Holiday Grammar Refresher

unnamedDue to the Christmas holidays, EC New York English School students have had the last few days off from school. It’s the day after Christmas and all the presents have been opened, the food has been eaten, and several Christmas carols have been sung. With the holidays finishing, it’s time to get ready to begin school in a few days and refresh your grammatical skills in English. That’s why we’re counting down the five common mistakes that English speakers make.

5. Past Modals

Which of the following sentences is correct?

a) I shouldn’t of eaten so much on Christmas, now I’m sick.

b) I shouldn’t have eaten so much on Christmas, now I’m sick.

If you chose the second sentence, then you’re a grammatical wizard! It’s true that past modals like should have, could have, and would have sound like “should of, could of, and would of”, but remember when describing a regret in the past, you should always use the verb “have” and not the preposition “of”.

4. Your/You’re,They’re/ Their/There, It’s/Its

Pronouns can definitely be confusing! They’re even more confusing when they sound like one another. When using these words, some helpful tips include separating contractions and ensuring the meaning is correct. For example, “You are Santa’s little helper” can be contracted to “You’re Santa’s little helper”. With “their” and “there, remember that the latter refers to a place or location. Since “there” is spelled similarly to “where”, I like to keep this pair in mind.

3. Dangling Participles

Participles can be useful in modifying words and providing depth in your sentences. However, if you modify the wrong word, your message could sound quite silly. Consider the following sentences:

a) Freshly picked from the forest, my mother brought in a beautiful fir tree to decorate.

b) Freshly picked from the forest, our Christmas tree shone the whole night through.

In the first sentence, it sounds like your mother has been recently picked and selected from the forest. The second sentence is much better as we are modifying the correct subject.

2) Extraneous prepositions

Using prepositions can be quite difficult for aspiring English gurus. However, with just a little attention, you can get rid of those pesky prepositions! If you’ve ever heard someone ask “where are you at?”, you might have wondered why they didn’t simply ask “where are you?”. These sentences mean the same thing, but the first includes an unnecessary preposition. Another example is, the man jumped off of the building. We could simply say, the man jumped off the building. The second sentence removes the extraneous preposition and our meaning is still clear.

1) Subject/Verb agreement (or lack thereof)

Remember that singular subjects require singular verbs and plural verbs require plural verbs. For example:

a) The people eating all the cake is going to get sick.

b) The people eating all the cake are going to get sick.

Remember that “people” is a plural subject and requires the plural verb “are”. Just because a subject does not end in “s” does not make it singular. Consider these plural subjects that break this rule: people, sheep, geese, mice, feet, children, women, men, phenomena, criteria, data, alumni, foci.

We hope that this brief grammar lesson has got your grammar juices flowing. We can’t wait to have you back at EC New York English School to teach you more useful grammar lessons! Enjoy the rest of this holiday season everyone!

By: Bindu Varghese