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Grammatical Error: Examples & Corrections

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  • 0:01 Why Does Grammar Matter?
  • 1:19 Grammar vs. Mechanics
  • 2:08 Common Grammar Errors
  • 6:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ryan Bing
Some people consider grammar to be a dry or unimportant topic, but don't believe the hype! Grammar is important, and it can be fun with the right approach. Grammar rules help you communicate clearly and efficiently, and they'll help you put your best foot forward when it comes to your written work.

Why Does Grammar Matter?

First, let's start by looking at why grammar matters. Consider these two sentences:

Let's eat, Grandpa.

And

Let's eat Grandpa.

At first glance, they might not seem too different. You probably notice the first sentence includes a comma, which is absent from the second, but beyond that they look identical. Further consideration, though, reveals the importance of that single comma as the only line of defense between a lovely family meal and a tableaux of terrifying trauma.

In the first sentence, the comma indicates the speaker is addressing Grandpa directly, inviting Grandpa to join the speaker in eating a meal. In the second sentence, things have changed! The absence of the comma indicates the speaker is suggesting to a third party that they eat Grandpa!

So, don't ever let anybody tell you grammar doesn't count!

In grammar terminology, that one little comma determines whether Grandpa is the addressee or the direct object of the sentence, and you can see what a big difference that makes for Grandpa!

This example was chosen for effect, but the point is that grammar is important to ensure your meaning is accurately conveyed. Also, rightly or wrongly, many people judge the intelligence and seriousness of a writer by his or her adherence to the traditional rules of grammar.

Grammar vs. Mechanics

Before we go any further, let's be clear what we're talking about when we talk about grammar. A lot of people use the term grammar generally to mean 'all the technical rules of writing.'

In actual fact, grammar rules are the specific subset of rules that deal with parts of speech, number, person, tense, and word order. Don't worry, we'll talk more about exactly what each of those terms means in a little bit.

By contrast, rules that deal with spelling, punctuation, quotation, and capitalization, technically fall under the category of mechanics instead of grammar.

You're probably saying to yourself right now, 'Wait a minute! The 'Let's eat Grandpa' example was a punctuation error that affected the word's parts of speech!' Good catch! Grammar and mechanics often work together to make meaning.

Common Grammar Errors

Now that we know the difference between grammar and mechanics, let's look at some of the most frequent grammar errors, and talk about how to avoid making them.

Every word in English can be classified into a category called that word's part of speech. A word's part of speech determines the role it plays in conveying meaning. For example, nouns name people, places, things, and ideas. Verbs name actions like run, walk, and cogitate.You want to make sure you're using the right part of speech at the right time.

Here's an example of a very common part of speech error:

Wrong: You have a choose to make.

Right: You have a choice to make.

Note that 'choose' is a verb, while 'choice' is a noun. By selecting the right part of speech, you can ensure that you don't confuse whoever you're talking to.

Number in grammar refers to whether a word is singular or plural. A word is singular when there's only one of the word, and plural when there is more than one of it. Nouns and their related verbs should agree in number. For example let's look at these two sentences:

Wrong: They is coming over later.

Right: They are coming over later.

'They' is a plural noun. 'Is' is the singular form of the verb 'to be,' while 'are' is the plural form of the verb 'to be.' Since you want the number of the noun and verb to match, you would go with the plural form of the verb.

In English, there are three categories when it comes to person, and each category can be either singular or plural. Here's how that all breaks down:

First Person Singular: I

Second Person Singular: You

Third Person Singular: He, She, It

First Person Plural: We

Second Person Plural: You

Third Person Plural: They

People sometimes shift person when they're writing, but you don't want to shift person when it's not appropriate. For example:

Wrong: I try to exercise every day. If you don't exercise, you'll never reach your fitness goals.

Right: I try to exercise every day. I know if I don't exercise, I'll never reach my fitness goals.

In the first example, the speaker shifts person when he goes from talking about himself, using 'I' or first person, to directly addressing the reader, using 'you' or second person. If the writer's goal is to address the reader, this is OK, but in this context it seems more likely the writer is really talking about himself and his own fitness goals. So, first person throughout is more appropriate.

Tenses explain when in time an action occurs, will occur, or has occurred. There are technically seven basic verb tenses in English, but the three most common are present tense, past tense, and future tense.

Past tense tells us the event has already happened, as in the sentence: I walked to the store.

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