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Common written English errors. Answered

I'll add to this as errors come to my attention. Perhaps this, or someone else's similar post, could be made a sticky - an always available point of consultation distinct from individual requests for, or offers of, help. I have a 2:1 Honours degree in Librarianship and Information Studies, and I also have a City and Guilds Certificate in teaching Adult Literacy. English is my native language.


Position: "The school is over there."; "There is the temple we have been looking for."
Information: "There is a stray dog wandering around the house."; "There is a train leaving in 15 minutes."
Slang: "He's not all there." (He is a bit stupid.)

Exclusively belonging to someone or something - no other meaning.
"The coats are theirs." (the coats belong to them); "This is their car." (the car belongs to them); "Fords are OK, but their brakes can be spongy." (the brakes belonging to Ford cars can be spongy).

Short for "They are..."
"Try some, they're very tasty."; "Surely they're not ending the gig without playing "Us and Them"?"

A spellchecker may not locate words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly.
"My car is over their." is wrong usage, but the word, "their" is spelled correctly. A grammar checker may or may not locate such errors. (Microsoft Word 2007 combines spellcheck and grammar check, and does find such errors, offering the correct "there" as a replacement.


Belonging to.
"The pedal on the left is its clutch pedal." (the left pedal is the clutch belonging to the car - "its" = "the car's"); "Its mechanism is a bit fiddly, and poorly designed." (the mechanism belonging to something not explicitly mentioned is fiddly and poorly designed).

Short for "it is". "It's raining."; "It's cold."; "It's quite warm for November."


Ownership. "That is your car."; "Your instructions are misleading."; "What was your day like?"

Short for "you are".
"You're wrong about that, it's the other way around."; "You're pulling my leg, that's not even remotely possible."


Comparative. "My car is better than yours."; "I feel better than I did yesterday."; "I would sooner be there than sitting here doing nothing."

Sequence; "Add an egg, then whisk until fluffy."; "Go to the corner, then turn right."
Also colloquially, "Then again, I might decide to fly, after all."; "What's all this about, then?"

Usual error is "then" instead of "than". I've never seen it the other around. Becoming more common, and it has appeared as the only error in a good few Instructables.


All simply wrong. They do not exist in English, and are misheard shortenings of "should have" (should've (sounds like "should of")), "could have" (could've), "would have" (would've), etc.


"It's time to go to school."; "Let's go to the cinema."; Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go."

Also\as well. "I'm coming, too."; "I, too, use Linux Mint."

Excessive. "That's far too much for me!", "You go, if you like, but I think it's too expensive to get in."


The apostrophe does a few unconnected things.

Indicates ownership:
"The dog's bowl." (The bowl belonging to the dog.); "That pink collar is the cat's." (That pink collar belongs to the cat.); "Microsoft's Windows 7 is the best Operating System." (The Operating System belonging to Microsoft.)

Indicates missing letters:
"They're" (They are); "Can't" (cannot); "I'bles" (Instructables).

To indicate ownership of a plural that ends in "s", or pronoun (name) just add the apostrophe at the end without any additional "s":
"The ship's (a single ship) colours have been changed to red and grey."
"The ships' (all the ships in the fleet) colours have been changed to red and grey." (Else you would get "ships's"; which Golem might say.)

"Mr Jones' car is a Skoda." Not Jones's, although, it seems, it's a matter of preference. My preference is brevity.
BUT an apostrophe NEVER EVER makes a plural, "banana's" is wrong, it's just "bananas"; "goat's" is wrong, it's just "goats". Used this way it could indicate ownership, "The banana's skin is yellow." (The skin belonging to the banana.)

Detailed examination at;

You will often see "different" used with "than", or "from", or "to". The preference is "from", because one says "it differs from", not "it differs than", or "it differs to".

Detailed discussion at;

Both can be correct.

See MilkyBarKid's post in a thread at;


Both are correct, but have different uses. "He was misled by the sneaky salesman." "The sneaky salesman tried to mislead him."


Fewer is used when individual things or people are being referred to; cars, telephones, knives, people, churches.

Less is used when things being referred to cannot be counted or don't have plurals; traffic, communication, cutlery, worship.

Fewer cars mean less traffic.

If you have any particular points or questions, I'll be glad to research and post.


Thanks for your helpful post. It would be a lot easier for us if you divided this lesson into several parts. It's for some people to try and learn it all in at the first look. If it were a series of post then it would be nice and easier. Thank you

Thys is a vary helpfal topic. Their our some crasy persons out they're!

use ually when eye you'se bad gramma, eye kno it, and I coulda. It snot that I can't.

Don't get me started on the incorrect usage of they're, their and there.. drives me bonkers !!

I was about to comment what I drives me crazy, but now I read your comment again, and it highlights almost that I wanted to type! :)

I forgive people if it's out of time constraints though ;)

ᴬᶫˢᵒ ᵗᵒᵒ ᵐᵃᶰʸ ᵉᵐᵒʲᶦˢ

These (kind of) drive me crazy:

starting a sentence with a lowercase letter

Ending a sentence with two periods..

Putting a space before an exclamation at the end of a sentence !

Writing i instead of I

...And then the regular than/their/its...

I am horrible at placing apostrophes' at the correct spot, though it still bug's me when people use them incorrectly. Im almost positive's that I saw an Ibl'e that said Building two workbench's (now seriously). I think it got unpublished.

this is a really eye opener. i wish i could speak english as good as the english speaker itself.