When you’re learning how to write in English, your grammar is one of the most important things to get right. Something that sounds correct in your head can have a completely different meaning if it is written with grammatical errors.
Ultimately, there are lots of rules to remember that are specific to the English language and may differ from your mother tongue. With time, these things will come to you naturally when you are writing or speaking and you won’t have to think about the rules too much. However, if you’re new to the language, it can take some time to learn the correct spelling and grammar rules.
Ensuring your writing is grammatically correct will not only make your work more legible, but it will also give more credibility to what you are saying. If you want to become proficient in English, it is important to learn these common grammar mistakes so you can get things right at the start of your English learning journey. Then you can focus on perfecting your vocabulary and accent!
10 common English grammar mistakes
- Not using proper verb tense
There are three verb tenses you can use: past, present, and future. If you are talking about something that has already happened, you should use the past tense, if you are talking about something happening right now, you should use the present tense and if you are talking about something continuous or in the future you should use future tense.
- Mixing up words that sound alike
In the English language, there are many words which sound similar but have different meanings. For example, some people might accidentally mix up ‘especially’ or ‘specially’. These words are similar in meaning and spelling so this can be a tricky one. Generally, specially means when something is done specifically for a reason, person, occasion or purpose e.g. ‘The car is designed specially for young drivers’. The word ‘especially’ is usually used to single out one person or thing above everything else, for example, ‘I love all my friends so much, especially my best friend.’
- Not using articles
Articles are words that come before a noun in a sentence and define the noun as specific or unspecific. A specific noun will be preceded by ‘the’ and a general noun will be preceded by ‘a’. For example:
If you are referring to a specific book that belongs to someone else, you would say:
Can I have your book?
If you are referring to a specific book that belongs to you, you would say:
Can I have my book?
If you are not referring to a specific book but would like to borrow any book, you would say:
Can I have a book?
If you are just asking for one book, it would be incorrect to say:
Can I have some book?
Some is used to describe plural objects so it would be correct to say:
Can I have some books?
- Misplacing modifiers
A modifier is a word, phrase or clause which describes a noun in a sentence. Sometimes, the modifier is improperly situated in a sentence. This can mean that the sentence doesn’t make sense, or it can mean the modifier is attached to another noun. For example:
Correct: Soaking from the rain, she arrived home and fell on the sofa.
Incorrect: She fell on the sofa, soaking from the rain.
The modifier in this sentence is ‘soaking from the rain’. In the first sentence, the modifier applies to the person who arrived home but the second sentence is grammatically incorrect because it applies to the couch.
- Incorrect pronoun usage
A pronoun is a word or a group of words that can be used in place of a noun or noun phrase. An example of a pronoun could be ‘you’ which can be singular when talking about one person or plural to describe multiple people or ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’ which refers to someone by their gender. ‘They’ can be used to refer to one person or multiple people. The pronoun ‘he’ is usually used to refer to men and ‘she’ is used to refer to women, but you should always check someone’s pronouns to clarify their preference.
- Lack of subject-verb agreement
Both the subject and verb in a sentence must agree with one another in number, whether they are singular or plural. If the subject of the sentence is singular, the verb must be singular too and if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.
If the number of bags you are referring to is more than one, then the subject-verbs would be as follows:
Correct: ‘Carrying all these bags alone is difficult!’
Incorrect: ‘Carrying all this bags alone is difficult!’
If you are referring to one bag, then the subject-verbs would be as follows:
Correct: ‘Carrying this bag alone is difficult!’
Incorrect: ‘Carrying these bags alone is difficult!’
- Making spelling errors
This is an obvious but common mistake and even native English speakers get things wrong at times! There are of course general spelling rules to follow but not every word follows these rules. Over time you will get the hang of English spelling as long as you put in enough practice and make sure to read as many varied sources as possible.
- Not using parallel structure
Good parallel structure will improve the clarity and readability of your writing. Using parallel structure means everything in the sentence or list is in the same grammatical form. For example:
The following job description would be grammatically incorrect because the verbs are in different tenses:
Your role will include:
- Washing the dishes
- Cleaning the windows
- Take out the bins
However, this job description is correct:
Your role will include:
- Washing the dishes
- Cleaning the windows
- Taking out the bins
- Omitting necessary words
Sometimes you might forget certain words, and this can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Again, this is a rule that can only be avoided by practising and improving your English over time. Most sentences need a subject, verb, and a noun but there are exceptions to this rule.
- Using too many prepositional phrases
A prepositional phrase is a group of words consisting of a preposition, its object, and any additional words that change the object. A preposition is a word that tells you where something is in relation to something else e.g. ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘before’ or ‘after’. Using too many prepositional phrases can lead to confusion for the reader so its best to limit your use when writing.
So, are you ready to up your grammar game?
If English is not your native language, there’s lot of things to remember so don’t feel overwhelmed by all of the technicalities, with time things will become to come naturally to you.
If you can learn a couple of these rules and keep them in mind when you are writing in English, you will already have improved your grammatical skills. While you are trying to get to grips with these grammar rules - why not bookmark this blog and refer back to it so you can check your grammar in your written work?