How to fix grammatical errors in English

To fix grammatical errors in English requires understanding how the different aspects of language interrelate.

How to fix grammatical errors in English

Many people have trouble with English grammar. It is imperative to know what common mistakes to look for when editing and proofreading.

Knowing these common mistakes, you’ll know which ones to avoid as you write your rough draft and go over it again.

Here are 12 of the most common grammar mistakes and some great resources to help you understand and fix them:

1. Possessive Nouns

Most possessive nouns have an apostrophe, but it can be hard to know where to put that apostrophe.


[Wrong]: The lizard’s tails all came back.

[Right]: The lizards’ tails all came back.

In this sentence, the word “all” sounds like there are more than one lizard, but the place where it stands is showing only one.

Here are some general guidelines:

Add an apostrophe after the “s” if the noun is plural. If the noun is singular and ends in an “s”, the apostrophe should also go after the “s”.

You use the apostrophe instead of ‘s’ if the noun is singular and does not end in an ‘s’.

2. i.e. vs. e.g.

People often use “i.e.” and “e.g.” interchangeably when they want to explain something, but they mean different things. “i.e.” means “that is” or “in other words,” while “e.g.” means “for example” or “example given.”

The first one is used to explain what you just said, and the second one adds color to a story by giving an example.

3. Compliment vs. Complement

Since these two words sound the same, it’s easy to get them confused. But they’re not the same at all.

If something “complements” something else, it means that it makes it complete, better, or perfect. For instance, a wine can go well with a meal, and two colors can go well together.

The word “compliment,” on the other hand, can be a form of praise (as a noun). It can also be a way to praise or admire someone (as a verb). You can compliment a friend’s new car.

4. Between vs. Among

The word “between” is used to talk about two (or sometimes more) things that are clearly separated. The word “among” is used to talk about things that aren’t clearly separated because they’re part of a group or mass of objects.

You choose between a black car and a white car, but you choose among all your cars. You walk between MidPark Arena and Stallion Street, but you walk among your colleagues.

5. Farther vs. Further

“Farther” and “further” are often used interchangeably to mean “at a greater distance.”

In most countries, though, the meanings of the two words are slightly different. “Farther” is more often used to talk about distances in the real world. “Further” is more often used to talk about distances in the mind.


Texas is “farther” away than Ohio

Our marketing team gets “further” from its leads goal.

The word “further” can also be used as an adjective or an adverb to mean “also.” For example, “I have no further questions.”

6. Then vs. Than

What’s wrong with this sentence?

[Wrong] My dinner was better then yours.

[Right] My dinner was better than yours.

Because “than” is primarily employed to create comparisons, e.g. when one object is “better” than another.

The adverb “then” is mostly used to place acts in time: We cooked lunch, and then we slept off.

7. Lose vs. Loose

Most of the time, people mix up the words “lose” and “loose” because they are spelled so similarly. They both know that their ideas are very different.

Lose is a verb that means “to be unable to find (something or someone), to fail to win (a game, contest, etc.), or to keep (something valued or wanted)”.

Example: To lose your keys or a football game.

“Loose” means “not tightly fastened, attached, or held,” like clothes that don’t fit well or teeth that don’t stay in place.

8. Difference between “into” and “in to”

People often get them mixed up. To decide which one to use, determine if the words “in” or “to” actually modify other words in the sentence.

If they don’t, you should ask yourself if it shows movement. If it does, you can use “into.”

While “in to” can be used in many situations because “to” and “in” are often used in other parts of a sentence. For example, with infinitive verbs, “to” is often used (e.g. “to drive”). Or the word “in” can be part of a verb (e.g. “call in to a meeting”).

9. Who vs That

This is not easy. You can use these two words to describe a person or thing in a sentence like, “Linda is a content producer who likes baking.” Be sure to use “who” when you talk about a person.

Use “that” when you want to talk about something. For instance, you should say, “That computer is always too hot.”

It’s pretty easy, but it’s something that often gets overlooked.

10. Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

People also often make this mistake, even when they know what they mean. Stop and think for a second before you use one in your writing.

  • A sneak peek is a quick look at something, like a trailer for a new movie.
  • The top of a mountain is an example of a peak.
  • And to pique means to stir up or make something happen, like your interest.

11. Difference between affect and effect

Most people get them mixed up when they talk about how one thing changes another. “Affect” is the verb that is used to talk about how something changes. “Effect” is used when you want to talk about the change itself (the noun).

[Right] That scene had a great effect on me.

[Right] That scene affected me greatly.

Effect with a “e” is not a verb like “affect,” so the sentence below is wrong.

[Wrong] That scene effected me greatly

12. Dangling Modifiers

This mistake happens when a phrase that describes something doesn’t fit the noun that comes right after it.

For example,

[Wrong] “Skipping at top speed, her wig fell off”

[Right] “While she was skipping at top speed, her wig fell off.”

To Wrap Up

English has its own rules and quirks that can be hard to understand, just like many other languages. But you can master grammar with a little practice and the help of guides like this one.

Mastering grammar won’t change your life, sure, but will give you confidence to express yourself clearly, professionally, and confidently.

If you avoid these 12 common grammar mistakes, your writing will be much stronger and easier to understand.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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