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When somebody else finds a grammar mistake in your writing or speaking, it can be embarrassing. But don’t let it get to you—we all make grammar mistakes. Common grammar mistakes include punctuation and syntax errors and incorrect word choices. Grammar mistakes often make it difficult for readers and listeners to understand what you are saying; this is why writers and speakers should try to avoid them. The goal is to have polished, clear, mistake-free writing and speaking, so we’ll look at some of the most common mistakes so you know how to identify, fix, and avoid them. Pronunciation errors in speaking particularly, can lead to serious problems. Read the text below.
NEW VOCABULARY: embarrassing, syntax, polished, lead to
LISTENING SECTION: Listen to the video and answer the questions below:
- Pronounce these words:
- Man Men
- Bad Bed
- Sand Send
- Flash Flesh
- Now, can you think of any words that you personally have difficulty with?
Homophones are slightly different. They are words that sound the same but have different meanings.
FIRST READ THIS TEXT
Firstly, think about this: The word “now” in English and the word “não” in Portuguese. They have the same or similar sounds but completely different meanings.
SECTION ONE a
The Power of Pronunciation: Lessons Learned from a Fatal Accident
In 2015, a tragic accident occurred in northern Brazil that was 100% related to poor English pronunciation. This case highlights the importance of practising correct English pronunciation. By increasing your confidence, you can avoid many misunderstandings and even dangerous situations, as was the case here. I want to underline that there is a difference between accent (something natural that varies from person to person) and pronunciation (something that can and should be improved). There is no perfect accent. Every English speaker has their own accent. The same street can have several accents. But pronunciation is different. A poorly pronounced word can turn into a completely different word, and thus, communication is lost. And that is precisely what we want to achieve when learning English: to unite and break down barriers.
NEW VOCABULARY: Fatal, tragic, occurred, highlights, misunderstandings, to underline, accent, poorly, to achieve, to unite, break down barriers
SECTION ONE b
An English teenager was participating in a bungee jump activity. So far, so good. For the brave ones (I don’t think I’m one of them), the opportunity to jump into an abyss with only a large elastic cord tied to your feet is a highly attractive experience. The monitor, who didn’t speak very good English, was preparing everything. They were at the edge of the precipice, and he put on part of the equipment. It wasn’t ready yet. It needed to be finished, but he had to step away to do something. At that moment, he wanted to tell the young man, who didn’t speak Portuguese, that he couldn’t jump yet. He wanted to say “NO JUMP!,” a simple phrase. He didn’t pronounce the words correctly. What he said was “NOW JUMP.” The young man jumped… and the result was tragic and he died. A lamentable tragedy. The monitor had no intention of causing his death. It was his pronunciation, not his accent, that led to the tragic situation.
NEW VOCABULARY: bungee jump, brave, an abyss, elastic, highly, monitor, the edge, the precipice, to step away, lamentable, led to
SECTION ONE c
My intention is absolutely not to judge the situation, of which I am unaware of the details. However, I want to reinforce the importance of investing in correct English pronunciation during your regular practice and lessons. Always compare your English to that of native speakers and, whenever possible, ask for feedback on your pronunciation. Try to apply good pronunciation tips, even if it seems to make no difference. Over time, your dedication, attention, and regular practice will make a difference. Everyone can do it. And you are part of everyone.
NEW VOCABULARY: to judge, unaware, to reinforce, investing in, to apply, dedication
NOW LET’S LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE THAT MISTAKES STUDENTS MAKE.
Your vs. you’re
Much like to and too, your and you’re are homophones. That means they sound the same when spoken aloud but have two different meanings.
Your is a possessive pronoun. It indicates that something belongs to a singular second person.
You’re is a contraction of you are.
Who vs. whom
Who is the subject of a sentence, whereas whom is the object of a sentence.
Who’s vs. whose
Who’s is a contraction of who is. Whose is the possessive form of who, a relative pronoun.
Affect vs. effect
Affect is a verb that means “to cause an effect.” Effect is a noun that refers to a result.
Who vs. that
Who refers to a person. That refers to an inanimate object. However, that can also refer to a group of people in cases where the group, rather than its members, is emphasized.
That vs. which
That is used to introduce a clause that adds necessary information to a sentence. Which is used to introduce a clause that adds detail but isn’t critical to the sentence.
I.e. vs. e.g.
I.e. is short for id est and is used to clarify statements. E.g. is short for exempli gratia and is used to provide examples.
Additionally, a comma should follow these abbreviations, and they should be enclosed in parentheses.
Then vs. than
Then indicates when something will happen. Than is used to compare people or things.
Each and every
Each refers to two items. Every refers to three or more items. Additionally, each refers to the individual items in a group, while every refers to the group as a whole.
More than vs. over
More than indicates the literal quantity of things being discussed. Over can indicate an object’s physical position or a figurative amount larger than another mentioned in the same sentence.
Less vs. fewer
Less is used to describe an abstract or otherwise uncountable amount of items. Fewer is used for countable numbers of items.
Me vs. I
I and me are both first-person singular pronouns. Use I when you’re the subject of the sentence and me when you’re the object of the sentence.
A lot vs. allot vs. alot
A lot can be a pronoun or an adverb. It means “often” or “a large amount.” Allot is a verb that means “to distribute.” Alot is not a word. Avoid it in your writing.
Farther vs. further
Farther refers to literal distance. Further means “more.”
Like vs. such as
Like is used to make a comparison, while such as is used to provide specific examples.
May vs. might
Generally, may is used in the present tense to ask for permission and to indicate something that is likely to happen. Might is used with the past tense and to describe things that are either unlikely or didn’t happen.
Past vs. passed
Past refers to something that has already happened. It can be a noun, an adjective, a preposition, or an adverb. Passed is a verb.
Based off vs. based on
This is an example of language evolving, and perhaps one day, based off will be considered grammatically correct. But currently, based on is considered to be the correct phrasing. Both of these phrases are used to indicate the facts or circumstances that drove a specific decision or conclusion.
Another version of this phrase, based off of, is never correct.
Compliment vs. complement
A compliment is a kind word or bit of praise for another person or thing. To complement someone or something means to enhance their skills or assets with other skills or assets.
A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that’s too far away from the noun it’s modifying. A misplaced modifier can make a sentence confusing for readers. Here is an example of a sentence with a misplaced modifier, which is bolded:
My sister adopted another cat named Ghost.
So she has two cats named Ghost now?
Here is a corrected version of this sentence:
My sister adopted another cat and named her Ghost.
The passive voice isn’t inherently incorrect, but many writers use it when the active voice would be a more accurate, clearer choice.
Passive voice: Breakfast was prepared by me.
Active voice: I prepared breakfast.
Possessive nouns are versions of nouns that show ownership. Often, they use apostrophes.
For a singular possessive noun, the apostrophe goes before the s.
For a plural possessive noun, the apostrophe goes after the s.
That said, there are different schools of thought about what to do when a singular possessive noun ends in the letter s. Some say the apostrophe goes at the end, without adding an s.
Chicago style stipulates that when a name ending in s becomes possessive, you add an apostrophe and an s.
Commas are versatile punctuation marks, so it’s easy to use them incorrectly. Commas are used to create short pauses within sentences, such as to separate items in a list, distinguish independent clauses, or note appositives.
Semicolons are most frequently used to separate independent clauses within a sentence. They’re also used to separate items in a serial list when those items contain punctuation of their own.
Although it can vary between style guides, the general rules for title capitalization are:
- Articles are lowercase unless they’re the first or last word of the title
- Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are always capitalized
Apostrophes create a few types of words:
- Contractions (she did = she’d)
- Singular possessive nouns (Jason’s)
- Shortened colloquial words (it was = ’twas)
In some cases, they also create plurals.
Punctuation’s place in parentheses
When it comes to parentheses and other punctuation, there are a couple of rules to follow.
- If the text in parentheses is a complete sentence and is separate from surrounding sentences, the period goes inside the parentheses.
- Additionally, a phrase that could stand alone as a complete sentence can also be contained inside another complete sentence.
Question marks and exclamation marks are the exceptions to the rule. When they’re part of a parenthetical passage enclosed in another sentence, they always go inside the parentheses, whether it’s a complete sentence or a fragment.
- Use commas after parentheses, not before.
Because parenthetical text usually relates to what’s directly before it, it shouldn’t follow a comma. However, it’s completely normal to place a comma after parentheses, without a space.
When you make a comparison in your writing, you need to mention both (or all) of the things you’re comparing.
An incomplete comparison is a comparison that fails to mention one or more of the things being compared.
Em dash vs. en dash vs. hyphen
Em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens are frequently mixed up. Here is a quick look at them:
Em dash: —
En dash: –
Use an em dash when another type of punctuation, like parentheses or a pair of commas, doesn’t quite capture the tone you need. Em dashes have a quick, casual connotation, so they’re often used to indicate an aside or sudden tone change in a sentence.
En dashes are used to show date and time ranges. They can also be used to link complex compound adjectives when both halves are hyphenated or when one of the parts is a multi-word noun or an open compound adjective.
Hyphens are used to connect words. Often, this is to create a compound modifier, which is a multi-word adjective.
In any sentence, the subject and verb need to be in the same tense.
Avoid common grammar mistakes
All of the rules, tricks, and tips for using grammar correctly can be a lot to remember, but I hope this helped you.
Chose any two pairs of homophones from the graphic above