Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 18

HOME |

OXFORD SUMMER SCHOOL |


GAP YEARS AND SIXTH FORM |
ONLINE COURSES
CONTACT US
LOGIN
English

ORA
Courses
Students
Staff
Centres

Apply Now

Articles
14 Common Grammatical Mistakes in
English And How to Avoid Them
1752 Google +25 41 124

13 February, 2014
If youre currently in the process of learning English,
and youre struggling to get to grips with our grammar,
dont take it to heart.
You should also read
25 Ways to Get Better at English as Quickly as Possible
Homophones: the English Words That Cause Confusion
A huge number of native English speakers make frequent English slip-ups that bring on the
wrath of the UKs army of grammar pedants, and its mainly because they werent taught properly
at school. But for you, help is at hand. So that you can learn therules from the word go, weve
put together this guide to some of the most common mistakes people make when writing in
English. Learn them all, and youll get your knowledge of English off to a better start than most
Brits! Even if youre a native speaker, you may find some useful advice here to make your use of
English the best it can be.

1. Misplaced apostrophes
Apostrophes arent difficult to use once you know how, but putting them in the wrong place is one
of the most common grammar mistakes in the English language. Many people use an
apostrophe to form the plural of a word, particularly if the word in question ends in a vowel, which
might make the word look strange with an S added to make it plural.

The rules:
Apostrophes indicate possession something belonging to something or someone else.
To indicate something belonging to one person, the apostrophe goes before the s. For
instance, The girls horse.
To indicate something belonging to more than one person, put the apostrophe after the
s. For example, The girls horse.
Apostrophes are also used to indicate a contracted word. For example, dont uses an
apostrophe to indicate that the word is missing the o from do not.
Apostrophes are never used to make a word plural, even when a word is in number form,
as in a date.
How not to do it:
The horses are in the field
Pens for sale
In the 1980s
Janes horse is over there
The girls dresses are ready for them to collect
How to do it properly:
The horses are in the field
Pens for sale
In the 1980s
We didnt want to do it
Janes horse is over there
The girls dresses are ready for them to collect
2. Your/youre
We covered this one before in our post on homophones, but its such a widespread problem
that theres no harm in covering it again.
The rules:
Your indicates possession something belonging to you.
Youre is short for you are.
How not to do it:
Your beautiful
Do you know when your coming over?
Can I have one of youre biscuits?
How to do it properly:
Youre beautiful
Do you know when youre coming over?
Can I have one of your biscuits?
3. Its/its
We said earlier that apostrophes should be used to indicate possession, but there is one
exception to this rule, and that is the word it. Unsurprisingly, this exception gets lots of people
confused.

The rules:
Its is only ever used when short for it is.
Its indicates something belonging to something that isnt masculine or feminine (like
his and hers, but used when youre not talking about a person).
If it helps, remember that inanimate objects cant really possess something in the way a
human can.
How not to do it:
Its snowing outside
The sofa looks great with its new cover
How to do it properly:
Its snowing outside
The sofa looks great with its new cover
4. Could/would/should of
This common mistake arises because the contracted form of could have couldve sounds
a bit like could of when you say it out loud. This mistake is made frequently across all three of
these words.

The rules:
When people write should of, what they really mean is should have.
Written down, the shortened version of should have is shouldve.
Shouldve and Should have are both correct; the latter is more formal.
How not to do it:
We could of gone there today
I would of done it sooner
You should of said
How to do it properly:
We couldve gone there today
I would have done it sooner
You shouldve said
5. There/their/theyre
Weve met this one before, too; its another example of those pesky homophones words that
sound the same but have different meanings.

The rules:
Use there to refer to a place that isnt here over there.
We also use there to state something There are no cakes left.
Their indicates possession something belonging to them.
Theyre is short for they are.
How not to do it:
Their going to be here soon
We should contact theyre agent
Can we use there boat?
Their is an argument that says
How to do it properly:
Theyre going to be here soon
We should contact their agent
Can we use their boat?
There is an argument that says
6. Fewer/less
The fact that many people dont know the difference between fewer and less is reflected in the
number of supermarket checkout aisles designated for 10 items or less. The mistake most
people make is using less when they actually mean fewer, rather than the other way round.

The rules:
Fewer refers to items you can count individually.
Less refers to a commodity, such as sand or water, that you cant count individually.
How not to do it:
There are less cakes now
Ten items or less
How to do it properly:
There are fewer cakes now
Ten items or fewer
Less sand
Fewer grains of sand
7. Amount/number
These two work in the same way as less and fewer, referring respectively to commodities and
individual items.
The rules:
Amount refers to a commodity, which cant be counted (for instance water).
Number refers to individual things that can be counted (for example birds).
How not to do it:
A greater amount of people are eating more healthily
How to do it properly:
A greater number of people are eating more healthily
The rain dumped a larger amount of water on the country than is average for the month
8. To/two/too
Its time to revisit another common grammar mistake that we also covered in our homophones
post, as no article on grammar gripes would be complete without it. Its easy to see why people
get this one wrong, but theres no reason why you should.

The rules:
To is used in the infinitive form of a verb to talk.
To is also used to mean towards.
Too means also or as well.
Two refers to the number 2.
How not to do it:
Im to hot
Its time two go
Im going too town
He bought to cakes
How to do it properly:
Im too hot
Its time to go
Im going to town
He bought two cakes
9. Then/than
Confusion between then and than probably arises because the two look and sound similar.

The rules:
Than is used in comparisons.
Then is used to indicate something following something else in time, as in step-by-step
instructions, or planning a schedule (well go there then there).
How not to do it:
She was better at it then him
It was more then enough
How to do it properly:
She was better at it than him
It was more than enough
Well go to the baker first, then the coffee shop
10. Me/myself/I
The matter of how to refer to oneself causes all manner of conundrums, particularly when
referring to another person in the same sentence. Heres how to remember whether to use me,
myself or I.

The rules:
When referring to yourself and someone else, put their name first in the sentence.
Choose me or I by removing their name and seeing which sounds right.
For example, with the sentence John and I are off to the circus, you wouldnt say me is
off to the circus if it was just you; youd say I am off to the circus. Therefore when talking about
going with someone else, you say John and I.
You only use myself if youve already used I, making you the subject of the sentence.
How not to do it:
Me and John are off to the circus
Myself and John are going into town
Give it to John and I to look after
How to do it properly:
John and I are off to the circus
John and I are going into town
Give it to John and me to look after
Ill deal with it myself
I thought to myself
11. Invite/invitation
This mistake is now so common that its almost accepted as an alternative, but if you really want
to speak English properly, you should avoid it.

The rules:
Invite is a verb to invite. It refers to asking someone if theyd like to do something or
go somewhere.
Invitation is a noun an invitation. It refers to the actual message asking someone if
theyd like to do something or go somewhere.
How not to do it:
I havent responded to her invite yet.
She sent me an invite.
How to do it properly:
I havent responded to her invitation yet.
She sent me an invitation.
Im going to invite her to join us.
12. Who/whom
Another conundrum arising from confusion over how to refer to people. There are lots in the
English language!

The rules:
Who refers to the subject of a sentence; whom refers to the object.
Who and whom work in the same way as he or him. You can work out which you
should use by asking yourself the following:
Who did this? He did so who is correct. Whom should I invite? Invite him so
whom is correct.
That is often used incorrectly in place of who or whom. When referring to a person,
you should not use the word that.
How not to do it:
Who shall I invite?
Whom is responsible?
He was the only person that wanted to come
How to do it properly:
Whom shall I invite?
Who is responsible?
He was the only person who wanted to come
13. Affect/effect
Its an easy enough mistake to make given how similar these two words look and sound, but
theres a simple explanation to help you remember the difference.

The rules:
Affect is a verb to affect meaning to influence or have an impact on something.
Effect is the noun a positive effect referring to the result of being affected by
something.
There is also a verb to effect, meaning to bring something about to effect a change.
However, this is not very commonly used, so weve left it out of the examples below to avoid
confusion.
How not to do it:
He waited for the medicine to have an affect
They were directly effected by the flooding
How to do it properly:
He waited for the medicine to have an effect
They were directly affected by the flooding
14. I.e. and e.g.
These two abbreviations are commonly confused, and many people use them interchangeably.
However, their uses are very different.

The rules:
I.e. means that is or in other words. It comes from the Latin words id est.
E.g. means for example. It comes from the Latin words exempli gratia.
Only use i.e. and e.g. when writing informally. In formal documents, such as essays, it
is better to write out the meanings (for example or that is).
How not to do it:
He liked many different cheeses, i.e. cheddar, camembert and brie.
He objects to the changes e.g. he wont be accepting them.
How to do it properly:
He liked many different cheeses, e.g. cheddar, camembert and brie.
He objects to the changes i.e. he wont be accepting them.
We hope youve found this a useful reference guide as you continue your journey to become
fluent in English. If youd like to learn even more about the ins and outs of English grammar, why
not enrol on one of our English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses this summer?

Your email

Your email will not be shared and you can unsubscribe whenever you want with a simple click.

Image credit: banner


47 Responses to 14 Common Grammatical
Mistakes in English And How to Avoid
Them
1. February 09, 2015 at 7:54 pm, Solangelo said:

*gasp* I dont see any full stops in the examples!

Reply
o March 02, 2015 at 5:50 pm, Chris said:

> It is my impression that such as bullet points and chat entries doesnt really require full stops.
Grammar is here to make our written languages better, not strict!

Reply
June 14, 2016 at 8:26 am, shweta said:

> It is my impression that such as bullet points and chat entries doesnt really require full stops.
Grammar is here to make our written languages better, not strict!
Actually, whenever youre penning down full sentences followed by proper punctuation; then the
use of a full-stop at the end would cause no harm. Despite all odds, a full-stop at the end of a bullet
will add to its overall clarity.
please tell me if I am wrong
Reply
February 12, 2015 at 5:29 pm, khursheed Ahmad Wagay said:

Quite helpful. These are common errors and the explanations and quite simple and clear.

Reply
November 07, 2015 at 3:36 pm, Dave said:
Have the rules changed regarding verb conjugation with singular nouns that represent more than
one item, being or person?

I was taught that the words team flock


group board corp etc are singular, and that the verb must always agree with that state. I hear
so often (primarily by British speakers the group which accuses Americans of slaughtering the
language) sentences like The team are on the field.
Even in the case of a phrase like the team of players, I was taught that the prep phrase used
must be ignored and is must still be used.

Isnt one of the purposes of conjugating verbs to indicate singular or plural subjects? Why would
The team are on the field not call for a different form of the present continuous verb than The
teams are on the field?

Reply
December 01, 2015 at 2:48 am, Sanjeeth Rodrigues said:

> Dave, there are words like team, hair and the like that we have learnt are collective nouns and
hence take the form of singular verbs such as is, has and so on. But the rule states that if your
using a collective noun with special emphasis on the constituents of that noun then its taking the
plural form and hence no longer is a collective noun in that context. E.g. For the first instance is
Can you please brush my hair? But if your emphasising on each hair then I lost at least three
hairs'(though you can say strands of hair). Likewise when youre considering a team to be one unit
you can say The team needs just one point to win. But if your emphasising on each player then
The team are ready to do whatever it takes to score that one point. Yes, even I realised its correct
lately.

Here, you can look it up on this link. http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/collectivenoun.htm


Regards
Reply
February 12, 2015 at 6:37 pm, REJIMON JOSEPH said:

9. Then/than
Confusion between then and that probably arises because the two look and sound similar.
In the sentence above, the word that has been wrongly used instead of the word than.

Reply
February 13, 2015 at 9:15 am, ORA Admin said:
Thanks for pointing that out weve corrected it.

Best wishes,

The ORA Team.

Reply
April 04, 2015 at 9:10 am, Bishwajit Roy said:
Thanks a lot for giving important things.

Reply
April 10, 2015 at 3:29 am, khairul hasan said:

It is very simple and easy but important who are learning in English.

Reply
April 17, 2015 at 5:34 pm, Max said:

Thanks for the work done here.


Kudos to you
Im finding it difficult to enroll
Reply
April 22, 2015 at 9:30 am, ORA Admin said:
Dear Max,

Our registrations team will be in touch shortly to give you a hand with enrolling.

Best wishes,

The ORA Team.

Reply
April 26, 2015 at 2:50 pm, muhammeedh sajidh said:

your web site is very use full for me

Reply
May 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm, Michael said:

Actually, invite can be used as a noun as well as a verb. I suggest you research a bit more about
invite, its origin and usage.

Reply
May 27, 2015 at 12:12 pm, harshi said:

People often confuse have been with had been


So please add to it
Any way,thank u
Reply
May 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm, Scott said:

She was better at it than him is incorrect grammar. It should be She was better at it than he or
She was better at it than he was. Subject pronouns are required in this construction, not one
subject pronoun and one object pronoun.
Reply
June 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm, boahen yaw said:

can we say, an amount of money?

Reply
June 22, 2015 at 10:11 am, ORA Admin said:
Dear Boahen,

Yes, you can. This phrase even appears in Dickens Great Expectations:
I soon contracted expensive habits, and began to spend an amount of money that within a few
short months I should have thought almost fabulous; but through good and evil I stuck to my
books.

Regards,

The ORA Team

Reply
June 21, 2015 at 9:55 pm, Robin Bather said:

Good afternoon
I enjoyed your website and found it very interesting; however, I would ask you to please not use
the word Huge.
Overuse of ths word has become tedious and indicative of a lack of imagination. It is a tiring
Americanism.
Whatever happened to big, collosal, enormous, massive, etc. ?
Best regards
Reply
June 22, 2015 at 10:05 am, ORA Admin said:
Dear Robin,

Thank you for your comment. Well try to avoid overusing the word huge. However, its definitely not
an Americanism. It came into English in the Middle Ages, from Old French, and appears in well-
known Middle English texts including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman and
Gowers Confessio Amantis. The Oxford English Dictionarys first citation for it is from 1275.
Regards,

The ORA Team.

Reply
July 07, 2016 at 2:11 am, Robin Bather said:

> Thanks for the reply, Esha. What I meant to say was that the overuse of this word is an
Americanism.
Best regards
Reply
August 18, 2015 at 11:27 pm, Norman said:

But for you, help is at hand.

Tut tut, beginning a sentence with a conjunction.

Reply
October 06, 2015 at 12:13 am, Adam said:

Im surprised nobody has picked up on this yet. Youve said Too means also or as well in
point 8 but the example Im too hot doesnt use the definition in this way. Youd have been
better off writing Im hot too to demonstrate this, although it is probably worth explaining the use
of too to mean beyond tolerable in this case.

Reply
October 27, 2015 at 9:51 am, Edward Labor said:

I love this website.

Reply
November 02, 2015 at 10:54 am, Kien said:

One of the most annoying mistakes is when people use I instead of me, trying to sound very
cultured.
For example: They told Kanye and I that our house would be ready in eight months. This
relationship has been very hard for Scott an I.
Reply
November 07, 2015 at 3:09 pm, Dave said:

I couldnt agree more Kien. Id rather hear fingernails grating across a blackboard than I instead
of me. Trying to sound very cultured or better educated.

Have you noticed we hear it so often that its gotten to the point where some who know which is
correct will use myself instead of me. Of course, thats equally incorrect, but I suppose they
know (yeah, yeah, yeahhe/she knows) it wont sound wrong to the better educated or more
cultured who think me would be wrong.

Reply
November 08, 2015 at 1:22 am, Ree said:

I found this website very interesting.


I was looking up a clear explanation for why Pass me them books. is wrong. Maybe you could
include them vs these/those.
What do you think of a classroom teacher with a degree in English giving her class a spelling list
to learn which included the word ginormous ? Am I too old fashioned?
Reply
November 11, 2015 at 3:23 am, Dave said:
> Ree,

Regarding an English teacher including the word ginormous in a spelling list Believe it or not,
that word appears in Websters dictionary. Worse than that, that same publication lists
humongous as a synonym/definition! Honest.
. reminds me of the Doobie Brothers line What were once vices are now habits.
Pass me them books.? I think Pass me them would be OK, but you cannot use them as an
adjective (them books).
Usually them refers to people or persons, as a personal pronoun, but what of this: Do you sell
eggs? [yes] Then please give me two of them. I think thats OK if for some reason one doesnt
think Then please give me two. isnt sufficient, but its been decades since college for me.
Anyone?
Reply
November 23, 2015 at 1:19 am, Thomas Shepard said:

Do you seriously not see the blunder in this excerpt from item 10?

When referring to yourself and someone else, put their name first in the sentence.
Choose me or I by removing their name and seeing which sounds right.
Reply
December 09, 2015 at 6:17 am, mirembe amie said:
its good because we can improve on spoken

Reply
January 15, 2016 at 1:06 am, Paul Mumford said:

You write:

For example, with the sentence John and I are off to the circus, you wouldnt say me is off to
the circus if it was just you; youd say I am off to the circus. Therefore when talking about going
with someone else, you say John and I.

There is a grammatical error in that sentence! It should read, if it WERE you.

Reply
January 15, 2016 at 4:31 am, ISeen Lab said:
Many time affect and Effect people will confuse and they do mistake. but since I am learning
english from crash to talk fluent your site is really helpful.
thanks.
Reply
January 21, 2016 at 6:33 am, William Douglas said:

RE: the reply on Dec 1, 2015: But the rule states that if your using a collective noun

Please! No grammar checker?

Reply
February 08, 2016 at 4:34 am, krishna said:

Truly, helpful for the beginner of English language.

Reply
March 26, 2016 at 8:04 pm, Justice Amant said:

I have learnt that in order to show possession the apostrophe is not used with a noun that names
an inanimate thing . For instance, it is incorrect to say, the cars horn or the houses roof.

Is this teaching correct?

Reply
April 06, 2016 at 11:38 pm, M'bayoh Loven Foday said:

Im an honours student in linguistics at The University Of Serra Leone ( F B C)


I want to know the different between I too and Me too.
Reply
April 08, 2016 at 11:14 am, ORA Admin said:

Dear Mbayoh,
Thank you for getting in touch! As with the distinction in point number 10, I is used when the first
person is the subject of the sentence, and me when the object. Too is then added in when
required, and both often require a comma. See below:
I, too, enjoy eating pizza.
He gave some pizza to me, too.
Conversationally, people might also use the following:

You like pizza? Me too!

With all best wishes,

The ORA Team

Reply
April 22, 2016 at 11:14 pm, Aba Gino said:

Thanks

Reply
June 14, 2016 at 9:40 pm, Esha said:

This was quite helpful. Thank you!

Reply
July 08, 2016 at 3:52 pm, Nicole Sarmiento said:
It truly helps me.. Thanks a lot. =D

Reply
July 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm, Muktarcali said:

This is actually great work u have selected the most confusing and chaotic part in English
language I couldnt differentiate between effect and affect before visiting ure site but now I am
good to go. I really appreciate u that.

Reply
July 18, 2016 at 8:49 pm, Dunamyte said:

Am terribly confused here. I dont understand why amount is used for only commodities. I need
the correct sentence to this i want two amount of soaps and i want two number of soaps .
Can u help me figure it out?

Reply
July 28, 2016 at 11:26 am, NTC English said:
Thank you very much. This is great!

Reply
August 12, 2016 at 8:04 am, Lorenda Beumont said:

Theres more
I dont know how the expression Ill revert to you later EVER became acceptable English. Ice
reverts to water people CANNOT revert to other people. Quite possibly, a few years ago, a non-
English speaker (from China or India, or who knows where) was translating his/her own language
directly into English by way of using the dictionary, and chose the incorrect word. That is almost
an acceptable error. However, it is unacceptable that ENGLISH-speakers the world over (in
English-speaking countries!) have adopted that expression, thinking it is quite smart to use it!!
No, its just wrong!! It is impossible for anyone to revert to anyone else, ever.
Also, the latest, craze of starting sentences with So ah, so annoying.

Then there is the habit that so many have of using many words instead of one at this moment
in time instead of Now, Currently or, if there is an obsessive need to use more than one word,
then at the moment will do.

Reply
August 13, 2016 at 6:56 pm, Asad said:

Thanks for your excellent post.


As a language learner, Ive been wondering about the difference between taking a train and
taking the train. If you help me, I would be thankful.
All the best

Reply
August 16, 2016 at 9:36 am, ORA Admin said:
Hi Asad,

Thank you for getting in touch. The difference between these two phrases is very slight, and in
many instances, either would be correct.

In general, taking the train refers to the broader method of transport that someone will be using
(example: How will you be getting there? I will be taking the train) and taking a train might be
used to refer to a specific train that you have bought a ticket for (example: I am catching a train at
2 oclock). However, in this second example, to say I am catching the train at 2 oclock would
also be correct to English speakers. When in doubt, in the majority of cases using the phrase taking
the train would be correct.

I hope this helps!

Kind regards,

The ORA Team

Reply
October 05, 2016 at 4:02 pm, Shellie said:

Simple and easy is an oxymoron, isnt it? I cant stand it when people say that.

Reply
Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Comment

Name *

Email *

Website

Post Comment
We think you might like

Ages 16 - 18 Oxford Summer School for


16-18 years
An academic summer programme for students aged 16-18, residential in Oxford.

Ages 16 - 18 Oxford Summer English for


16-18 years
An intensive English language summer programme for international students aged 16-18,
residential in Oxford.
View all courses
1752 Google +25 41 124

Sign up now to receive our exclusive updates!


First Name

Email Addre

Send me info about:

Popular Courses
New Perspectives
Broadening Horizons
Introduction to Medicine
Medical School Preparation
Introduction to Engineering
Law School Preparation
Introduction to Enterprise
Oxford Enterprise Programme
Oxford Summer English 13-15
Oxford Summer English 16-18
Quick Links
Courses
Students
Staff
Centres
Apply
Contact Us

+44 (0) 845 130 60 21Email us


Follow Us:
facebook
twitter
linkedin
google
youtube
Home
About ORA
Courses
Students
Staff
Centres
About our EFL courses
Videos
Useful Information
Terms & Conditions
FAQs
Work With Us
Yarnton Manor
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy
Oxford Royale Academy is a part of Oxford Programs Limited, UK company number 6045196. The company contracts with institutions including
Oxford University for the use of their facilities and also contracts with tutors from those institutions but does not operate under the aegis of Oxford
University.