5 Grammar Pet Peeves

5 Grammar Pet Peeves
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Updated on 23 December 2014

Every grammarian has a list of grammar pet peeves. We compile new lists every year. However, some errors are insidiously persistent. Like coffee stains on a snow-white rug, we cannot seem to scrub them away no matter how hard we try. But we must keep up the fight.

Join us as we again leap into the fray against our arch-nemesis: the most-common-glaring-grammar-errors-of-all-time.

Your/You’re: This one has a longer lifespan than Dracula. We’ve hunted it like a pack of wild dogs, and its demise continues to elude us. Okay, we understand, it is easy to forget an apostrophe when you’re in a hurry. But, please, your reputation is at stake: “your” is a possessive pronoun and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.”

hydra, pet peeves, grammar, GrammarlyThere/Their/They’re: As long as we’re working with monster metaphors, we’ll call this one the hydra. No matter how many times you manage to lop off the creature’s head, it constantly regenerates. Sometimes we can empathize with this particular error. With three different choices, and the same pronunciation for each, mistakes happen. So, let’s go through them again and see if you can pass the quiz.

  • “There” is used to reference a place. For example: “I walked over there.” It is also used with a “to be” verb, to show the existence of something or to reference something. Examples: “There are seven stones,” and “There are never enough hours in the day.”
  • “Their” is an adjective that shows possession. It shows that an object belongs to “them.” For example: “They have lost their marbles.”
  • “They’re” is a contraction. That’s all it is. A simple abbreviation of a subject and a verb: “they are.”

It’s/Its: By this point, it should come as no surprise that the most common grammar errors involve homophones. The “its/it’s” error bubbles to the surface constantly, like some stubborn kudzu in a flower garden. Let’s bend down again, and try to weed this one out.

  • “It’s” is another contraction. It is used in no other way. The word is short for “it is” or “it has.” If you expand it to one of those two phrases in a sentence, and it doesn’t make sense, then it has been used incorrectly. Examples include: “it’s the only way” and “it’s been a long time.”
  • “Its” is a neutral, possessive pronoun. Use it to show possession when the gender of the noun is unclear. For instance: “The mountain has a lake at its base.”

Which/That: This incredibly common error continues to plague grammarians. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. Without it, the sentence either makes no sense, or does not make the sense that the writer intended. For example: “I do not like grammar that is incorrect.” The precise sense of this sentence depends on “that.” Otherwise, it just seems that “I do not like grammar.”

The word “which” is used to begin a clause that is related to the sentence, but not necessary to its understanding. To refer to our earlier example, if we were to write: “I do not like grammar, which is incorrect,” the sentence would lose its essential meaning. The correct use of “which” in this instance is: “I do not like grammar that is incorrect, which is fine by me.”

Subject/Verb Agreement: A basic sentence contains a subject and a verb. Someone is doing something. However, if that someone becomes plural, then the verb had better agree.

“I am writing” is correct.

“I are writing” is not.

Sometimes a phrase pops up in the middle, though, and things can get a bit more complicated. Don’t be fooled, however.

“The man who whistles constantly is creepy” is correct.

“The man who whistles constantly are creepy” is not.

What are some of the most common that you encounter?

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