Common Grammar Mistakes Study Guide
Common Grammar Mistakes
My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible… You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements. - ERNEST HEMINGWAY (1899–1961) AMERICAN NOVELIST
You can never be too careful about grammar. This lesson provides a review of the errors you are most likely to make and advice on how to avoid them.
Before You Tackle the subsequent lessons in Section 5, concentrate very carefully for 15 minutes on this lesson's review of the five most common grammatical errors. With these reminders fresh in your mind, learning new strategies for the drafting process will be easier and lots more fun.
If this quick review doesn't feel sufficient, go back to Lesson 6 for more detailed explanations of these common errors.
Common Error 1: Incorrect Noun-Verb Agreement
The Correct Rule: In every sentence you write, the noun and the verb must agree in number. This means that a singular noun must be paired with a singular verb, and a plural noun requires a plural verb. (For a review of exceptions to this rule, return to Lesson 6.)
Incorrect Noun-Verb Agreement: The dog and the cat, sworn enemies, is the funniest dinnertime show at our house.
Correct Noun-Verb Agreement: The dog and the cat, sworn enemies, are the funniest dinnertime show at our house.
Common Error 2: Incorrect Verb Endings
Correct Verb Endings: Every verb has four basic parts that indicate the time in which the action of the verb is happening. These four parts form the building blocks with which writers and speakers can describe actions that
|1.||are occurring in the present|
|2.||are occurring in the present|
|3.||occurred in the past|
|4.||have or had occurred at some time in the past|
All options are covered by these four parts.
- Here's a chart to remind you how the verb forms work:
Note that there are many irregular verbs, whose parts you must memorize. Most of the memorizing gets done without thinking about it. In the course of reading and listening to others speak, most people absorb the irregular verbs quite naturally and don't have to stop to think about which form of the verb to use. For example, do you have to interrupt yourself to think when you're talking about a lesson you had in the past? Probably not. You would simply say, without hesitating, "The teacher taught us the lesson." Saying "The teacher teached us the lesson" would not come naturally to you.
Here are some common irregular verbs that you should be careful to use correctly both in your speech and in your writing.
Confusing Verb Pairs
There are some verbs that sound similar but actually mean different things. These verbs probably cause the most confusion in both written and spoken English. Here are two of the most troublesome:
Lie and Lay
Lie takes no object. It describes the act of resting in one position.
Lay takes an object. It describes the act of putting something somewhere.
Lie down and dream of the day when you will be able to lay your grammar book aside and write easily without it.
Sit and Set
Sit does not take an object. It describes the act of being seated somewhere.
Set takes an object. It describes the act of placing something somewhere.
Set aside your prejudices against classical music, and sit down to listen to this Mozart CD; you may like it.
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