There are mistakes that people commit quite frequently when speaking or writing in English, three of which are listed here. Watch out for these three, and you are on your way to better English grammar.
1. Use of the Dangling Participle
This is a common mistake. The dangling participle or misplaced modifier can change the meaning of a sentence entirely. Check out these examples:
- A: After falling from the tree, my uncle picked up the apple.
- B: My uncle picked up the apple after it fell from the tree.
In example A, the dangling participle makes it seem as if the uncle fell from the tree. Example B shows the proper position of the modifier, which describes that the apple fell from the tree.
2. Confused Use of Homophones
Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled and used differently. Examples of commonly misused homophones are the words “its” and “it’s”. See the following examples:
- A: I put the laptop back in it’s case.
- B: I put the laptop back in its case.
Example A uses “it’s”, the contracted form of “it is”. In effect it says, “I put the laptop back in [it is] case”, which is totally wrong. Dropping the apostrophe makes the sentence correct, as in example B.
3. Using a Non-Parallel Sentence Structure When Giving Lists
- A: She likes taking long walks, baking cakes, and books.
- B: She likes taking long walks, baking cakes, and reading books.
Use parallel sentence structure when you are enumerating something. Example A shows a non-parallel sentence structure. Example B shows a correct parallel sentence structure wherein all the items in the list begin in the ‘-ing’ form: taking, baking, reading.
Do not be overwhelmed by all the rules you have to remember. Avoid these three common mistakes, and you are on your way to having perfect English grammar.