For some of us, there’s nothing that grates on the nerves like blatant grammar, pronunciation, and language mistakes, whether they’re coming from your kid’s mouth or a teacher’s memo, or a stranger on the radio. Luckily, we can correct our own children—with most everybody else, we have to hold our tongues. Here are a few of the worst offenders.
1 Where are we going to?
An oldie but a goodie—ending a sentence with an unnecessary preposition. The “to” at the end of that sentence serves no purpose at all, and it just hangs there sounding awkward. This is a common kid’s mistake, but many adults do it as well. Tell the kids: Say the sentence without that last word. Does it mean the same thing? You don’t need it.
2 I feel badly.
You might drive badly. Or dance badly. But you probably don’t feel badly. You’re probably very good at feeling things. How you feel, when you’re unhappy or unwell, is bad.
3 This one’s for my sister and I.
This is a tricky one, and adults mess it up nearly as often as kids do. “My sister and I went to the store” is correct. “I bought popcorn for my sister and I” is not. The easiest way to get it right every time is to take the other person out of the sentence, and determine which sounds right: “I bought popcorn for I” or “I bought popcorn for me.”
4 Like, you know. . .
We need a dislike button for the word “like.” Sure, it’s great for making comparisons and expressing those not-quite-love emotions. But as a way to fill uncomfortable pauses, it’s as bad as “um.” Maybe worse. “What I’m trying to say is, like, you know, like…” Try to get kids to nip this habit in the bud before it becomes a lifelong drag on their speaking skills.
5 For all intensive purposes. . .
This expression seems to slip into spoken language a lot, and it’s easy enough to hear why. The actual accepted phrase is “for all intents and purposes,” and spoken quickly, they sound nearly identical. Only trouble is, like lots of other malapropisms, “intensive purposes” doesn’t really make much sense.
6 I should of gotten the burger.
The words should of come out of kids’ mouths all the time. Again, it’s easy to understand why. Should have is the correct thing to say, and the two phrases sound an awful lot alike. Same with could of and would of. . .
7 Bring it with you when you go.
The proper ways to use bring and take were drilled into my head by my grandmother when I was a child. (Come to think of it, much of my lifelong interest in grammar can be traced to my grandmother’s admonitions). You bring something to a place. You take something away. So you’re right to bring it with you when you come; but when you go? You take it.
8 I have less friends than before I wrote this list.
The words less and fewer make another tricky pair, and kids take a while to master the differences. A simple way to remember it is that for plural nouns that you can count, like your friends and your jellybeans, the word you want is fewer. But for things you cannot count or that are referred to by a singular noun, like your money or your Easter candy, it’s less.
Laura Wallis is a freelance writer and editor specializing in all things family, home, food, and health. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and dog—none of whom take grammar as seriously as they should. She writes for The Stir by CafeMom.