The Most Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Let’s face it. Grammar is hard! Some people come by it naturally, but for everyone else, it’s a constant struggle to make sure your punctuation is in the right place and your subjects and verbs agree. If your kids are struggling with grammar, then you should know the most common grammar mistakes and how to help correct them.

Subject-Verb Agreement

In every sentence, the subjects and verbs must agree in number. If the subject is plural, the verb must be also.

Incorrect: The group of friends were happy to be together.

Correct: The group of friends was happy to be together.

Although it seems like the subject is the plural word “friends,” the subject is actually the collective noun “group,” which is singular. Therefore the verb must be also.

Passive Voice

In sentences with action verbs, the action is given to a certain noun called the direct object, which should fall at the end of the sentence. In the sentence, “Jeff kicked the ball,” “ball” is the direct object because it received the action, “kicked.”

Passive voice occurs when the direct object comes at the beginning of the sentence and the verb’s subject is pushed to the end, making the sentence confusing and awkward.

Incorrect: The stairs were climbed by the old woman.

Since the verb is climbed, we know that the object is the thing being climbed, and the subject is the one climbing it. Therefore stairs is the direct object and the old woman is the subject.

Correct: The old woman climbed the stairs.

See how much clearer the sentence is when the subject comes first and the direct object comes last?

Dangling Modifiers

It’s common to begin a sentence with a phrase meant to describe or modify the noun directly following it. However, sometimes the phrase tries to describe the wrong noun, leaving the modifier “dangling.” This concept is much easier to understand in an example.

Incorrect: After sending flowers, Sarah still did not forgive me.

The phrase at the beginning of the sentence is meant to describe the speaker, but since Sarah is the noun directly following the opening phrase, it sounds like Sarah is the one sending flowers, which does not make sense.

Correct: Sarah still did not forgive me, even after I sent her flowers.

Now the sentence shows who is really sending the flowers.

Run-on Sentence or Comma Splice

A run-on sentence occurs when two sentences or independent clauses run together without proper punctuation.

Incorrect: Some people are extremely good looking, it runs in their genes.

This particular sentence is an example of a comma splice, which occurs when a comma is used mistakenly instead of a semi-colon. You can fix run-on sentences in many different ways.

Use a semi-colon: Some people are extremely good looking; it runs in their genes.

Use a coordinating conjunction and a comma: Some people are extremely good looking, for it runs in their genes.

Use a subordinating conjunction: Some people are extremely good looking because it runs in their genes.

Use a period: Some people are extremely good looking. It runs in their genes.

As you can see, this mistake is easily fixed with the proper punctuation.