20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes

There are a ton of really common grammar mistakes that almost all of us make a few of every day. Here are twenty of the most common ones explained so that you can avoid them in the future.

1. “Borrow” vs. “Lend”

You only borrow something from someone. You only lend something to another person. For example, Barry borrowed money from Lenny, who lended him cash. If you get that ingrained in your head this becomes among the simplest grammar mistakes to avoid.

2. “You’re” vs. “Your”

“You’re” is a contraction meaning “you are.” “Your” indicates possession.You’re a nice person, but your attitude wasn’t great today.

3. “Its” vs. “It’s”

Another place where people make grammar mistakes by misusing contractions. “Its” is possessive, while “it’s” is short for “it is.” For example: See that car? It’s time to change its oil.

4. “A lot” vs. “Allot” vs. “Alot”

You might spend a lot of money. You might allot a certain amount of money to eating out. “Alot” is not a word.

5. “Lay” vs. “Lie”

This is one of those grammar mistakes that has a specific rule of thumb. If you can replace the word with either “put” or “place,” then “lay” is the correct word choice. Otherwise, use “lie.” You lie down, or you lay your body on the bed.

6.    “Bring” vs. “Take”

“Bring” means move towards. “Take” means move away. You bring your kids to school in the morning, and you take them home in the afternoon.

7. “Affect” vs. “Effect”

If you’re influential, you affect someone. In other words, you have an effecton them. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun. It’s pretty much as simple as that, so this is one of those grammar mistakes that would be especially harmful to make in a spot where you need to look professional.

8. “Principle” vs. “Principal”

One of the grammar mistakes I’m most prone to. I have to continually remind myself that a “principle” is the word that means moral belief and that “principal” refers to rank. For example, my high school principal really values the principle of honesty.

9. “Which” vs. “That”

A lot of people think that these words are interchangeable; I did for a long time. On the contrary, though, they serve different purposes. “Which” generally introduces something about what it’s referring to that’s not essential. For example, “This is an apple, which I bought at a grocery store. “That” is always referring to something essential to the sentence. For example, “An apple that’s brown on the inside has gone spoiled.”

10. “May” vs. “Might”

“May” suggests uncertainty, whereas “might” suggests that chances are slimmer. You may make a lot of grammar mistakes in the future, but we don’t know for sure. You might avoid them altogether if you heed this advice, but it’s doubtful.

11. “Farther” vs. “Further”

“Farther” is the word to describe actual distances. He ran farther than five miles. “Further” describes lengths that are more abstract. Not drinking enough water during the race caused further problems than he expected.

12. “Disinterested” vs. “Uninterested”

“Disinterested” means impartial. Someone is disinterested in the outcome of a trial they have no stake in. “Uninterested” signifies not caring at all. A bookworm is uninterested in the winner of the sports match.

13. “Irregardless” vs. The Dictionary

It’s impossible not to use the word “irregardless” wrong, because it’s not a word at all. This is among the easiest grammar mistakes to avoid; just stop saying/writing/typing it.

14. Who and Whom

This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with “him,” “her,” “it”, “us,” and “them.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me.Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.

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15. Which and That

This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring.  e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential. e.g., I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. e.g., The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine.

16. Lay and Lie

This is the crown jewel of all grammatical errors. “Lay” is a transitive verb. It requires a direct subject and one or more objects. Its present tense is “lay” (e.g., I lay the pencil on the table) and its past tense is “laid” (e.g.,Yesterday I laid the pencil on the table). “Lie” is an intransitive verb. It needs no object. Its present tense is “lie” (e.g., The Andes mountains lie between Chile and Argentina) and its past tense is “lay” (e.g., The man lay waiting for an ambulance). The most common mistake occurs when the writer uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” (e.g., I laid on the bed) when he/she actually means the intransitive past tense of “lie” (e.g., I lay on the bed).

17. Moot

Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion. e.g., The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.

18. Continual and Continuous

They’re similar, but there’s a difference. “Continual” means something that’s always occurring, with obvious lapses in time. “Continuous” means something continues without any stops or gaps in between. e.g., The continual music next door made it the worst night of studying ever. e.g., Her continuous talking prevented him from concentrating.

19. Envy and Jealousy

The word “envy” implies a longing for someone else’s good fortunes. “Jealousy” is far more nefarious. It’s a fear of rivalry, often present in sexual situations. “Envy” is when you covet your friend’s good looks. “Jealousy” is what happens when your significant other swoons over your good-looking friend.

20. Nor

“Nor” expresses a negative condition. It literally means “and not.” You’re obligated to use the “nor” form if your sentence expresses a negative and follows it with another negative condition. “Neither the men nor the women were drunk” is a correct sentence because “nor” expresses that the women held the same negative condition as the men. The old rule is that “nor” typically follows “neither,” and “or” follows “either.” However, if neither “either” nor “neither” is used in a sentence, you should use “nor” to express a second negative, as long as the second negative is a verb. If the second negative is a noun, adjective, or adverb, you would use “or,” because the initial negative transfers to all conditions. e.g., He won’t eat broccoli or asparagus. The negative condition expressing the first noun (broccoli) is also used for the second (asparagus).


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