5 common grammatical errors

October 8th, 2009 by Emily

Private tutors don't need to worry too much these days about checking their students' spelling because most work is completed using programmes such as Microsoft Word that have built-in spell-checkers. As long as these are set to UK English (instead of the default American English setting!) they do a fairly thorough job of identifying and eliminating the mistakes.

Grammar, however, is a different ball game. Words that are spelled correctly can still be put together incorrectly in sentences. GCSE and A-level students need to know the rules.

Here are the top 5 common grammatical errors that our private tutors find in their students' work:

1) Split infinitives. "To boldly go" is a split infinitive. "To go" is a verb in its infinite (i.e. unfinished) form, so even though it comprises two words they actually operate as a single unit. The grammatically correct rendition of the famous line should, therefore, be "To go boldly".

2) Confusion between "they're", "their" and "there". The first means "they are", the second means belong to them; the third is a location, e.g. "over there".

3) Changing tense mid-paragraph. A common mistake encountered by English tutors in their students' creative writing. "Nick shouted at his wife. She starts to cry" is incorrect. "Nick shouted at his wife. She started to cry" is correct.

4) "You're" vs. "your". The first is an ellipsis of "you are"; the second means that something belongs to you.

5) "Could of" and "would of". These are always incorrect. The correct expressions are "could have" and "would have". ("Have" is an auxiliary verb.) The common mistake occurs because "have" sounds a lot like "of" when it is spoken, especially in its contracted form, e.g. "I could've done that".

Can you think of any more common grammatical errors? Leave a comment and let us know!

Categories: English, Advice