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The Most Common Grammar Mistakes Students Should Avoid

It is hard to become a grammar genius as some language situations pose specific limitations on the use of grammar rules. To err is human, and all students commit mistakes from time to time. So, to be grammatically correct, you always need to double-check dictionaries and thesauruses, grammar guides, and language communities to find the answer to your dilemma. 

To help you out with the most common grammar mistakes, experts have composed this grammar guide. Here you will find some funny grammar mistakes examples and learn how to use specific words and phrases correctly. They have also compiled a list of top 10 grammar mistakes to oust from your writing habits. Read on to hone your writing skills and impress your tutor with grammatical excellence. 

Why Do Students Fail? Most Common Grammar Mistakes You Make 

While you’re a student, it’s natural to think of writing as an ongoing learning process. However, basic literacy is what you should have by default as soon as you enroll in higher educational establishments. So, students must work on the most common grammar mistakes and improve their writing techniques to sound competent and academic in their texts. The weakest language aspects in which many students fail include: 

  • Mixing past and present tense in their writings;
  • Overusing adverbs; 
  • Confusing “your” and “you’re” in written texts;
  • Misusing apostrophes; 
  • Leaving incomplete comparisons in their texts; 
  • Confusing adjectives and adverbs. 

If you recognize yourself in one (or several) points mentioned above, you definitely need additional work on writing mechanics. Making these mistakes repeatedly is a serious source of your tutor’s frustration, while neglect to feedback may reduce your grades even further. 

Top 10 Grammar Mistakes to Beware 

Particular language situations require making correct choices. In these cases, it is essential to know the rules guiding such choices. Here is a brief guide to the top 10 grammar mistakes students make every day for your consideration. 

#1 Who vs. That 

Keep in mind that referring to people requires the use of “who,” while referring to inanimate objects needs “that.” 

INCORRECT: We met Jane yesterday, a girl that Mike likes. 

CORRECT: We met Jane yesterday, a girl whom Mike likes. 

#2 Which vs. That 

Understanding when to use “which” or “that” requires an in-depth look into the subject of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. A restrictive clause is the one that cannot be taken out of a sentence without changing its meaning. A non-restrictive clause is optional, allowing you to remove it without changing the meaning dramatically. Here is an example: 

I need to buy a dress that will match the style of tomorrow’s party. 

A cocktail party, which Mike organizes, will take place at Sotheby’s tomorrow. 

#3 Who vs. Whom 

There aren’t many rules related to cases in the English language, but the use of “who” and “whom” is the one that does. There are three cases in English: objective, subjective, and possessive, and “who” is a variant used in the subjective case. Let’s look at the examples: 

Subjective case: Who is this? It is Mary. 

Objective case: Whom should I give this pen to? Give it to Mary, please. 

Possessive case: Whose pen is this? It’s Mary’s. 

#4 Dangling Modifiers 

As its name suggests, a “dangling” modifier does not have the word it presupposes to modify. In such a situation, the modifier remains hanging, thus confusing the sentence’s meaning. 

INCORRECT: Having read the book, the film seemed too simplistic to us.  

CORRECT: Having read the book, we found the film too simplistic. 

#5 Lay vs. Lie 

Laying something is the process of performing some action on a subject. Lying is a condition in which the object is or the process that one performs on themselves. Here is an example to make things clear: 

– I brought your book, where should I place it? Lay it on the table, please. 

– How long will you be lying in bed? We need to leave soon. 

These examples are relevant to the present-tense sentences, while past-tense structures can cause additional difficulties. The word “lay” is a past-tense form of the verb “to lie,” which the verb “to lay” has a distinct past-tense form – “laid.” Here are some examples to exemplify the difference: 

– She was ill for two weeks. All this time, she lay in bed and watched films.

– He came up and laid the money on the table. 

#6 Fewer and Less 

The distinction between “fewer” and “less” becomes more apparent when the one thinks about countable and uncountable nouns. If you can count things with one, two, three, and so on, then you need to use “fewer.” If the noun represents a substance, then “less” is correct. 

I need to eat fewer bananas a day to reduce my sugar intake. 

I have less time for studies every new day. 

#7 Passive Voice 

There is much ambiguity surrounding the use of passive voice. Most academic sources recommend not using it wherever possible, but it is still a legit grammatical structure you should master. In some cases, the use of passive voice seems redundant, like: 

INCORRECT: This cake was baked for me by my mother.  

CORRECT: My mother baked me a cake. 

In other cases (when the action’s performer is unknown), using passive voice is a wise way to go. 

EXAMPLE: When we walked out of the house in the morning, all pavements were already cleaned. 

#8 Subject-Predicate Agreement 

Errors in the subject-predicate agreement are prevalent among students. To avoid them, always check the number of your subject (plural or singular) and double-check the predicate. A pro tip is to ensure that there is only one “s” – either as a singular form of a predicate or as a plural form of the subject. 

INCORRECT: Jane like bananas (no “s”). Kids likes bananas (two “s”). 

CORRECT: Jane likes bananas. Kids like bananas. (one “s”).   

#9 Like vs. As Though

Both “like” and “as though” are used for comparisons. The only difference between them is using a noun-noun comparison in the former case and a verbal phrase – in the second. 


She looked like a princess. 

She looked as though she had been climbing a mountain for three hours. 

#10 Using “I” in Academic Writing 

Students need to remember that the use of first-person is prohibited in academic writing. The only exception is a personal or reflective essay where “I” is allowed. In all other cases, it’s better to opt for non-personal structures, like: 

INCORRECT: I believe that the climate change is a severe problem. 

CORRECT: Recent studies are unanimous about the negative impacts of climate change. 

Bonus: Funny Grammar Mistakes Examples 

It would be wrong to let you go without some funny grammar mistakes examples. By looking at how funny they sound, you might stop making such errors forever! 

  • Sport’s bar (probably it’s a bar of somebody called Sport) 
  • Your dinner vs. you’re dinner (the last one sounds quite scary) 
  • Never don’t give up (an inspirational tattoo turned into a grammar disaster) 
  • Restroom’s (it’s fun to think that restrooms have some belongings) 
  • You’re the best teacher ever (such a congratulation might sound more like a personal offense if it’s addressed to a teacher of English) 
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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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