GRAMMAR TIP: 10 Grammar Mistakes You Should Avoid
Studying grammar can sometimes be overwhelming, but it’s always helpful to start with the basics.
Mistake 1: Using “whom” as a subject.
WRONG: Fire personnel radioed deputies to stop the driver, whom, according to reports, appeared to have been under the influence.
RIGHT: Fire personnel radioed deputies to stop the driver, who, according to reports, appeared to have been under the influence.
In this sentence, the pronoun (the driver) is the subject of the verb “appeared” and therefore requires the subject form “who”. The object form of “who” is “whom”, which functions as the object of a verb or as the object of a preposition.
Mistake 2: Unnecessary use of “would” in a wish about the past.
WRONG: Ten Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I Was 20.
RIGHT: Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was 20.
The opportunity for knowing the ten things existed in the past, but exists no longer. The tense required is the past perfect (had + past participle).
Mistake 3: Dangling modifier.
WRONG: At the age of 4, Gia’s family moved from Oakland, California to Modesto.
RIGHT: At the age of 4, Gia moved with her family from Oakland, California to Modesto.
Modifiers should be positioned as closely as possible to the element they modify. The modifying phrase “At the age of 4” modifies “Gia,” not “Gia’s family.”
Mistake 4: Subject-Verb disagreement with delayed subject.
WRONG: There goes Michelle and D’Andre on their way to the movies.
RIGHT: There go Michelle and D’Andre on their way to the movies.
Subjects and verbs must agree in number. When a sentence begins with “here” or “there”, the true subject of the sentence follows the verb. “Michelle and D’Andre” is a plural subject, so the verb “go” must also be plural: “Michelle and D’Andre go.”
Mistake 5: Incorrect use of object pronouns.
WRONG: Me and my sisters all have college degrees in business.
RIGHT: My sisters and I all have college degrees in business.
“Me” is an object. In this example, it is incorrectly used as the subject of the verb “have”. Other object forms often used incorrectly are “him”, “her”, “them”, “whom”, and “us”.
Mistake 6: Incorrect use of subject pronouns.
WRONG: The owner was very kind to my husband and I as we toured the grounds.
RIGHT: The owner was very kind to my husband and me as we toured the grounds.
“I” is a subject pronoun. It is correctly used as the subject of a verb. Its object form is “me”, which is used as the object of a verb or, as in this example, the object of a preposition (to).
Mistake 7: Inappropriate use of reflexive pronoun forms.
WRONG: Nexxus and myself built this company from the ground up.
RIGHT: Nexxus and I built this company from the ground up.
A pronoun that ends in -self or -selves is called a reflexive pronoun. This type of pronoun refers to a noun or personal pronoun that occurs elsewhere in the sentence. For example, “He cut himself shaving.” In this example, “himself” refers to the same person as the one meant by “He”.
Mistake 8: Incorrect use of “did” instead of “had” in certain (if clauses).
One use of the conjunction “if” is to introduce a clause that states an action that would have changed an outcome. For example, “If I hadn’t missed my plane, I would be in Vegas by now.”
Mistake 9: Incorrect irregular verb forms.
Most English verbs form the past and past participle by adding -ed to the base form.
Walk, walked, (has) walked.
Believe, believed, (has) believed.
Jump, jumped, (has) jumped.
However, a few high-frequency verbs have irregular past forms.
Run, ran, (has) run.
Go, went, (has) gone.
Come, came, (has) come.
Here are common errors:
WRONG: Shai loves to read, has ran for office, and has an articulate way of telling it like it is.
RIGHT: Shai loves to read, has run for office, and has an articulate way of telling it like it is.
Mistake 10: Omitting “that” when it is needed after “say”.
When there is no intervening conjunction, “that’ may be omitted after the verb “say”.
Example: The witness said she overheard the defendant threaten to burn the man’s house down.
However, if a conjunction such as “after”, “although”, “because”, “before”, “in addition to”, “until”, or “while” intervenes between the verb “say” and its object, “that” is needed to avoid ambiguity.
WRONG: Cyn said after she stopped recording, she watched for a few more minutes but never saw anyone perform CPR.
RIGHT: Cyn said that after she stopped recording, she watched for a few more minutes but never saw anyone perform CPR.