Most Common English Grammar Mistakes

You want your English essay to stand out for its stellar content and engaging turn of phrase—not for misplaced apostrophes. Here are some common grammatical mistakes to watch out for in your essay:

It’s vs. its

Use an apostrophe when you are making a contraction out of the word “it” and “is.” A good way to remember this is to see if you can replace “it is” with “it’s”—if you can you’ve used it correctly. “Its” however is the possessive form of “it.” Like the possessives “theirs,” “ours,” “hers,” and “yours.”

Fewer doesn’t equal less

The words fewer and less are not interchangeable. If you can count the parts of something, use fewer. For example: Put “fewer” ice cubes in my glass so I can fit some juice in there. If you’re talking about something that can’t quite be pulled apart and counted, use less. For example: Can you put a little bit “less” soda in my glass.

Subject and object pronoun mistakes

Me and he went to the movies? Wrong. Him and I went to the movies? Still wrong. Why? The words I, YOU, HE, SHE, THEY and WE are subjects. And, the words ME, YOU, HIM, HER, THEM and US are objects—the thing to which something is happening. An object shouldn’t be substituted as a subject just because you add the word “and” in between. An “and” should be joining two subjects together or two objects together, not one from each category.

To double check your work, the sentence should sound right if you were to take out the “and.” “Me went to the movies” sounds pretty silly, as does “Him went to the movies.” He and I went to the movies? Perfect.

Which and that

Use THAT when you have a restrictive clause— an important part of a sentence that you can’t delete because it would change the meaning of what you’re trying to say. For example: The book THAT is on the table is mine (as opposed to the ones on the shelf.) Use WHICH when you have a non-restrictive clause—something that’s not necessary in your sentence to get your point across. For example: The book on the table, WHICH is white and has four legs, is mine. One way to remember this rule: WHICH is always used after a comma. (And make sure you don’t confuse WHICH with WITCH, as in Glenda).


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