Common Errors
*ACTIVE vs PASSIVE
*ARTICLES
*CLAUSES
*COMPARISONS
*ED/ING
*MISPLACED MODIFIERS
*NON-COUNT NOUNS
*PARALLELISM
*PARTS OF SPEECH
*PHRASES
*POSSESSIVES
*PRONOUN/NOUN ANTECEDENT
*QUESTION FORMS
*SENTENCES
*VERBS

 

With things rather than people or animals, don't use -'s to show possession.

  • NO: The table's leg is broken.
  • YES: A leg of the table is broken.
  • YES: The table leg is broken.

To show joint ownership, add -'s to the last noun only.

  • NO: Jack's and Jill's new pail of water rolled down the hill.
  • YES: Jack and Jill's new pail of water rolled down the hill.
  • YES: Albert and Ingrid's new car couldn't make it up the hill.

To show individual possession, add -'s to each name.

  • NO: Albert and Ingrid's noses have both been broken.
  • YES: Albert's and Ingrid's noses have both been broken.

To form the passive, use BE + PAST PARTICIPLE (is left, are loved, was locked).

  • NO: The children in the movie were chasing by a crazed killer.
  • YES: The children in the movie were chased by a crazed killer.

  • NO: The students are accepting to the university.
  • YES: The students are accepted to the university.

     
  • NO: Are security officers allow to carry guns?  
  • YES: Are security officers allowed to carry guns?

Modals (must, have to, can, etc.) form the passive MODAL + BE + PAST PARTICIPLE.  

  • NO: The rule must explain later in this essay.  
  • YES: The rule must be explained later in this essay.

  • NO: The workshop could providing for new students.
  • YES: The workshop could be provided for new students.

  • NO: Should security officers allow to carry guns?
  • YES: Should security officers be allowed to carry guns?

Intransitive verbs can't use passive.  

  • NO: The boy was suffered when he broke his leg.  
  • YES: The boy suffered when he broke his leg.

  • NO: The Kentucky Derby was happened yesterday.  
  • YES: The Kentucky Derby happened yesterday.

Use the passive when the subject is acted upon.  

  • NO: Sally challenged by her math class.  
  • YES: Sally was challenged by her math class.

  • NO: Stacy and Kim were enjoyed the senior prom.
  • YES: The prom was enjoyed by Stacy and Kim.

Use active voice when the subject is the actor.  

  • NO: Roy was kicked the ball.
  • YES: Roy kicked the ball.

  • NO: The child is enjoyed Italian ice cream.   
  • YES: The child enjoyed Italian ice cream.

     
  • NO: If they had added the river scenes, the movie would have been lasted longer. 
  • YES:If they had added the river scenes, the movie would have lasted longer.

 

FORMING THE PASSIVE - USING THE PASSIVE

We often use a/an when mentioning a noun for the first time.

  • NO: We had the vacation in Jamaica.
  • YES: We had a vacation in Jamaica.

Use a when you mean one of many.

  • NO: Cincinnati is the large city in the United States.
  • YES: Cincinnati is a large city in the United States.

Never use a/an with non-count nouns.

  • NO: I need an advice from my mentor about my schedule.  
  • YES: I need advice from my mentor about my schedule.  
  • YES: I need a piece of advice from my mentor about my schedule.

 

Use the to identify a noun already mentioned.  

  • NO: A cop patrols our street. I like a cop a lot.
  • YES: A cop patrols our street. I like the cop a lot.

 

Don't use the in statements of general truth.

  • NO: Children should do household chores. The household chores teach responsibility.
  • YES: Children should do household chores. Household chores teach responsibility.

 

  • NO: The love is important to all people.  
  • YES: Love is important to all people.

 

Use the with an abstract noun only when the noun is limited by a phrase or a clause.  

  • NO: The liberty is celebrated on the Fourth of July.  
  • YES: Liberty is celebrated on the Fourth of July.  
  • YES: The liberty our founding fathers established is celebrated on the Fourth of July.

 

USING A/AN & THE

That, which, and who act as subject of an adjective clause. Never use a double subject!  

  • NO: I saw a movie which it was made in 1996.  
  • YES: I saw a movie which was made in 1996.  
  • YES: I saw a movie that was made in 1996.

That, which, and whom can act as direct objects in a clause. Never use a double object!  

  • NO: I read the book which Tom bought it yesterday.  
  • YES: I read the book which Tom bought yesterday.  
  • YES: I read the book that Tom bought yesterday.

When, where, and why are never the subject of an adjective clause!  

  • NO: I went to Camden Yards where was crowded.  
  • YES: I went to Camden Yards which was crowded.  
  • YES: I went to Camden Yards where it was crowded.

What never introduces an adjective clause. Use which or that.  

  • NO: I know the books what he read.  
  • YES: I know the books which/that he read.

Which must refer to a single noun. It cannot refer to a whole clause.  

  • NO: Doctors operate on the heart which can be very dangerous.  
  • YES: Doctors operate on the heart. That operation can be very dangerous.  
  • NO: This essay is an interesting story of basketball which is very popular.  
  • YES: This essay is an interesting story of basketball. Basketball is popular all over the world.
  • YES: This essay is an interesting story of why basketball is very popular.

 

When a clause tells why, use because.  

  • NO: I am going to pick soccer that it is a very popular sport.
  • YES: I am going to pick soccer, because it is a very popular sport.

So...that and because...so are used in cause-result clauses.  

  • NO: It is so expensive to enter the program.  
  • YES: It is so expensive to enter the program that he can't participate.  
  • YES: He can't participate in that program because it is so expensive.

So...that is used with adjectives; such...that is used with nouns.  

  • NO: She was so beauty that everyone fell in love with her.  
  • YES: She was so beautiful that everyone fell in love with her.  
  • YES: She was such a beauty that everyone fell in love with her.

If, when, and while clauses must be followed by a comma. Don't add and or so.  

  • NO: If the police don't carry guns, so criminals will laugh at them.  
  • YES: If the police don't carry guns, criminals will laugh at them.  
  • NO: When we went to the movies, and we ate popcorn.  
  • YES: When we went to the movies, we ate popcorn.

 

Noun clauses follow regular subject-verb order. Do not use question order with noun clauses.  

  • NO: I would like to know when will I have an internship.  
  • YES: I would like to know when I will have an internship.

 

All clauses must have a subject and a verb.  

  • NO: You recognize how children saying big words.  
  • YES: You recognize how children say big words.

 

To indicate certainty, use that to introduce a noun clause.  

  • NO: The children were afraid because they knew if the lion wanted to eat them.  
  • YES: The children were afraid because they knew that the lion wanted to eat them.

 

  • NO: The police said if witnesses had seen the fight the night before.  
  • YES: The police said that witnesses had seen the fight the night before.

 

To show doubt or ask a question, use if to introduce a noun clause.

  • NO: The children were afraid because they felt if the lion wanted to eat them.  
  • YES: The children were afraid because they didn't know if the lion wanted to eat them.  
  • NO: The police asked that witnesses had seen the fight the night before.  
  • YES: The police asked if witnesses had seen the fight the night before.

 

NOUN CLAUSES 

As...as is used with adjectives to compare qualities of two persons, places, or things.  

  • NO: Her personality is sweet as Deanna's.
  • YES: Her personality is as sweet as Deanna's.

As...as is used with adverbs to compare two actions.

  • NO: Deaf children can learn to read as much as hearing children can.  
  • YES: Deaf children can learn to read as well as hearing children can.

 

To compare two nouns, use similar to or the same as.

  • NO: Her personality is same as mine.  
  • YES: Her personality is the same as mine.  
  • YES: Her personality is similar to mine.  
  • YES: Her personality is similar to my personality.

 

Use more...than or -er...than in unequal comparisons.

  • NO: Ian is tall than Wilheim.  
  • YES: Ian is taller than Wilheim.  
  • NO: This chair is comfortabler than that chair.
  • YES: This chair is more comfortable than that chair.

 

In comparisons, use either more or er. Never use both.  

  • NO: Moreover, a jeep is more cheaper than a sports car.  
  • YES: Moreover, a jeep is cheaper than a sports car.

 

In superlatives, use the...most or the...-est.  

  • NO: New York is the large city in America.  
  • YES: New York is the largest city in America.  
  • NO: That is one of saddest things about human beings.  
  • YES: That is one of the saddest things about human beings.  
  • YES: That is one of the most sad things about human beings.

 

In the present tense, would rather...than must be followed by the simple form of the verb.  

  • NO: I rather eat ice cream than oatmeal.  
  • YES: I would rather eat ice cream than eat oatmeal.  
  • NO: I would rather working than go to school.  
  • YES: I would rather work than go to school.

 

In the past tense, would rather have...than is used with the past participle.

  • NO: Last year, I would rather traveled to Paris than to Topeka.  
  • YES: Last year, I would rather have traveled to Paris than to Topeka.

 

EQUAL COMPARISONS

UNEQUAL COMPARISONS

PREFERENCE

When participles describe actions, the past participle (VERB + ED) is used to emphasize a completed action.   

  • NO: The football player is playing with a breaking leg.  
  • YES: The football player is playing with a broken leg.

 

When participles describe actions, the present participle (VERB + ING) is used to emphasize an ongoing process.  

  • NO: We watched the firemen pour water on the burned house.  
  • YES: We watched the firemen pour water on the burning house.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL VERBS

When participles describe emotions or moods:
The past participle (VERB + ED) describes the person's mental state or inner feelings.
The present participle (VERB + ING) describes the cause of the mental state or feeling.

  • NO: Carlo is very tempting to buy a new car this year.  
  • YES: Carlo is very tempted to buy a new car this year.  
  • YES: The new cars are very tempting.  
  • NO: The students are frustrating by all the false fire alarms.  
  • YES: The students are frustrated by all the false fire alarms.
  • YES: The false fire alarms are frustrating.  
  • NO: Miller is interesting in exploring caves.  
  • YES: Miller is interested in exploring caves.  
  • YES: Exploring caves is interesting.

 

ADJECTIVES

  • NO: He was so depression that he decided to kill himself.  
  • YES: He was so depressed that he decided to kill himself.

 

NOUNS

  • NO: Children need to learn good habits and responsible.  
  • YES: Children need to learn good habits and responsibility.

 

VERBS

NO: I came to Gallaudet because I wanted to social.  

YES: I came to Gallaudet because I wanted to socialize.  

YES: I came to Gallaudet because I wanted to have a social life.

Present participles commonly modify nouns.  

NO: Children will behave better with the house look neat.  

YES: Children will behave better with the house looking neat.

Past participles modify nouns when the meaning is passive.  

NO: I already know about the internship providing at the Department of Education.  

YES: I already know about the internship (being) provided at the Department of Education.  

Noun phrases - gerunds, preposition or infinitive phrases - are commonly the subjects, compliments or the objects of the verb in the main clause.  

  • NO: Graduate from college is his goal.  
  • YES: To graduate from college is his goal.  
  • YES: Graduating from college is his goal.  
  • NO: His job requires know word processing.  
  • YES: His job requires knowing word processing.

 

Prepositions must be followed by a nominal noun, pronoun, gerund, noun phrase or noun clause.  

  • NO: I think parents can give their kids an easy job like mow the lawn.  
  • YES: I think parents can give their kids an easy job like mowing the lawn.

 

ADJECTIVE PHRASES 

NOUN PHRASES 

Others is a pronoun which usually means 'other people.' Other is an adjective meaning 'some more.'  

  • NO: We visited the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, and others.  
  • YES: We visited the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, and other museums.  
  • YES: In Washington, we met congress people, tourists, and others.

A few means several. Few means not many.  

  • NO: He said that he had enough money, but he borrowed few dollars from me anyway.  
  • YES: He said that he had enough money, but he borrowed a few dollars from me anyway.

 

  • NO: A few people showed up, so the performance was canceled.  
  • YES: Few people showed up, so the performance was canceled.

A little means some. Little means not much.  

  • NO: I have little money, so we can go to the movies.  
  • YES: I have a little money, so we can go to the movies.  
  • NO: We have a little money, so we can't go to the movies.
  • YES: We have little money, so we can't go to the movies.

 

GENDER AND NUMBER

A pronoun must agree with its noun antecedent in gender and number.  

  • NO: Elena rushed in the house, but she forgot to take off his coat.
  • YES: Elena rushed in the house, but she forgot to take off her coat.  
  • NO: His books are overdue. He must return it to the library.  
  • YES: His books are overdue. He must return them to the library.

 

  • NO: Students need to study hard or you will fail the exam.  
  • YES: Students need to study hard or they will fail the exam.

 

EACH OTHER/ONE ANOTHER

Each other and one another indicate a relationship between two people or things. They refer to a plural subject.  

  • NO: My roommate always gives each other good feedback.  
  • YES: My roommate and I always give each other good feedback.  
  • YES: My roommate and I always give one another good feedback.

 

OTHERS; A FEW/FEW; A LITTLE/LITTLE

Wh- questions (who, what, where, what kind of, how many, how much, how often) usually follow Yes-No question order the subject is between the helping verb and the main verb.  

  • NO: How much the program will cost?  
  • YES: How much will the program cost?  
  • NO: Where the fish are biting?  
  • YES: Where are the fish biting?

 

When who, what or which is the subject of the question, use regular subject-verb order.  

  • YES: Who danced till dawn?  
  • YES: What is happening tonight?

 

YES/NO QUESTIONS

Yes/No questions are formed by inserting the subject between the helping verb and the main verb. Person, number and tense are indicated by the helping verb. For example: She has gone? Has she gone?  

  • NO: Has Janine money for the trip?  
  • YES: Does Janine have money for the trip?  
  • NO: Did they sold their car?  
  • YES: Did they sell their car?

 

WH - QUESTIONS

COMMA SPLICE 

A comma splice occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined by a comma.  

  • NO: The storm blew down a tree on my house, I had to call the insurance company.  
  • YES: The storm blew down a tree on my house. I had to call the insurance company.  
  • YES: After the storm blew down a tree on my house, I had to call the insurance company.

 

FRAGMENTS 

Dependent clauses cannot stand alone. They must be connected to an independent clause.  

  • NO: Although it is expensive to enter this program.  
  • YES: Although it is expensive to enter this program, many people sign up.  
  • NO: Because we players had some trouble with tackling and gave our coaches a hard time.  
  • YES: Because we players had some trouble with tackling and gave our coaches a hard time, our coaches quit.

 

FUSED 

A fused sentence has grammatical parts which are missing or used incorrectly.  

  • NO: This movie was about aliens bombed the earth.  
  • YES: This movie was about aliens who bombed the earth.  
  • YES: This movie was about aliens bombing the earth.  
  • NO: Linda doesn't know how to sign language.  
  • YES: Linda doesn't know how to sign.  
  • YES: Linda doesn't know how to use sign language.  
  • NO: Mary's senior year tended to get good grades.  
  • YES: Mary tended to get good grades in her senior year.  
  • NO: How old did you start playing video games?  
  • YES: When did you start playing video games?  
  • YES: How old were you when you started playing video games?
  • NO: Some students feel attendance isn't important and can just learn from reading the text book.
  • YES: Some students feel attendance isn't important. They think they can learn from reading the text book.
  • YES: Some students feel attendance isn't important, because they can just learn from reading the text book.

 

RUN-ONS 

A run-on sentence is a sentence whose clauses are incorrectly joined.  

  • NO: If I were in the teacher's shoes, I would say it's up to the students if they miss the homework assignment and why did they come to college anyway?  
  • YES: If I were in the teacher's shoes, I would say it's up to the students if they miss the homework assignment. Why did they come to college anyway?

 

Intransitive verbs are followed by an adverb, prepositional phrase, verbal, or nothing at all.  

  • NO: He suffered his body after the accident.  
  • YES: He suffered horribly after the accident.  
  • YES: He suffered after the accident.  
  • NO: Marika never replied his letter.  
  • YES: Marika never replied to his letter.

Intransitive verbs can never be passive.  

  • NO: They were arrived in Italy on June 10th.  
  • YES: They arrived in Italy on June 10th.  
  • NO: The accident was happened yesterday while I was dancing.  
  • YES: The accident happened yesterday while I was dancing.

 

Use a noun after a linking verb only when it renames the subject.  

  • NO: Washington is humidity.  
  • YES: Washington is a humid city.  
  • NO: My roommate is a nice personality.  
  • YES: My roommate is a nice person.  
  • NO: Florida is a good vacation.  
  • YES: Florida is a good vacation location.  
  • YES: Florida is a good place for a vacation.

 

Use an adjective after a linking verb to describe the subject.  

  • NO: Washington is humidity.  
  • YES: Washington is humid.  
  • NO: The beach is relaxation.  
  • YES: The beach is relaxing.

 

If there introduces a clause, there must be followed by a linking verb. IT/THERE  

  • NO: There has a delicious Vietnamese deli in my neighborhood.  
  • YES: There is a delicious Vietnamese deli in my neighborhood.  
  • NO: There have crowds and too many tourists there.  
  • YES: There are crowds and too many tourists there.  

Sequence of tenses Use the present tense to express a current opinion, belief, or state of mind about a past event.  

  • NO: I remembered the best time I ever had in Ghana.  
  • YES: I remember the best time I ever had in Ghana.

 

If the verb in the independent clause is in the future tense, don't use the future tense in the dependent clause.

  • NO: I will pay you when I will get my pay check.  
  • YES: I will pay you when I get my pay check.  
  • NO: I will pay you when I am getting my pay check.  
  • YES: I will pay you when I get my pay check.

 

Use the present perfect to express actions that begin in the past and continue to the present.

  • NO: The new freshman was lonely since he arrived in September.  
  • YES: The new freshman has been lonely since he arrived in September.  
  • NO: For years scientists wanted to know if Mars is like the earth.  
  • YES: For years scientists have wanted to know if Mars is like the earth.

 

Use past continuous to describe an action in progress at the time of another action.  

  • NO: He was standing outside the court house.  
  • YES: He was standing outside the court house while the trial was going on.  
  • NO: The Chinese were using gun powder.  
  • YES: The Chinese were using gun powder when Marco Polo arrived there.  

Use of present tense
Use the simple present tense to express general truths, repeated or habitual actions, and states or qualities of being.

  • NO: Libraries had books.
  • YES: Libraries have books.
  • NO: The earth was round.
  • YES: The earth is round.
  • NO: The traffic is giving people a headache every day.
  • YES: The traffic gives people a headache every day.
  • NO: The soup is tasting sour.
  • YES: The soup tastes sour.

Conflicts with adverbs of time  
Adverbs of time are commonly associated with only one verb tense.

  • NO: I know him all my life.
  • YES: I have known him all my life.
  • NO: I am drinking coffee every day.
  • YES: I drink coffee every day.

 

TRANSITIVE VERBS 

Transitive verbs are action verbs that need a direct object, a nominal noun, pronoun, gerund, noun phrase or clause.

Transitive verbs must be followed by a nominal.

  • NO: Washington has humid.
  • YES: Washington has humidity.
  • NO: Ivan and Josef really enjoyed there.
  • YES: Ivan and Josef really enjoyed Paris in the spring.
  • YES: Ivan and Josef really enjoyed themselves last year.
  • NO: Kids learn responsible.
  • YES: Kids learn responsibility.

 

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT 

Subject and verb must always agree.

  • NO: Congress always find a way to get money.
  • YES: Congress always finds a way to get money.
  • NO: Coffee cost more today.
  • YES: Coffee costs more today.

 

  • NO: At camp, there is snakes and bugs everywhere.
  • YES: At camp, there are snakes and bugs everywhere.
  • NO: Either our team or the Iowa State team are going to the finals.
  • YES: Either our team or the Iowa State team is going to the finals.

 

VERB FORM 

Verb tense and voice must always follow regular patterns. See VERB TENSE TABLES

  • NO: Does she bought the supplies for the office?
  • YES: Does she buy the supplies for the office?
  • NO: Did Janice bought the equipment for the office?
  • YES: Did Janice buy the equipment for the office?
  • NO: She has been sunbathed at the beach every day.
  • YES: She has been sunbathing at the beach every day.
  • NO: She have not enough money. It is sad.
  • YES: She doesn't have enough money. It is sad.

 

VERB FORM-MODALS 

Modals are in the USAGE DICTIONARY.

  • NO: He wears no clothes which may shocks the viewer.
  • YES: He wears no clothes which may shock the viewer.
  • NO: We would agreed with Ricardo who was very angry.
  • YES: We would agree with Ricardo who was very angry.
  • NO: Can you imagined life without TV?
  • YES: Can you imagine life without TV?
  • YES: Could you imagine life without TV?

 

VERB PATTERNS 

Some verbs are often followed by verbals. There are five basic verb-verbal patterns. See pp. 38-39 and the USAGE DICTIONARY.

  • NO: Napoleon chose marrying Josephine.
  • YES: Napoleon chose to marry Josephine.

verb + infinitive

  • NO: He is enjoying to study all about Mars.
  • YES: He is enjoying studying all about Mars.

verb + gerund

  • NO: He began learn French in the sixth grade.
  • YES: He began to learn French in the sixth grade.

verb + infinitive

  • YES: He began learning French in the sixth grade.

verb + gerund

  • NO: Their parents let them to help with the chores.
  • YES: Their parents let themhelp with the chores.

verb + object + simple form of verb

  • NO: The audience saw the magician pulled the rabbit out of the hat.
  • YES: The audience saw the magician pull the rabbit out of the hat.

verb + object + simple form of the verb

  • NO: He allowed his gangster friends borrow his car.
  • YES: He allowed his gangster friends to borrow his car.

verb + object + infinitive

VERB TENSE 

ACTIVE vs PASSIVE 

Back to the top

ARTICLES 

Back to the top

CLAUSES

Back to the top

COMPARISONS 

Back to the top

ED/ING 

Back to the top

MISPLACED MODIFIERS 

Modifiers must come after the noun they modify.

  • NO: Students must have a degree in a specific field for companies to hire them such as accounting, economics, business management.
  • YES: Students must have a degree in a specific field such as accounting, economics, business management for companies to hire them.
  • NO: The dog forgot about his dinner chewing on the old shoe.
  • YES: The dog,chewing on the old shoe, forgot about his dinner.

 

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NON-COUNT NOUNS 

When using a non-count noun:
Never add s to a non-count noun.
Always use a singular verb.
Never introduce a non-count noun with a/an.
Never use many with a non-count noun.

  • NO: Rosita did many researches for her paper.
  • YES: Rosita did much research for her paper.
  • NO: My classmate and I gave each other good feedbacks.
  • YES: My classmate and I gave each other good feedback.

 

  • NO: The climates are varied in the Grand Canyon.
  • YES: The climate is varied in the Grand Canyon.

 

 

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PARALLELISM

Words or phrases joined by and, but, or, or nor and words in a list must be grammatically the same (parallel).

  • NO: Children could come and enjoyed the books.
  • YES: Children could come and enjoy the books.
  • NO: Many companies want to hire college students and not hiring high school students.
  • YES: Many companies want to hire college students and not hire high school students.
  • YES: Many companies want to hire college students and not high school students.
  • NO: Parents make children think about their future responsibilities like married, kids, pay bills, and work.
  • YES: Parents make children think about their future responsibilities like marriage, kids, bills, and work.
  • YES: Parents make children think about their future responsibilities like being married, having kids, paying bills, and working.
  • NO: We may see problems such as children misbehaving and bored.
  • YES: We may see problems such as children misbehaving and acting bored.
  • NO: Parents don't want their children to be lazy or going out.
  • YES: Parents don't want their children to be lazy or to go out.

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PARTS OF SPEECH 

Parts of speech -- adjectives, nouns, verbs, etc. have specific functions in a sentence. Back to the top

PHRASES

A phrase is a group of words which acts as one wordÜan adjective, adverb, or noun. Back to the top

POSSESSIVES 

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PRONOUN/NOUN ANTECEDENT 

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QUESTION FORMS 

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SENTENCES

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VERBS

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Copyright © 1997 by Bordman and Womeldorf, Gallaudet University, Washington DC