In honor of National Grammar Day on March 4, let’s take the time to squash a few grammar bugs. I promise it won’t be messy.
If grammar wasn’t your favorite subject in school, you probably have several friends who can commiserate with you. We can get away with some of these errors in our everyday speech because conversation usually flows quick enough that some errors just go unnoticed. However, print is not forgiving and errors jump out on the page. So, take the extra time to review your work—even wait a day if you can—and you’ll look a whole lot smarter.
1. Its vs. It’s and Your vs. You’re
Deciding whether or not to form a contraction catches people all of the time, but it’s actually pretty simple.
Its and your show ownership, something belonging to someone or something.
The dog is chasing its tail.
The dog is eating your shoe.
It’s is the contraction form of it is or it has and you’re is the contraction form of you are.
It’s going to be a great day.
I’ll go to the store if you’re driving.
Easy Clue: When using either word, substitute it is or you are in the place of its or your (or it’s/you’re). If the sentence still makes sense, then you should use it’s/you’re. If not, then use its/your.
Another apostrophe conundrum that often confuses some of us. If you can conquer its/it’s and your/you’re, then you can also squash this grammar bug too.
The bank owner’s meeting was cancelled. (One bank owner.)
The bank owners’ meeting was cancelled. (More than one bank owner.)
My parent’s car is brand new. (One parent)
My parents’ car is brand new. (More than one parent)
Easy Clue: Add ‘s after a singular noun or plural noun not ending in –s. Add only an ‘ after a plural noun ending in –s. Don’t use an apostrophe with these possessive pronouns: ours, his, hers, its, or theirs.
Modifiers more clearly define or give more information about a word, phrase or clause in a sentence.
At fifteen, my father began to teach me how to drive. (Incorrect)
My father began to teach me how to drive when I was fifteen. (Correct)
Flying through the air, Sam saw the birds landing on the rooftop. (Incorrect)
Sam saw the birds fly through the air and land on the rooftop. (Correct)
Easy Clue: It is the birds that are flying, not Sam. To avoid confusion, the modifier must be placed next to the word, phrase or clause that it modifies.
4. Subject/Verb Agreement
As people, we don’t always have to agree but subjects and verbs must always agree. Take the following example:
One of these pretty flowers bloom only in the morning. (Incorrect)
One of these pretty flowers blooms only in the morning. (Correct)
Easy Clue: Boil down the sentence to its basic parts (AKA a kindergarten-style sentence) by removing the fluff (prepositional phrases, adjectives, etc.).
One bloom. (Incorrect)
One blooms. (Correct)
Now the answer is obvious.
5. I vs. Me (Pronoun Misuse)
Some of us stumble over the use of I and me in the subject and object positions. Let’s clear that up now.
Nancy sang a song for my mother and I. (Incorrect)
Nancy sang a song for my mother and me. (Correct)
My mother and me went to the store. (Incorrect)
My mother and I went to the store. (Correct)
Easy Clue: Remove the other subject or object from the sentence to determine which pronoun makes sense. The answer will be obvious.
Nancy sang a song for I. (Incorrect)
Nancy sang a song for me. (Correct)
Me went to the store. (Incorrect)
I went to the store. (Correct)
Do you have a grammar bug? Let us know; we’ll help you squash it. Splat!
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