Often, non-native English speakers and even those who have English as their first language make mistakes. However, these mistakes are preventable if one has adequate knowledge of the rules of grammar.
This article aims to define what grammar is and highlight common grammar mistakes. It also touches on the guidelines that govern English grammar and gives helpful tips on the best ways to refine your grammar and expand your vocabulary.
- What Is Grammar?
- 7 Common Grammar Mistakes
- How to Learn English Without Grammar Mistakes?
- How To Refine Your English Grammar?
What Is Grammar?
According to dictionary.com, “grammar” is referred to as “the study of the way the sentences of a language are constructed; morphology and syntax.”
Simply put, grammar is a system of rules and principles that guide the speaking and writing of language.
It can also be the study of words and how they work together to form sentences.
Grammar exists so that English language speakers have a standard set of language rules to ensure understanding.
7 Common Grammar Mistakes
Grammar mistakes are simply errors that occur either in speaking or writing. It is said that a mistake has been made when a statement does not conform to the rules of grammar. Usually, such a mistake ends up confusing the listener or reader to whom the statement is made.
Some of the common grammar mistakes people often make include:
1. Misusing The Tenses
It is perhaps the most common grammar mistake, both in speaking and writing. It is essential to avoid the mistake of switching from the present to past tense and vice versa.
The present tense depicts a consistent or ongoing action, while the past tense refers to something that has already happened.
When speaking or writing about the past, one does so in the past tense. When speaking of writing about an ongoing or consistent action, one does so in the present tense. Switching between or interchanging the tenses leads to information not being properly conveyed.
- Incorrect == “When I was a kid, I eat a lot of candy”.
- Correct ==“When I was a kid, I ate a lot of candy”.
2. Incorrect use of Commas
The Comma is used to represent a short pause in a sentence. A comma prevents one sentence from running into another. In the case of compound sentences, there should be a comma before the conjunction to indicate that the two sentences are related.
The incorrect use of commas can give a sentence a meaning different from what the writer intends.
- Incorrect == “Jim went to the store and Pam went with him”.
- Correct== “Jim went to the store, and Pam went with him”.
3. Misuse or Omission of Articles
Articles in sentences are used to indicate whether the noun in a sentence is specific or general. There are two types of articles used in writing or conversation in English. They are the definite article (the) used when referring to a specific noun.
Definite articles are used with both singular, plural, and uncountable nouns. The other type of article in English is the indefinite article (a/an). Indefinite articles are used when a noun refers to a general thing rather than something specific.
Indefinite articles usually appear before singular nouns. The misuse or omission of these articles in sentences shows a lack of proficiency in the English language.
Example: Definite Article
- Incorrect == “What is the name of a boy we met yesterday?”
- Correct == “What is the name of the boy we met yesterday?”
Example: Indefinite Article
- Incorrect == “I live in the apartment in the city.”
- Correct == “I live in an apartment in the city.”
4. Incorrect Use of Nouns and Pronouns
The incorrect use of nouns and pronouns occurs when the pronouns do not agree in number with the nouns to which they refer. The cardinal rule is that singular nouns should be used with singular pronouns and plural nouns.
- Incorrect == “Every boy has their bag.”
- Correct == “Every boy has his bag.”
5. Subject-verb Disagreements
Mistakes with the subject-verb agreement can be the source of many grammatical errors. When speaking or writing in the present tense, a sentence must have subjects and verbs that agree in number. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural also.
- Incorrect == “These bananas is good for baking.”
- Correct == “These bananas are good for baking.”
6. Not Using Punctuation Marks.
The use of punctuation marks is essential. They help to give readers clarity. Punctuations show readers how sentences are constructed and how to read them. They also make the meaning of sentences clear.
- Incorrect == “I am sorry I will come early tomorrow.”
- Correct == “I am sorry, I will come early tomorrow.”
7. Missing or Misplaced Apostrophe
We use the apostrophe to show that someone owns something or is in close relation with it.
- Incorrect == “Is that Jacks car?”
- Correct == “Is that Jack’s car? “
We also use the apostrophe to connect words and shorten sentences.
- Without Apostrophe ==“It is my box.”
- With Apostrophe == “It’s my box.”‘
How to Learn English Without Grammar Mistakes?
Grammar mistakes make it difficult for a speaker to pass information across. Such errors also make it difficult for writers to capture the attention of readers. When your speech or writing is error-free, it becomes easier for listeners or readers to understand the message you intend to convey.
Do your best to comply with grammar rules, whether speaking or writing. The knowledge of grammar guidelines provides a foundation for both speaking and writing in English. The rules of English grammar are numerous, and we will be examining some of these rules below:
1. Proper Use of Punctuation Marks
The correct use of punctuation marks is necessary to guide against misunderstanding or confusion in writing. Punctuation primarily helps indicate the pauses and the emphasis on the ideas or thoughts that a writer wishes to convey. Proper punctuation also helps to make a piece of writing logical and readable.
- Incorrect == “The girls is ready to go.”
- Correct == “The girls are ready to go.”
2. Subject-verb Agreement
The subject and verb within a sentence need to agree with each other in number. The agreement is important for a sentence to convey the proper meaning, and this is the central rule that forms the background of the concept.
- Incorrect == “The girls is ready to go.”
- Correct == “The girls are ready to go.”
However, if two subjects are joined by and, they typically require a plural verb.
- Incorrect == “Jim and Pam is married.”
- Correct == “Jim and Pam are married. “
3. Subject-verb object Agreement
The Subject verb object agreement is a sentence structure where the subject comes first, the verb, second, and the object third. The subject usually acts; the object is the receiver of the action, while the verb reveals the subject’s action.
Sentences like this usually require a monotransitive verb (or a verb that only requires one subject).
- “He killed the slave.”
- “Angela sells clothes.“
4. Present Tense
The present tense is a grammatical tense whose primary function is to locate a situation or event in the current time. We use the present tense for actions that are consistent or currently occurring.
The present tense is one of the two tenses in the English language.
The present tense has four forms:
a. Simple Present
The simple present tense is a verb tense with two main uses. We use the simple present tense when an action is happening or when it happens consistently.
- “Michael is jogging.”
- “Michael jogs daily.“
The simple present tense has three forms:
Affirmative simple present tense refers to a sentence in the positive form (positive means a basic sentence, not a negative or a question).
The affirmative simple present tense is formed by using the root form of the verb or by adding s or es to the end.
- “Jamie loves pie.”
The process for making a simple present verb negative is by adding do/does + not to the root form of the verb.
- “Jamie does not love pie.”
When making a sentence in the simple present tense interrogative, you add “do/does” + the subject + the root form of the verb.
- “Does Jamie love pie?”
b. Present Continuous Tense
The present continuous tense is a way to convey any action or situation that is happening currently, happens frequently, and maybe ongoing. It adds energy to writing, and it helps readers understand when the action is happening.
The present continuous tense is used together with dynamic verbs, that is, those that show action, e.g., walk, and not stative verbs, that is, verbs that do not change, e.g., deserve.
- “I am walking home.”
- “My brother is arriving tomorrow.”
c. Present Perfect Tense
We use the present perfect tense when referring to something that occurred indefinitely in the past or when referring to something that began in the past and has continued into the present time. This tense is constructed by adding have/has to the past participle of the root verb.
However, you can not use past perfect when you are specific about when something happened.
- “We have baked with this oven before.”
- “She has worked here in the past.”
d. Present Perfect Continuous
The present perfect continuous tense indicates that something started in the past and is continuing at present. The present perfect continuous tense’s structure is “has/have been” + the present participle + the root verb + ing.
Recently and lately are words used with verbs in the present perfect continuous tense.
However, not all verbs are compatible with continuous action. Examples of such verbs are to arrive and to own.
- “I have been swimming since I was little.”
- “He has been studying for over 6 hours.”
5. Past tense
The past tense is a grammatical tense whose function is to place an action or situation in the past. We also use the past tense to talk about hypotheses. It is the second form of tenses in the English language.
The past tense has four forms:
a. Simple Past Tense
The simple past tense emphasizes a concluded action. We use verb tenses when talking about things that happened or existed before the present. We also employ the simple past tense when discussing a past state of being, such as how someone felt about something.
- “We had some chocolates.”
The simple past tense has three forms:
The affirmative simple past tense is formed by adding -ed to the root form of the verb or adding just -d if the root form already ends in an e. We use this in the case of regular verbs.
- “Walk” to “walk(ed)”
- “Love” to “love(d)”
In the case of some irregular verbs, the root forms do not change. E.g., “cut” remains even in the past tense.
Verbs in the simple past tense, except for the verb to be, do not agree in number with their subject.
- “I furnished the apartment myself.”
- “They furnished the apartments with the help of an interior decorator.”
The negative simple past tense is formed by adding did not to the root form of the verb.
In the case of the verb to be, we replace the “did” with “was.”
- “We did not walk home because it rained.”
- “Her sister was not happy with her.”
You can form a question in the simple past tense is by adding -did to the subject, then to the root form of the verb.
In the case of the verb to be, did is replaced with was or were.
- “Did you go to school yesterday?”
- “Was she at home last week? “
b. Past Continuous Tense
The past continuous tense refers to a continuing action or event happening at some point in the past. We form the past continuous tense by adding the past tense of to be, i.e., was or were, to the verbs present participle.
This verb tense often describes conditions that existed in the past.
- “The sisters were attending their first party.”
In addition, the past continuous tense sheds light on what was happening at a precise time in the past.
- “At Six p.m, I was preparing dinner.”
This tense also refers to habitual actions in the past.
- “Todd was constantly working to make ends meet two years ago.”
c. Past Perfect Tense
We often use this verb tense to talk about actions that were completed before another in the past.
To form the past perfect tense, you add the past tense of the verb “to have,” which is “had,” to the past participle of the root verb.
- “They had met before the conference.”
The past perfect tense shows that an action happened before something else.
- “She failed her exam because she had not read enough.”
The tense also indicates that an action happened before a specific time.
- “I had gotten home before Eight p.m.”
d. Past Perfect Continuous
The past perfect continuous tense indicates that an action that started previously continued until another time in the past. We form the past perfect continuous tense using had been with the verb’s present participle, that is, root verb + -ing.
- “They had been waiting in line before it started raining.”
6. Future Tense
The future tense expresses an action that has not yet happened or a state that is not yet existing.
The future tense has four forms:
a. Future Simple Tense
We often use the future tense to talk about an action or condition that will begin and end in the future.
We can further divide the future simple tense into two:
i. Future Infinitive Tense.
We use the simple future tense when an action is promised to happen in the future.
- “My brother will come to London tomorrow.”
ii. Future Negative Tense
We form the negative simple future tense by adding will to not and then to the root form of the verb.
- “I will not wait if you are late tomorrow.”
b. Future Continuous Tense
We make use of the future continuous tense when an action is promised or thought to be going on at a specific period in the future.
We form a sentence in this tense by putting the subject first, then shall or will, followed by -be and the root verb plus ing.
- “I will be traveling by this time tomorrow.”
- “We shall be having breakfast with my parents.”
c. Future Perfect Tense
The future perfect tense indicates an action that is guaranteed to be done by a specific time in the future.
We make a sentence in this tense by putting the subject first, then adding shall or will, followed by “have” and the root verb in the past participle.
- “He will have cooked the meal before I get back from work.”
- “They will have finished building the house by January.”
d. Future Perfect Continuous Tense
This tense describes actions that will continue into a particular time in the future.
- “By 5 pm, I will have been waiting for 30 minutes.”
7. Regular Verbs
Regular verbs a defined as verbs whose past tense are formed by adding the letters -ed or -d to the root verb.
Regular verbs have three forms:
The present form is the most common verb form in the English language. We use this form to express habits and general truths, among other things. We form the present form by taking a subject pronoun and combining it with the corresponding verb conjugation.
- “He writes daily.“
b. Past simple
These are verbs used to describe an action completed in the past.
- “He walked away.”
- “She moved out. “
c. Past participle
To form the past participle of most regular verbs in English, we add the suffix -ed to the base form of the verb.
- “Call” — “call(ed)”
- “Walk” — “walk(ed)”
8. Irregular Verbs
Irregular verbs do not take on the regular –d or -ed suffixes of the simple past tense. They are also known as strong verbs.
Irregular verbs have the following forms:
The base form of a verb is the version of the verb without any endings. It is the most basic version of a verb. Verbs in the base form are also called the infinitive or root form. Examples: cut, choose, take, break.
b. Past Simple
The past simple is the tense used to express situations that occurred in the past and have now ended. No rule explains how to derive the past simple form of irregular verbs. Writers and speakers have to learn the verbs and their past forms by heart.
- “We broke a plate.”
- “He cut the tree yesterday.”
C . Past participle
There is also no rule explaining how to derive the past participle of irregular verbs.
- “She had broken the seal before reading the instructions”.
- “He has taken the vaccine since last week”.
Adjectives are words that qualify or describe the state of nouns. We also use them in describing the number of nouns.
- “The hat she made is beautiful”.
- “We are expecting many people”.
There are three degrees of adjectives:
a. Positive Adjective
A Positive adjective describes something in its own right.
- “A brilliant girl”.
- “A fine man”.
b. Comparative Adjective
Comparative adjectives usually make a comparison between two or more things. For most monosyllabic adjectives, we make the comparative by adding the suffix -er, Ir only -r if the adjective already ends with an e. For adjectives with two syllables ending with -y, the -y is replaced with -ier. For multi-syllable adjectives, the word more is added.
- “A more brilliant girl”.
- “A finer man”.
c. Superlative Adjectives
Superlative adjectives show that something has the highest degree of quality in question.
Monosyllabic adjectives become superlatives by adding the suffix -est or -st for adjectives that already end in -e. With two-syllable adjectives ending in -y, the -y is replaced with -iest. Using multi-syllabic adjectives requires that you add the word “most.” When you use an article with a superlative adjective, it will usually be with the definite article the, rather than a or an. Using a superlative automatically implies that you are talking about a specific person or thing.
- “The most brilliant girl”.
- “The finest man”.
A noun is a word that serves as the name of a particular object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. Nouns play several roles in sentences, ranging from subjects to objects.
There are different types of nouns serving several purposes, they are:
a. Concrete nouns
We identify a concrete noun through any of the five senses.
b. Abstract nouns
The term abstract noun refers to nouns that are not perceivable using one of the five senses.
c. Collective nouns
Collective nouns are names used to refer to a collection of several people or things. Collective nouns are also words for single things comprising more than one person, animal, place, thing, or idea.
- “An array of colors”
- “A herd of cattle”
d. Compound nouns
Compound nouns are a type of noun formed by putting two existing words together to make one noun. They can be written together as one word, for example, firehouse. We can also write them as separate words, for example, ice cream, or hyphenated words, for example, well-meaning.
- “We waited at the bus stop”
- “They have a swimming pool”
e. Possessive nouns
A possessive noun indicates ownership of something. It is easy to distinguish by the apostrophe that comes before the letter -S. However, this is not applicable in all cases.
- “Phil’s phone is ringing”
- “I am scared of the cat. Its nails are very sharp”
f. Regular plural nouns
Most singular regular nouns are made plural by simply putting an -s at the end. There are many plural noun rules, and since we use nouns repeatedly when writing, we must know all of them.
The proper spelling of plurals usually depends on what letter the singular noun ends in.
- To pluralize regular nouns, add s to the end. (“Boy” —“Boys”)
- If the singular noun ends in sh, -ch, -s, -ss, -x, or -z, add es to the end to make it plural. (“Church” — “Churches”)
- If a noun ends with f or -fe, the -f is usually changed to ve before adding the -s to construct the plural. (“Wife” — “Wives”).
- If the singular noun ends in o, In most cases, you need to add es to make it plural. (“Potato” — “Potatoes”).
g. Irregular nouns
Irregular plural nouns are nouns that do not become plural by adding -s or -es, as is usual for most nouns in the English language. Irregulars do not have specific rules. It is best to check for the proper pluralization using the dictionary, especially for non-native English speakers.
- “Man” — “Men”
- “Tooth” — “Teeth”
- “Child“ — “Children“
A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun or a noun phrase to avoid unnecessary repetition.
We can classify pronouns into the following:
a. Subject pronouns
These are the pronouns that are the actors of sentences. Examples include We, They, I.
- “I bake daily.”
- “They ran a marathon.”.
b. Object Pronouns
Object pronouns are the pronouns that receive the action in a sentence. Examples include Me, Them, you, her.
- “She went with me.”
- “Had is waiting for them.”
c. Possessive adjectives
Possessive adjectives include your, his, my, her, its, our, or their. It is used with a noun to show that one person or thing belongs to another.
- “I love her dog.”
- “That is my father.”
d. Possessive pronouns
These are also called Absolute or Strong pronouns.
Possessive pronouns show possession or ownership. Examples are “His”, “Hers”, “Mine”, “Yours”.
- “Nina said the book is hers.”
- “The pink shoes are mine.”
e. Reflexive pronouns
Reflexive pronouns include yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. They point back to a person or thing. We also use reflexive pronouns are when the subject and the object of a verb are the same.
- “The cat hurt itself.”
- “Tom is unsure of himself.”
An adverb is a word used in describing a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or an entire sentence. In most cases, adverbs often end in -ly.
The different kinds of adverbs are:
a. Adverbs of time
An adverb of time is a word that describes when, for how long, or how often a particular action occurred.
- “She left for school yesterday.”
b. Adverbs of place
Adverbs of place always answer the question where? An adverb of place always talks about the location where the action of the verb is carried out.
- “He hid the toy underneath the couch.”
c. Adverbs of frequency
An adverb of frequency describes how often an action occurs. We often use adverbs of frequency to indicate routine or repeated activities, so they are often used with the present simple tense.
- “Ted jogs daily.”
- “We see each other frequently.”
d. Adverbs of manner
An adverb of manner describes how and in what way an action, denoted by a verb, is carried out.
- “Andy walks briskly.”
- “We took our time to catch up, so we are slowly.”
e. Adverbs of degree
An adverb of degree tells to what extent we do something or something happens. Adverbs of degree show the intensity of something. Adverbs of degree are usually placed before the adjective, adverb, or verb that they modify, but for some exceptions.
- “Getting to the summit of the mountain is extremely dangerous.”
- “The water is too cold.”
f. Adverbs of reason
Adverbs of reason usually answer the question, why? They are used to explain the reason why an occurrence happened.
- “She did not go to work because she was not feeling well.”
- “Since I woke up late, I missed my flight.”
g. Interrogative adverbs
We use interrogative adverbs to ask questions. The interrogative adverbs are why, where, when, and how.
- “How did you lose your wallet?”
- “Where is the event happening?“
h. Relative adverbs
Relative adverbs are words that give more information about the people, places, or things being discussed. In addition, they join clauses and sentences together. e.g., when, where, why.
- “That is the place where I bought my car.”
- “2002 was the year when my brother was born.”
We make use of determiners to provide information about a noun or to introduce a noun. Determiners usually come before a noun, not after. Determiners also come before any other adjectives used to describe the noun. Determiners are required before a singular noun but are optional when it comes to introducing plural nouns.
- “Do you want this piece of chicken?”
- “Some boys missed school today.”
Prepositions specify what relationships exist between subjects or objects and other words in a sentence. Often, prepositions tell you where something is or when something happened.
Prepositions also tell us where one noun is in relation to another. They include for, in, off, on, over, besides, and under.
- “The remote is beside the couch.”
- “She has a pen on her table.”
Conjunctions are words that connect other phrases, words, or clauses to each other. Conjunctions allow the formation of complex, elegant sentences and avoidance of the abruptness of multiple short sentences. It is essential to ensure that the phrases joined by conjunctions share the same structure.
Conjunctions have three forms:
a. Coordinating conjunctions
They include words like and, yet, but, so, for.
- “I wanted to study quietly, so I went to the library.”
b. Correlating conjunctions
They consist of words like either/or, neither/nor.
- “You can pick either the blue shawl or the purple one.”
c. Subordinating conjunctions
Subordinating conjunctions include although, while, whereas, though, and because.
- “I am here because I need to be.”
Interjections are words intended to express different levels of emotion or surprise. These words or phrases can stand alone or before or after a sentence. Exclamation points usually follow interjections. e.g., “wow! “, “Oh!”, “Alas!”.
- “Oh! What a pleasant surprise.”
- “Alas! Her mother died yesterday.“
How To Refine Your English Grammar?
Grammar rules are numerous. Learning these rules can be stressful for native and non-native speakers of the English language.
However, correct grammar is important for writing and speaking, whether as students or employees, because good grammar guarantees that you stand out. It is therefore essential to know some simple methods to improve your grammar. Here are some tips for you to try!
1. Study the Grammar Rules
Understanding the rules of grammar is crucial. Any time a grammatical question arises, you can refer to rules you’ve learned to get your answers.
Studying these rules also helps to avoid making basic mistakes.
2. Think in English
For a non-native English speaker, it is natural to think in a language familiar to you.
However, practicing thinking in English helps you get a grasp of the language faster.
3. Widen Your Vocabulary
It is crucial to keep widening your vocabulary by learning new words and their meaning.
Anytime a word seems new to you, get its spelling, check out its meaning in the dictionary, you will find out that your vocabulary will keep expanding.
4. Practice Your Writing Skills
Writing out words makes you more familiar with them.
It is advisable to keep a notebook where you write new words or rules of grammar that you learn.
Practice writing these words out daily, either on paper or electronically, until using those words comes naturally to you.
5. Read and Read-out Loud
Learning the English language becomes easier when you read wide.
Studying how various authors use language will improve your understanding and comprehension.
Try to read several genres and styles of writing.
You can choose from classic literature, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, online blogs, essays, and articles.
Pay attention to how sentences are structured, word order, spelling, and all the creative ways the authors use language.
Try reading aloud so you also get an idea of how the language sounds in conversation and so that someone can correct you if you are pronouncing a word wrong.
6. Learn to Punctuate
Improper punctuation can mean that the meaning you are trying to convey can be confused or lost.
Learning to punctuate correctly is as essential as it is to learn writing properly in English.
7. Play Word Games
Word games are fun, mentally tasking, and a great way to improve your use of grammar.
These word games are educational, and they usually provide explanations for wrong answers so you can learn from your mistakes.
8. Watch English Shows and Movies
In addition to the options listed above, watching English shows and movies with subtitles is a great way to refine your grammar.
It is definitely a great way to practice pronunciation as you are watching native English speakers.
9. Improve Your Listening Skills
Actively listening to people speak is another way to refine your grammar.
Pay attention to how other people form their sentences. Notice how and where they place words in sentences.
Also, notice how they say common phrases and pay attention to the vocabulary they use.
10. Imitate the Native Speakers
Try imitating what people who are native speakers of English say.
Imitation makes it easier to understand how to form sentences and to expand your vocabulary.
11. Do Not Be Afraid to Speak
By speaking as you learn, you have more opportunities to be corrected if you make a mistake.
Do not keep quiet and assume you know everything.
12. Accept Criticisms
Everyone is rooting for you to speak as fluently and correctly as possible.
When you inevitably make mistakes and are corrected, learn to take these corrections gracefully.
In conclusion, learning the English language is not easy.
The process requires a lot of patience and determination.
However, the decision to learn the language has numerous advantages earlier highlighted.