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Common Grammar Mistakes Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Oct 1, 2011

Common Error 3: Incorrect Pronoun–Antecedent Agreeement

The three most common errors in the use of pronouns are the following:

  1. You fail to have the pronoun agree in number with its antecedent (the noun it is replacing or referring to).
    • One cat sat staring at her prey. (correct agreement of singular subject and singular pronoun)
    • Two cats sat staring at their prey. (correct agreement of plural subject and plural pronoun)  
  2. You fail to have the pronoun agree in person with its antecedent.
    • Each cat had its eyes glued on its prey. (correct agreement)
    • Each cat had their eyes glued on their prey. (incorrect agreement)  
  3. You fail to have the pronoun agree in grammatical function with its antecedent.
    • We writers have to be very careful about our pronoun usage. (correct subjective usage)
    • Her and me sometimes forget to check our pronouns. (incorrect agreement; objective pronouns being used here as subjects)

Common Error 4: Comma Splices

Comma splices are simply misplaced commas that usually result from a writer's uncertainty, ignorance about commas rules, or just plain negligence. When you write two independent clauses in one sentence, you need more than a comma to separate them. No error is more common than the comma splice; learning to avoid them and/or correct them is the single most significant improvement you can make in your writing.

Tip

When in doubt about a comma, leave it out. You have a better chance of conveying meaning without a comma than you do with sticking one in arbitrarily and thereby splicing the sentence.

Common Error 5: Ten Common Spelling Mistakes and Word Confusions

Because these words are so commonly misused or misspelled, the list provided in Lesson 6 is repeated here in full. You will be judged harshly by your teachers and your readers if you fail to use these words correctly.

1. Accept: verb, to take something
Except: preposition, but, or other than
 
The teacher accepted most of Tim's excuse, except the part about how the dog ate his homework.
2. Advice: noun, describes help you give someone
Advise: verb, describes the act of giving someone verbal help
 
The teacher advised the students to take her good advice and study hard for the examination.
3. Affect: verb, to modify or make a difference
Effect: noun, a result
 
The effect of bad study habits is often seen in a student's school failures, which may affect future opportunities.
4. Bad: adjective, used with linking verbs as well as to modify nouns
Badly: adverb, in an inferior way
 
The teacher feels bad when her students perform badly on their tests.
5. Can: verb, being able to do something
May: verb, having been given permission to do something
 
The students can study harder, but the chances that they will do so often seem slim.
If the students do well early in the week, the teacher may give them permission to goof off one hour on Friday.
6. Farther: adverb, describes distance
Further: adjective, describes quantity
 
Runners who want to run farther than a mini-marathon need to invest time in further practice.
7. Lend: verb, to provide temporary use of
Loan: noun, what you give someone temporary use of
 
Your best friend may lend you her copy of the textbook, but the loan is temporary until you find your own copy.
8. Like: preposition, introduces the idea of similarity As: adverb, suggests similarity, or in the same manner
As: adverb, suggests similarity, or in the same manner
 
A clap of thunder is like an alarm clock; it startles and surprises you.
Do as I say, not as I do. (correct usage).
Do like I say. (incorrect usage)

Tip

Try to limit your use of the word like. It is probably the most overused word in many vocabularies. While it may be acceptable in conversation to sprinkle your comments with pauses and the word like, the word should not be used in formal writing as an indication of a pause or an interruption of thought. It is definitely not a word to introduce phrases, or to use when you can't think of what you're going to say next.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Common Grammar Mistakes Practice Exercises

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