Grammar

Common Grammatical Errors

Fragments (missing subjects and verbs)

Subjects are necessary in English, so they always need to be mentioned before the verb. Be careful with phrases that begin a sentence: introductory phrases are not subjects. Also, the subject only needs to be stated once (My mother she bought some flowers from the store.). Do not put the subject in the object position: Was difficult the test = The test was difficult.

Using "It"

"It" is a pronoun used to the fill the subject space when another noun or pronoun does not fit. For example, we do not say, "Was cold today." The correct sentence would be "It was cold today."

Subject-Verb Agreement

It is important for the subject and verb of your sentence to match. This is especially problematic with third-person singular in simple present. An "s" is added to the verb to make it agree with the subject.

Count and Noncount Nouns

English has count nouns (can be plural) and noncount nouns (cannot be plural). Some common noncount nouns are homework, advice, fruit, bread, news, and water.

Audience

Depending on the purpose of your writing, your audience may change. As your audience changes, the language that you use, especially the pronouns you use, in your writing should also change. For example, when telling a personal story in a letter, you will utilize a lot of personal pronouns such as "I" or "me." In contrast, when writing instructions for how to do something, you would use pronouns like "you" to address the person following the instructions.

There are three main types of audience: first-person, second-person, and third-person.

First-Person Pronouns

Contexts: personal story, letter, journal

 SubjectObject

Possesive

Adjective

Possessive

Pronoun

SingularImemymine
Pluralweusourours

Second-Person Pronouns

Contexts: instructions, steps

 SubjectObject

Possesive

Adjective

Possessive

Pronoun

Singularyouyouyouryours
Pluralyouyouyouryours

Second-Person Pronouns

Contexts: third-person story, academic

 SubjectObject

Possesive

Adjective

Possessive

Pronoun

Singularhe/she/ithim/her/ithis/her/itshis/hers/its
Pluraltheythemtheir theirs

Things to Remember

You vs. Your

"You" is the subject/object pronoun and does not come before nouns. "Your" is a possessive adjective and is placed before a noun.

For example:

You should always ask someone to read over your essay before submitting it.

You, in the example sentence, is referring to the subject of the sentence, the person who should be having their paper read over.

Your, on the other hand, is connected to the noun essay. It is showing that the essay is the possession of the subject, you, in the sentence.

Pronoun Reference

Your pronouns need to stay the same. If you start with one pronoun, you should not change it. Also, make sure your pronoun matches the noun it refers to.

Word Forms

Knowing the meaning of a word is just one part of truly mastering a word. Another important part of vocabulary mastery is knowing the different forms of the word. What does the word look like when it is being used as a noun? What about as a verb?

In most cases, the word will change slightly depending on the part of speech being used. For example, the word understand is a verb; however, when used as a noun, it becomes understanding. Then, as an adjective it is understandable. The root of the word stays the same while the ending of the word changes according to the target part of speech.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some words, like level, do not change with every part of speech. As both a noun and a verb, level stays the same. Also, the endings that are added to words when they do change, are not always the same for the same part of speech. For example, you add the -ing ending to the verb understand to make it a noun while you add the -ance ending to the verb rely to make it a noun, reliance.

As a result, there are no set rules for knowing when a word changes or how to change it. The different forms of a word just need to be memorized. Luckily, however, there are some common endings, suffixes, for each part of speech. These suffixes can be applied to a word to make it the target part of speech, and, through trial and error, the learner can find the best form for their context.

Noun SuffixesVerb SuffixesAdjective SuffixesAdverb Suffixes
-sion/-tion: condition-ate: indicate-al: environmental-ly: quickly
-ance/-ence: difference-ize: recognize-ive: effective 
-ment: development-ify: identify-ful: useful 
-ity: activity -ic: specific