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Common Grammar Mistakes: Examples & Correction

Instructor: Mary Firestone
Learn about common grammar mistakes and how to correct them. Find out why common mistakes in grammar happen, and then take a quiz to test your knowledge.

Common Grammar Mistakes

Mistakes in grammar happen to all of us, so it's a good idea to become familiar with common trouble spots so they happen less often. A lot of grammar mistakes are caused by grammar rules that are downright confusing. Let's discuss some of the most widely known grammar issues:

Distance Between Subject and Verb

These errors happen when the subject and verb are separated by word groups, or phrases. For example:

The horses in the pasture next to the barn needs water.

The common grammar mistake in this sentence is that the verb and subject, which are separated by a group of words, do not match - the word 'needs' should be 'need.' Since the subject 'horses' is plural, it should have a plural verb 'need' for agreement.

Collective Noun Confusion

Collective nouns are nouns that refer to groups. American English treats collective nouns - 'crowd', 'jury', 'faculty', 'committee', etc. - as singular, and so they take a singular verb which can be confusing. British English uses a plural verb for collective nouns, because they consider such nouns plural. Let's look at an example sentence:

The search committee is ready to vote.

The subject 'committee' agrees with the singular verb 'is,' which is correct according to American English grammar.

In British English, the correct form of this sentence would be, The search committee are ready to vote. The subject 'committee' is considered a plural noun in British English, and so it takes the plural verb 'are.'

Indefinite Pronoun Confusion

Indefinite pronouns are words that replace something non-specific. Examples of indefinite pronouns are: 'anyone,' 'anything,' 'everyone,' 'everybody,' 'nobody,' 'nothing,' 'somebody,' and 'someone.'

Even though indefinite pronouns refer to non-specific amounts of something, they should be treated as singular nouns. For example:

Everyone on the staff feels the same way.

'Everyone' is the indefinite pronoun, and it uses the singular verb 'feels.'

Exceptions to this rule include the words 'all,' 'any,' 'none,' and 'some' - indefinite pronouns that can be singular or plural. For example:

Some of the jewelry was stolen. 'Some' is the singular subject and requires the singular verb 'was.'

Some of the purses were left untouched. 'Some' is the plural subject and requires the plural verb 'were.'

Neither/Nor

'Neither' and 'nor' (and 'either'/or') are correlative conjunctions. People often misuse this correlative conjunction - they may incorrectly couple the word 'neither' with 'or' rather than 'nor' when you're describing two or more similar things.

Neither rain or snow fell all winter long. This sentence mistakenly uses 'or' instead of 'nor.'

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