Common grammatical mistakes that almost everyone makes

Dec 28, 2016 | Language

With the advent of modern technology and our increasing impatience in getting things done, effective and proper communication has taken a back seat. We tend no longer to pay heed to the common grammatical mistakes and errors that we learnt at school with the belief that as long as the message is conveyed and understood by the recipients, the mistakes really don’t matter. While that may be true in a few cases, there is no denying the fact that communicating in a grammatically correct manner does enhance the impression we create on people and leads to better clarity both in speech and in writing. It is, therefore, a good idea to take note of and iron out grammatical inaccuracies in our communication. This article shows examples of some these common grammatical errors and how to correct them.

Common Grammatical Mistakes & Errors in English

Common grammatical mistakes: Give an Exam vs take an exam

Give or take?

Examinations or exams in short are an integral part of growing up. In many non-native English-speaking places, especially in India, people say, “I am going to give an exam”. In a strict sense, this isn’t right. The right sentence is actually “I am going to take an exam”. It is the teachers or the administrators of an examination who “give” an exam and students “take” the exam.

Common grammatical errors: You & me or You & I

Me or I?

A common mistake we make is saying sentences such as “Donald and me are going to play”. The right way to say, though, is “Donald and I”. Without getting into English jargon, here’s an easy way to understand the mistake. If Donald wasn’t there, you’d be saying “I am going to play”, right? So, the addition of Donald just changes the sentence to “Donald and I” and ‘am’ changes to ‘are’ (to reflect the plural subject) to give the sentence “Donald and I are going to play”.

English grammar: A or An

A or An?

Most of us learnt that, generally speaking, when a word begins with a vowel, we use ‘an’ and ‘a’ when the word begins with a consonant. However, that’s not quite correct. More than the spelling, the usage of ‘a’ or ‘an’ depends on the pronunciation of the next word- If the next word has a beginning sound of a vowel, then use ‘an’. For example, an apple or an elephant.

Words beginning with U present an interesting example. When the pronunciation of a word beginning with ‘U’ is “you” such as in university or ubiquitous, you should use ‘a’.

In words such as umbrella and ulcer, where the beginning sound is like “a-“ (as in assume or abrupt), you should use ‘an’. The logic of sound over spelling also applies to words such as “hour”, “honest” or “eulogy”, where even though the spelling starts with a consonant, the beginning sound is that of a vowel and hence, ‘an’ must be used.

Grammar Correction : A or An for abbreviations

A or An (Abbreviation)

The explanation for ‘a’ v/s ‘an’ in the previous point also applies to abbreviations. Always pay attention to the sound rather than the spelling when deciding whether you should use ‘a’ or ‘an’. The abbreviation MBA sounds like ‘Em-bee-a”. Thus, the first sound in MBA is not that of ‘m’ such as in mouse or music but rather the sound in words such as elephant and embryo, which begin with an ‘e’. Hence, you would say ‘an MBA’ and not ‘a MBA’. But for something like B.A., you’ll use ‘a’ and not ‘an’, since the first sound is “bee”.

Common Grammatical mistakes in English : "Cope up" not correct

“Cope up” not right

Cope is a word that is often used incorrectly. The meaning of cope is ‘to deal effectively with something. For example, coping with stress or coping with traffic. However, a lot of us tend to add ‘up’ when using cope, resulting in the meaning ‘to deal up’, which really makes no sense. So, the next time you tell someone you are unable to cope up with work pressure, remember this and drop the ‘up’.

Common Grammatical errors in English : Who or Whom

“to who” or “to whom”

Remember Ross in the ‘Friends’ series who always corrected people when they used ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’? ‘Who’ v/s ‘Whom’ is a common confusion, even among the native speakers. As a rule, who is used to refer to the subject in a sentence. E.g. ‘Who is this man?’ or ‘Who could do such a thing’?

‘Whom’ is used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition. For example, ‘Whom do you support’ (where whom is the object of the verb ‘support’) or ‘To whom does this pen belong?’ (where whom is the object of the preposition ‘to’).

A simple trick to decide between using who and whom is to replace it with ‘he’ or ‘she’. If the sentence still makes sense, use ‘who’. Otherwise, use ‘whom’.

Incorrect Engllish : Married with or married to

“Married with” or “Married to”

A lot of people say “She is married with him”. Although marriage does indicate that the two people are with each other, this usage is wrong. The right way of saying is “She is married to him”. If you are using the simple verb “marry”, then you needn’t use ‘with’ or ‘to’. For example, “I want to marry her”.

Incorrect Grammar : Ofcourse or Of course

It’s “of course”, not “ofcourse”!

This applies more to written English than to spoken English. A lot of us generally think of the phrase “Of course” to be a single word. But it’s not! “Of course” is a phrase of ‘course’ to denote something that is obvious or already known. It is not a single word. For example, “Of course, tomorrow is a holiday!” Other such common examples of phrases that are mistakenly written as a single word are “at least”, “in case” and “in fact”.