Oh, the English language—could it be any more complicated with its rules and all of the exceptions to those rules? If you’re lucky enough to be born an English speaker (saving you the incredible challenge of having to learn English as a second language—argh!), then you probably learned many of the critical grammar rules at a young age.
Still, no matter how early we learned the rules, there are some grammar mistakes that we all tend to stumble upon regardless of whether English is our first language—we’ll highlight those here, and how to avoid them.
Their vs. there. Because the word their is defined as “belonging to,” it usually precedes a noun or adjective. For example, “It was their home” and “Their blue car caught on fire.”
Its vs. it’s. Only use the word it’s when you could in its place put it is or it has. Its means “of it or belonging to it.” An example of its being used properly includes “Its whistle could be heard for miles” (the whistle belongs to the train). “The train’s whistle is a sign that it’s coming into town” is an example of the word it’s in a similar context.
Please don’t end a sentence with a preposition. A preposition is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a function word that typically combines with a noun phrase to form a phrase which usually expresses a modification or predication.”
Examples of phrases with proper use of prepositions include “The dog is in the car” or “The cat is on the roof”—essentially the word comes before a noun or pronoun in most cases. An example of inappropriate use is “Where did he go to?” and “Where will you be at?” You can generally assume that if you can remove the word at the end of the sentence and it still makes sense, do so. In both of these examples, you can.
Use of the word “me” versus “I.” One of the more common grammar mistakes people make is when talking about doing something with someone else, and misusing the words me and I.
Here is an easy way to figure out the correct usage: If you remove the other person’s name, is the sentence complete? If so, then you have used the proper word of the two. An example such as “Frank and I went to the park” also works if you write “I went to the park.” In a similar case, “Me and Sandy went jogging” does not work when you write “Me went jogging,” so the grammar is improper—in this case, it should read “Sandy and I went jogging.”
There is a good chance you’ve heard or read or perhaps even made one of these mistakes already today. Try to think consciously about the decision to use a word before doing so, and consider the little tricks for remembering usage that we’ve shared here. Practice inevitably makes the right decision much more instinctive, and it’s definitely important to practice.
Your reputation and career could depend on it, whether you are involved in article writing, teaching, marketing, or sales—the rules of grammar apply in all cases!