English 101: Some Basic English Mistakes (or How To Stop Looking Like An Idiot)

The Words of Jefferson
I’m tired of this, so I’m forced to finally say something. One of the major problems I have with people and the internet is their use of the English language. Whether it’s on IM, Twitter, Facebook, or in blogging (especially annoying), I see mistakes being made all the time. I’m not sure if it’s that people have gotten lazy, forgotten how to use English, or just never learned to begin with, but I figure we all need a little reminding sometimes. What follows are a few of the common errors I read and hopefully a clear explanation on how to avoid them. Please people, stop looking like idiots.

their, there, and they’re
All three of these words might be pronounced the same, but they are spelled and used very differently. Let me give you some examples:

    1. Their car broke down on the side of the road.
    2. Their car broke down over there.
    3. They’re going to take their car over there to get fixed.
    The word their in sentence #1 is a possessive pronoun which reveals ownership (or describes the noun). In this case the noun is the word “car”, so who’s car is it? It’s their car!
    The second there in sentence #2 is an adverb which describes the location. Where is their car? It’s over there! NOTE: This word is also commonly used to “…introduce a sentence in which the verb comes before its subject.” For instance: There was no place to park the car.
    The first they’re in sentence #3 is a contraction meaning “they are”. Therefore, “they’re [they are] going to take the car over there to get fixed.”

Test your knowledge by taking this simple test and see if you can distinguish which “there” is there! (my score was 100%! yippeeee!)

to vs. too
This one kills me! Just by adding an extra letter “o” you make yourself look like an idiot and you just don’t have to. Some examples should help clear things up:

    1. I want to go to the park.
    2. I want to go too.
    3. We had too much fun at the park.
    The first sentence employs the normal usage of the word to and is most common.
    Sentence #2 uses the word too to say “also” or “as well”. It could be written, “I want to go also.”
    Sentence #3 uses the word too (though same spelling) quite differently. It is stating that they had an “excess” amount of fun at the park. Another example could read, “We had too much ice cream.” You can never have “to much” of something, you can only have too much.

Note: I feel sad that I have to say this, but if ever read a sentence using “two” for too or to, I will immediately stop reading anything you’ve written and put my head in a bucket of ice.

are vs. our
Finally, two that just never seem to go away: are and our. The confusion here (like the others above) is that they are pronounced the same, but have different spellings and very different meanings. Again, some examples for the confused:

    The first sentence uses are as a verb (specifically, the present tense form of the verb “to be”). You never “our” going to visit shaycam, but you are going to visit every day!

    The second sentence uses our which is the possessive form of “we”. Think of it like “yours, mine, and ours” which suggests that is not just your favorite, or my favorite, but it’s our favorite site!

As Bill Nye would always say, “Did you know that?…WELL NOW YOU KNOW!” Now get it out there and tell everyone that they’re never going to get these mistakes right unless they too make their favorite site — it’s our only hope!

By Shay

A little bit, a little bit more.

8 replies on “English 101: Some Basic English Mistakes (or How To Stop Looking Like An Idiot)”

While you’re at it can you tell us your opinion on “your” and “you’re.” This is one that bothers me too!

Those are all fine, however the MOST misused word is “I.” It drives me crazy to listen to a sermon where the pastor, who should be educated misuses this all the time. Or when watching a TV program where the writers actually write for a living actually get it wrong, too!
Incorrect: Me and Tim went to the park.
Correct: Tim and I went to the park.
Incorrect: Are you going to the park with Tim and I?
Correct: Are you going to the park with me and Tim.
People think that the “proper” way is to always use “I” instead of “me.”
A great book to get on the subject:
Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English

Here’s one big porblem: Just plain making up words. What’s worse is Webster’s Dictionary will add a word if it becomes commonly used. So bascially, if enough stupid people use it, it’s a legitimate word now.

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