The word ‘grammar’ can be scary and intimidating to anyone learning a new language, no matter what that language is. Have no fear, because today we’re going to talk about some of the most common grammar mistakes in the English language and why they’re wrong. If you’ve made some of these mistakes before, or make them frequently, don’t worry about it! It’s important to keep in mind that even native speakers of the language get these grammar rules wrong sometimes!
1. You’re or Your?
Your: This is a possessive adjective which we use to describe something belong to the person who is being spoken to.
E.g. What is your name?
E.g. Is this his pen? No, it’s yours. [The pen belongs to you, it is not mine]
You’re: This is a contraction of the two words ‘you’ (pronoun) and ‘are’ (verb ‘to be’).
E.g. You are a teacher [= You’re a teacher]
Their: This is a possessive adjective and is used when we want to show that a particular noun belongs to a specific person or group of people. Let’s look at some examples to help make this clear:
E.g. That’s Tom and Rachel. Their parents work at the hospital. [Their = Tom and Rachel’s]
E.g. That toy isn’t his, it’s theirs! [Who does the toy belong to? It belongs to them]
They’re: This is a contraction of the two words ‘they’ (pronoun) and the corresponding verb ‘to be’ (are).
E.g. They’re my best friends. [They are my best friends]
E.g. They’re going to the beach. [Where are they going? They are going to the beach]
Note: Contractions are informal shortcuts we use in day-to-day speech and writing.
There: This word is used when we want to speak about a specific place or direction.
E.g. Where is my bag? I saw it over there, next to the table.
It can also be used with the verb ‘to be’ in order to show the existence of something
E.g. There is a fantastic bar around the corner.
3. We don’t want no Double Negatives
A double negative is when we use two negative words in the same sentence. Using two negatives turns the thought or sentence into a positive one, and this can be quite confusing to the person listening to you. Can you see the negative words in this sentence?
E.g. I didn’t see nothing, officer.
Here, ‘didn’t’ and ‘nothing’ are negative words. The correct way of saying this is ‘I didn’t see anything, officer.’ Double negatives are grammatically incorrect, however they are used in many popular songs and in informal speech because people think it sounds ‘cool’ (but they won’t tell you that).
4. Alot/A lot
A lot: This is a combination of the article ‘a’ and the word ‘lot’ (meaning a large number or a large amount of something).
E.g. I ate a lot of cake today. I shouldn’t eat any more.
Alot: This word just does not exist. Think about it this way – we don’t write ‘adog’, but ‘a dog’. So why would we stick the article onto the following word like that? Alot of native speakers make this mistake. (See what I did there?)
5. Less? Fewer?
The simplest way of understanding the difference between less and fewer is to remember that fewer is used for things you can count, and less is used for things you don’t count.
E.g. Fewer people will smoke if the government increase the price of cigarettes.
E.g. I’d like less milk in my tea next time.
If you watch Game of Thrones, you’ll know that one of the main characters (Stannis Baratheon) is definitely the king of grammar.