena entered the grand ballroom gracefully and confidently, as if to the manner born.”
In 1979, there is a TV series in the UK entitled “To The Manor Born”. Thus, the use of “manor” instead of “manner” started.
Contractions shorten spoken forms of word groups by omitting internal letters or sounds. They are formed from words that appear together in sequence such as “you are” and “do not”. Languages (not only English) have a number of contractions that use an apostrophe (‘) to show an omission of a letter, usually a vowel. These contractions are common in speech and informal writing.
By knowing how to differentiate these contractions and the words they’re often mistaken for, it will be easy for you to remember and not commit the same mistakes again.
Your and You’re
I typed “thanks” to a friend via chat and he replied “Your welcome” when it should have been “You’re.” “Your” is a possessive pronoun that shows your ownership. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are.”
It’s and Its
Another common mistake is to interchange these two. The reason is obvious: it’s confusing.
The first means “it is”. It doesn’t show any possession or ownership so the apostrophe is used. You can’t say “…the lion chases ‘it is’ prey…” so you don’t need an apostrophe. The prey belongs to the lion. Thus, “its” shows ownership while “it’s” is a contraction.
There, Their, and They’re
Another common mistake is to interchange these three.
To distinguish, “There” is an adverb that indicates the location or what we commonly call the “adverb of place”. It has two uses: (1) to denote a place and (2) to indicate something exists.
“Their” is a possessive adjective that usually precedes a noun or a pronoun and indicates possession or ownership. “Our” can replace “their” in the sentence. Try replacing “their” with “our” and if it still makes sense, then you are using “their” correctly.
“They’re” is a contraction of “they are” and again, there’s no other use for it.
I left my bag over there. (The speaker indicates a certain location.)
There is something missing from my bag. (The speaker indicates that a thing that exists is missing.)
The guards will have to check their belongings. (“Their” indicates possession of more than one person.)
They’re after me. (The speaker refers to more than one person coming after him/her. The expanded form is “They are”.)
AutoCorrect is a text replacement or a replace-as-you-type function found on most word processing and text editing interfaces today. It is part of a spell checker to correct misspellings to save the user’s time. Because smart devices already recognize their owner’s pattern of use, AutoCorrect automatically suggests words, and inserts text or special characters on its own.
Because of this, we have changed the way we spell and type using our computers, tablets, and smartphones. It allows us to type quickly but sloppily. AutoCorrect gets it wrong, particularly when writing jargon or in a different language.
We already unlearned arithmetic with the advent of the calculator and soon will forget how to spell with AutoCorrect. We had relied on it too much in favor of speed and convenience. And because of time constraints, we tend not to read our messages back before sending them.
“Oh, no! It must be the AutoCorrect function.”
Well, no. Let’s not blame the innocent technology. Blame ourselves for not taking the time to proofread. The misuse of AutoCorrect has become a staple for practical jokes on television, on social media, in school, and in the office.
Grammar differs from the other pillars of writing (structure, style, and readability). Unlike the other three, grammar can only be described as right or wrong. On the other hand, structure, style, and readability may be effective or less effective, better or worse.
There are eight parts of speech and each of them may have one or more of these characteristics: (1) gender – masculine or feminine; (2) number – singular or plural; (3) person – first, second, or third person; (4) case – subjective, objective, or possessive; (5) voice – active or passive; (6) mood – indicative, subjunctive, and imperative; and (7) tense – simple or progressive.
To wrap this up, common grammar mistakes can be avoided if we are aware of the correct usage and immediately correct them as we see them. As writers, we cannot afford to commit language errors because they could break our careers.
So I’m ending this piece with a quote from Benjamin Franklin.
When in doubt, don’t.– Benjamin Franklin
Let me know if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please subscribe and join the tribe.