Common Mistakes in English | Simple Tips

Common Mistakes in English

Last updated on May 14th, 2023 at 09:08 pm

Common Mistakes in English

It is a supremely rare person who has never had time to complain about composing an original piece of work: as any teacher knows it’s the bane of life when it comes to making students write something; not to mention the painstaking effort it takes to correct some of the compositions submitted by them. As all great individuals do start from the bottom of the barrel and work their way up to the apex of success in their various fields, so it comes as no surprise that writers are the same. Whether you are a student, or someone preparing to undergo some sort of exam like SAT, ACT, GMAT, EmSAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS etc. These are some easily rectifiable errors you might encounter in your own writing.

I: Subject Verb Agreement / Singular Plural Agreement:

Subject Verb Agreement or Singular Plural Agreement seems to be one of the most basic of concepts, and thus perhaps the simplest to fix; yet, it can be mind-boggling how often this mistake is made by students of all ages when they write. You would think that it is easy to realize: “If my subject (noun) is singular then my verb (action) will be singular too. If the subject is plural, then the same goes for the verb.”

The table below provides a breakdown of the Uncomplicatedness of Subject Verb Agreement concept.


To simplify the matter, one ought to keep in mind that only one side will have an “S”… the singular subject will have a verb that has an “S” added to it and the plural subject often carries the “S” thus rendering it so that the verb does not require one. To keep life a bit more interesting, most sentences are of the complex and compound types, and as a result there are extra words between the subject and verb; this fact makes it easier for mistakes to occur.

Have a look at the table to see samples of errors and the methods of fixing them.

Incorrect FormCorrected Form
1.The pilot who has flown many planes are captaining our flight.The pilot who has flown many planes is captaining our flight. (The subject is pilots and not planes).
2.Either the shelf or the cupboard need to be fixed.Either the shelf or the cupboard needs to be fixed. (When you have “either… or” you need to treat each item in the pair as a unique object. Here we have a choice between a shelf and a cupboard that will be needed to be fixed individually. )
3.Each person need to perform their best if we are going to succeed.Each person needs to perform his or her best if we are going to succeed. (When you have the word “each” then the subject following it does not matter so much because “each” ensures all the parts comprising the subject are individually addressed. Moreover, when you have undefined general subjects like each person, then you can either assign one gender arbitrarily or opt for hedging your bets by mentioning both as has been done.)

II: Parallel Structure/ Parallelism:

This concept is all about repetition. The writer is often listing in items, actions, prepositional phrases, clauses etc. to make the writing more appealing. This is to ensure that their writing flows smoothly and clearly, countless writers have used and continue to use this technique in all forms of writing. The trick to this method is less about the rules and more about using your ears—due to the various permutations possible in this style of writing, sounding it out to yourself is often simpler and highly effective, especially when self-editing as opposed to recalling the ponderous rules of grammar.

The table underneath shows how mistakes are made in Parallel Structure and how they may be rectified.

Incorrect FormCorrected Form
1.Zayn likes hiking, attend the rodeo and to take afternoon naps.Zayn likes hikingattending the rodeo and taking afternoon naps.  (All verbs end with –ing.)OR: Zayn likes to hiketo attend the rodeo and to take afternoon naps. (All verbs changed to infinitive form.)
2.My friend has honesty, with kindness, and also acts in a generous way.My friend is honestkind and generous. (List of nouns that is less wordy and more concise).
3.In the adventure movie, they ran through the forest, fought fierce predators, and stopping the evil villains.In the adventure movie, they ran through the forest, fought fierce predators, and stopped the evil villains. (All verbs are changed into past tense so they correlate and sound better.)

III: Dangling Modifiers:

To modify is a fancy way of saying, “It is describing something.” The error here is that the writer places a word, phrase, or clause in an unsuitable spot, thereby making it unclear as to what is the object of discussion. These sentences are often vague or said to be “dangling”. You will find that there are multiple ways to fix these mistakes.

Have a look at the subsequent examples to understand how dangling modifiers can cause confusion and the various methods that may be implemented to edit those mistakes.

Incorrect FormCorrected Form
1.The student’s work was subpar, not complete all the requirements. [Needs a link between the subpar and requirements]The student’s work was subpar, because he did not complete all the requirements.
2.Nada pensively enjoyed her dinner chewing quietly. [Seems like the dinner was chewing quietly]Nada, chewing quietly, pensively enjoyed her dinner.
3.After finally setting off on the trail, the morning felt more exciting. [Who set off on the trail and felt the morning was exciting?]After setting off on the trail, he felt the morning was more exciting.OR: After setting off on the trail, Francis felt the morning was more exciting.
4.Staring out over the ocean, the hurricane winds were daunting. [The hurricane is not alive, and it is not a machine – so it can’s stare. You need to add a person]Staring out over the ocean, Matt saw the daunting hurricane winds.

IV: Comma Splice:

With surety, it can be said that when you were a student you must have heard of “The Comma Splice” and been perplexed as to what this weird term may have meant. Simply speaking, it’s a run-on sentence where two complete sentences are joined by a comma in the middle. After all, a sentence is comprised of a subject, a verb and expresses a complete thought. Consequently, for some writers, they find themselves with so much to say that they focus more on spewing out the words and ignoring the rudiments of punctuation. This often leads to the misuse of commas and comma splices.

The following table is a quick guide as to the various methods utilizable to amend comma splices.

Incorrect FormCorrected Form
1.Tony left the last conference session, he couldn’t stand the speaker.Tony left the conference session, for he couldn’t stand the speaker. (A Coordinating Conjunction [FANBOYS- For, And, Nor, Because, Or, Yet, So] is used after a comma to fix the error.)
2.I looked down at my feet, I found that the dog had ripped off a sizable portion off a sizable portion of my trousers.I looked down at my feet; I found that the dog had ripped off a sizable portion off a sizable portion of my trousers. (Semicolons are another simple way to separate two independent clauses that are related to one another.)
3.Sam didn’t know what to order at the restaurant, he was too confused.Sam didn’t know what to order at the restaurant. He was too confused. (Sometimes all you need is the most basic method, so put a full stop and capitalize the first word of the sentence.)
4.Fanning the slice of pizza with a napkin, Jolene waited for it to cool, she had already burned the roof of her mouth with the fried cheese sticks.Fanning the slice of pizza with a napkin, Jolene waited for it to cool since she had already burned the roof of her mouth with the fried cheese sticks. (Using Subordinating Conjunction like Since, As, Because, After etc. to make one of the two independent clauses into a dependent clause is an additional way to deal with comma splices.)

We at Proper Choice Institute are here to ensure that our students find grammar to be a piece of cake. Mistakes… hardly a problem if you train with us!

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