When it comes to the English language, calling it a melting pot is mild. English contains words inspired by other languages and others copied directly from them. This leads to some confusing exceptions and impossible spellings. As if this wasn’t enough, many words sound exactly the same when we say them but are spelled differently. Are you making these five common grammar mistakes?
Common Grammar Mistakes:
Common Grammar Mistakes #1: Accept vs Except
1. verb: consent to receive (a thing offered).Oxford Languages
“he accepted a pen as a present”
2. verb: believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.
“this tentative explanation came to be accepted by the group”
When used in a sentence, the word accept is always a verb. For example, “I cannot accept this gift.” Except is a different word entirely:
1. preposition: not including; other than.Oxford Languages
“they work every day except Sunday”
2. conjunction: used before a statement that forms an exception to one just made.
“I didn’t tell him anything, except that I needed the money”
3. verb (FORMAL): specify as not included in a category or group; exclude.
“he excepted from his criticism a handful of distinguished writers”
Take a look through some of these examples that use these words:
I came to ___________ the fact that I would not be arriving on time.
I like every color ___________ brown.
Do you _____________ the buyer’s offer?
We think that everything is acceptable, _____________ this final clause.
Mistake #2: Principal vs Principle
1. adjective: first in order of importance; main.Oxford Languages
“the country’s principal cities”
2. adjective: (of money) denoting an original sum invested or lent.
“the principal amount of your investment”
3. noun: the person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or a group.
“a design consultancy whose principal is based in San Francisco”
4. noun: a sum of money lent or invested, on which interest is paid.
“the winners are paid from the interest without even touching the principal“
These two words are actually easy to get confused, and I can see where everyone goes wrong. The word principal has to do with something that is far more important than the rest. Whether that is a person, a sum of money, or another object or idea matters little. Principle, on the other hand, has more to do with a set of values or definitions that an idea or service may have. See below:
1. noun: a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.Oxford Dictionary
“the basic principles of Christianity”
2. noun: a general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field.
Mistake #3: Advice vs Advise
I see this one a lot, especially on social media platforms. Luckily these are informal platforms where no one really faults you for making grammatical errors like this one. Still, it’s helpful to know how to use these words for more formal settings (and without relying on a service like Grammarly).
1. noun: guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action.Oxford Languages
“she visited the island on her doctor’s advice“
2. noun: a formal notice of a financial transaction.
So, for the purposes of our social media argument, a post may say:
“Seeking advice. Our 3-month-old puppy will not stop chewing everything. What should we do?”
A commenter may say: “I advise you to crate train your puppy and limit his access to your valuables.”
1. verb: offer suggestions about the best course of action to someone.Oxford Languages
“I advised him to go home”
Mistake #4: Too vs To
This one is common; however, it’s not nearly as common as some of the above. Two is also a homophone (word sounding the same in speech) to too and to, however, the majority of people know that two is the number. Let’s take a look at the difference between too and to.
1. adverb: to a higher degree than is desirable, permissible, or possible; excessively.Oxford Languages
“he was driving too fast”
2. adverb: in addition; also.
“is he coming, too?”
Another mistake I often see with the word too is that when it is at the end of a sentence, it should probably follow a comma. The comma usage at the end of a sentence will depend on the writer’s intent. If you imagine a pause in your sentence before the word too, you should include the comma. If the word too is in the middle of a sentence for emphasis, it should always be framed by commas. For example:
“I would like your help with this, too.“
“I, too, like chocolate cake!“
The word to has many more uses, so let’s take a look at all of those, too. (See what I did there?)
1. preposition: expressing motion in the direction of (a particular location).Oxford Languages
“walking down to the mall”
2. preposition: approaching or reaching (a particular condition).
“Christopher’s expression changed from amazement to joy”
3. infinitive marker: used with the base form of a verb to indicate that the verb is in the infinitive.
4. infinitive marker: used without a verb following when the missing verb is clearly understood.
“he asked her to come but she said she didn’t want to“
5. adverb: so as to be closed or nearly closed.
“he pulled the door to behind him”
As you can see, the words to and too have very different uses. You, too, can use these words properly! You’ve got this.
Mistake #5: It’s vs Its
Ah, the contraction that looks like a possessive noun. Honest to goodness, this one is so sneaky that, as a writer myself, I have to say out the contraction in my head as I write it. The trick to this is to supplant “it is” in place of the contraction (it’s) when trying to figure out which word to use. For example, you would use it’s in the following sentences in place of it is.
I know that it is common for dogs to struggle with potty training from 8-10 weeks.
She told me that it is necessary to condition my hair before blow drying.
1. contraction: it is.Oxford Languages
“it’s my fault”
2. contraction: it has.
“it’s been a hot day”
Its is a different word entirely, and is a possessive pronoun, meaning that it not only shows possession, but it’s (it is) also a word that takes the place of another noun. For example, its could replace the following bolded words in the following sentences (as long as the subject has been stated in the preceding sentences).
I really love the Border Collie breed. The Border Collie breed’s members are incredibly intelligent.
My sewing machine needs to be serviced. My sewing machine’s base is filled with lint that I cannot reach.
As you can see, the word its can make your sentences more concise and easier to read. It’s (it is) a great tool to have in your writing toolbox!
1. determiner: belonging to or associated with a thing previously mentioned or easily identified.
And Many More Common Grammar Mistakes…
There are many more common grammar and punctuation mistakes that we could get into, and perhaps we will! What mistakes do you see people make often? What is your pet peeve grammar mistake that triggers you every time!?
Until next time,