7 Common Grammar Mistakes Everyone Makes

In Writing by Matthew Hazelwood

7 Common Grammar Mistakes Everyone Makes

After a long day of working in my home office, I knew I had to get out. But when I swung my door open, I noticed a package on the step. I was confused, for I had not ordered anything. Nevertheless, I bent down to pick it up and walked into my kitchen. After opening it, smoke came out and everything went black. I awoke in a warehouse, tied to a chair.

“MWAHAHAHAHA! My dear boy, you are sure easy to trick.” A familiar voice said in the shadows.

I gasped. “My mortal enemy, Greg the grammar Nazi! I thought I destroyed you back when we had that duel in Mexico-”

“No need to rehash it, my dear boy. I have caught you once again! You will not guess my evil plan this time! Why, I will-”

“Let me guess–it involves grammar.”

His eyes widened. “Well I–uh, I mean–you–HOW DID YOU KNOW??”

“Guess I’m psychic, huh?”


“Woah, Woah, you cannot say that! Dr. Doofenschmirtz says that in Phineas and Ferb. Copyright infringement.”

“‘Damn you all?’ ‘Blast’?”

“Stewie said such things before Family Guy went down the tubes.”

“‘Drat, drat, and triple drat’?”

“‘Dick Dastardly’–tell you what, why don’t you-”

“SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP! All you are doing is creating distractions! You must listen to my evil plan!”

I rolled my eyes and cleared my throat. “What is it now? I’m busy.”

“You are writing for a certain diarying.com, are you not?”

“Yeah, why?”

“First off, that sounds like ‘diarrhea-ing’, so good name choice. BUT SECOND OFF, listen to this. I will make you–drumroll please–WRITE AN ARTICLE ON GRAMMAR! BWAHAHAHAHAHA-”

I looked at him with a blank face. “Is that it?”

“Yeah…why-why would I need anything else? You will get no views! HA!” He said, with a smug look on his face.

“The website is new, though. We cannot expect lots of views right away.”

Greg was fuming as he untied me. “Just write the article and go!” He gave me a laptop, and I wrote this:

1. Ending a sentence with a preposition

“You do not end a sentence with a preposition” is what a traditional grammarian would say. But this is not a blanket rule. Mignon Fogarty, aka “Grammar Girl”, reminds us that a preposition is “a word that creates a relationship between two words.” Words such as “for”, “on”, “in”, “after”, etc. Take these two examples: “What do we go to college for?” and “For what do we go to college?” In that case, you can use either. But take the sentence “The movie is in one hour”. You would not say, “the movie is one-hour in.”

2. “Is” vs. “are”

This rule is static, and there is not much to say. “Are” is plural, and “is” is singular. You would say, “Dave Chappelle IS funny”, since he is one person. But you would say, “Abbott and Costello ARE funny”, since you are referring to two people. Another interesting example stated in Crash Course US History: Before the Civil War, people would say, “The United States are a great place to live”. After the war, people started to say, “The United States is a great place to live.” If a noun changes from plural to singular, or singular to plural, then the usage might change slightly.

3. Use of the word “they”

Tradition says that “they” means plural, and “he” or “she” to be singular. Although according to Wikipedia, the use of the word “they” in the singular goes as far back as the 1300s. Here is the question: more people do not want to be called “he” or “she” and prefer “they/them” pronouns. This, of course, is due to more people coming out as gender non-binary. I am not exactly sure where we should fall on this debate. “They” leaves ambiguity, but we also do not want to invalidate anyone’s feelings. We will see what happens.

4. Contractions

We all use contractions, particularly in our speech. “Couldn’t”, “shouldn’t,” and “wouldn’t”, are three examples. Then you have ones, such as “gonna,” “wanna,” “yeah”, “nah”, etc. It probably goes back to something my grandfather told me: “The Law of Least Effort”. The phenomena of words changing spelling and pronunciation–especially pronunciation–because it saves people’s energy. Sometimes they are used correctly, like in the sentence “I couldn’t understand what he was saying”. Other times, people do not use them correctly. I have heard people say “it don’t work”. Once again, the truth is not clear cut.

5. The word “literally”

I am sure this point has been made a hundred times by now. This word has been dying for several years now. People misapply the word “literally”. It is used for emphasis–an interjection, almost. But I have heard people say things such as “I’m literally dying” when they feel sick. You may feel pretty bad, but you are not DYING. If someone is very mad and they say “I am literally going to kill someone!”–you are not REALLY going to kill anyone.

6. “Good” vs. “well”

I use to make this mistake when I was a kid. Many people say “I am doing good” to mean “I am fine”. But the adjective “good” is used for a person’s actions/character. For example, “It was a good thing to volunteer” or “Superman is good.” “Well” is a person’s condition. For example, a rich person could say “I am well off” or an ill person might say “I am not doing well.”

7. “Whom”

Some people take this word to be only used by snotty college professors. This is, however, not the case. To paraphrase Diffen.com, “who” is used for subjects and “whom” for objects. The object in a sentence is what is acted upon by the subject. In the sentence, “Whom are you referring to?”, the person who is being referred to is the object of the sentence. The person’s reference is acted up the person being referred to. But take the sentence “Who was that?” The subject, “who”, is not being acted upon in the sentence.

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