English grammar – common mistakes and how to avoid them

Category: Languages


English grammatical mistakes can be easy to make – but when it comes to messaging, keeping your grammar in check can make all the difference. Poorly created sentence structure and wrongly placed punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence altogether.

In this blog, our language experts discuss the complexities of English grammar – and how it makes for some humorous language mistakes!

English grammar – why is it important?

The word grammar originates from Greek and can be translated as ‘art of letters.’ Grammar can help us make sense of tone, stories and conversations. Re-arranging a sentence or adding letters can have a major impact on the effectiveness of communication. For example, adding letters to a word can make it plural, while adding commas and other punctuation can change how the message reads. If a story is intended to be powerful, or a product description is of key importance, grammar is crucial in conveying the right message in the right tone.

No language’s grammar is always simple to get your head around, but it is important to get it right. This is one of the main benefits of using professional translation service providers – you can be sure the text will make sense to the local market. Many translation services leave us to ‘guess’ what is being implied, but to build up trust in a target market, local grammar and language traditions need to be observed.

Common English grammar mistakes

There are a number of commonly made English grammatical mistakes, including missing commas, poor choice of wording plus syntax and verb errors. Misplaced modifiers can also make sentences sound badly written and hard to understand. This happens when a word is separated from what it is describing in a sentence.

One of the most common English grammatical mistakes is misuse of ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there.’ The same goes for ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ – the simplest way to distinguish the latter is to bear in mind that the separation of the words ‘you are’ is being replaced by an apostrophe.

The passive and active voice in English is also important when it comes to grammar. The passive voice is when the noun being acted upon in the sentence is the subject. In contrast, the active voice is when the noun undertaking the action is the focus. Each language has its own unique quirks and phrases that may or may not make sense depending on sentence structure.

How can English grammatical mistakes change meaning?

Whilst you wouldn’t want a serious document or story to be ruined by grammatical errors, English grammatical mistakes can even be amusing. Here are some good examples of the “power” of grammar:

  • ‘Let’s eat Grandma!’ is totally changed when you insert a comma to make it ‘Let’s eat, Grandma!’. The latter sounds much nicer!
  • ‘Go slow, men at work’ and ‘Go, slow men at work’ – the difference in punctuation placement is subtle but makes all the difference.
  • ‘Bird eating spider’ and ‘bird-eating spider’ are also two different things, differentiated by just a hyphen!
  • An unfortunate syntactic error might be ‘Tables are for eating customers only!’. Most people could understand what is being said here; only customers buying food can sit there. Taken literally though, this reads that people may only sit at the table if they are eating a customer – certainly not what restaurants would ever want!

To find out more about the importance of grammar in your target market, please contact us today!

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