10 More Tips
Common Speaking and Writing Errors (Part 2)
I taught English and Spanish grammar for over 30 years and I loved it. This article explains how to avoid a few more speaking and writing mistakes.
#1 – ITS vs. IT’S – This is simple: its is the possessive pronoun showing that something belongs to it. It’s is the contraction for it is, so if you can say it is then you should write it’s. Example: It’s baring its teeth. (You can say “It is baring”, but you can’t say “it is teeth.”)
#2 – YOUR vs. YOU’RE – This is the same idea as #1: your means something belongs to you, you’re is the contraction for you are . Example: You’re going to your friend’s house. (You can say “you are going,” but you can’t say “you are friend’s house.”) These are not actually homonyms since your rhymes with whore and you’rerhymes with newer, but many people pronounce them the same.
#3 – THERE / THEIR vs. THEY’RE – You should be getting the hang of this now so here are three homonyms that give people pause. There is simply the opposite of here and the similar spelling should aid you. Their is the possessive pronoun that works like my, your, his, her, its, or our. They’re is the contraction for they are . Example: Their mother is there today and they’re all going to the show.
#4 – WHOSE vs. WHO’S – Again we have a possessive pronoun vs. a contraction. Whose works like his or her. Who’s means who is. Test yourself: (Whose/Who’s) mother is helping today? (Whose/Who’s) helping today? Can you say “who is mother” is helping? No, so it’s whose for the first one and who’s for the second.
#5 – VERSUS vs. VERSE – Huh? When you see “vs.” it usually means versus as in numbers 1 through 4 above. Sometimes it is written simply as the letter v, but it is always pronounced “versus” not verse. Versus means “in opposition to” or “against.” Occasionally you’ll see vs. as an abbreviation for “verse” when quoting from the Bible. My point here is to make people aware that when they see “Michigan vs. Notre Dame” they should say “Michigan versus Notre Dame.”
#6 – THEN vs. THAN – Then is an expression of time. Than is used for comparisons. Examples: I woke up then I got dressed. This is harder than concrete.
#7 – USED TO – That’s it. If you “used to” do something then say “used to” not “use to.”
#8 – MATCH (DON’T MIX) PRONOUNS – You must match pronouns if you use two joined by “and” or “or.” Here’s a quick breakdown: Subject pronouns are the subjects of a sentence. They are I, you, he, she, it, we and they (and who). Object pronouns are the objects in a sentence, the direct object (He saw me), the indirect object (He gave me the ball), or the object of a preposition (He played a game with me). Object pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, and them (and whom). Think of the subject pronouns as royalty that keeps to their own kind and wouldn’t think of hooking up with object pronouns. You can say “you and I,” “he and she,” “he and I,” “she and I,” “she and we,” “they and I” and so on, but never mix them with the object pronouns. You cannot say “her and I” or “him and I” or any other mismatched combination. Do not match up a subject pronoun with an object pronoun. “She and I” is correct in one case and “her and me” is correct in another. Examples: She and I love to play Dominion. Paul wants to play Dominion with her and me. The most common error in this category is that people say “between you and I.” Wrong! “Between” is a preposition and even if you can’t learn the technical grammatical points, I’m sure you would say “between us” and not “between we.” See? “Us” belongs with the object pronouns – between us, between her and me, between you and me, between them, between them and us, between you and him, between him and her – those are all correct.
#9 – WHO vs. WHOM – If you learned #8 then you can figure out when to use who or whom. A quick and easy trick is to substitute HE or HIM. If you can use HE then you can use WHO, if you can use HIM then you can use WHOM. You might have to do some sentence rearranging to see this. Example: Who/Whom do you see as the best candidate? Correct choice – Whom, because you see him as the best candidate.
#10 – SENTENCE FRAGMENTS– Avoid them when writing professional and educational papers. Print up your pages and check for sentence fragments by reading from the bottom up – last sentence, 2nd to last sentence, 3rd to last and so on. This is the best way to catch those pesky fragments and you may also spot misused homonyms as well.