Most people know that I’m obsessed with grammar. I proofread my posts 3-4 times before publishing them, and sometimes I re-read them after a while and find myself horrified by a random typo. So today I’ve decided to talk about the most common grammar mistakes and give some advice on how to avoid them.
You’re vs. your
I know to a lot of people this one is not a big deal, and most people do get this right. But I still see this mistake being made a lot, so I thought I should mention it.
The easiest way to remember the difference between these two words is by looking at the apostrophe. That little line that separates you and re isn’t just there, it actually means that two words were connected by taking away one letter. If you separate the original words, you get you are. So keeping that in mind, it should be easy to know when to use you’re or your. Just turn you’re into you are in your head and consider whether it works in your sentence.
You’re going to walk the dog. -> You are going to walk the dog. | Correct!
That is you’re dog. -> That is you are dog. | Wrong! Correct: That is your dog.
It’s vs. its
I personally really like this one, because so many people make this mistake, and I myself used to get confused about it all the time.
To remember when to use each word, the same rule applies as in the example above. The apostrophe in it’s separates the two words it and is. So just separate them in your head and think whether that works.
It’s a very nice day. -> It is a very nice day. | Correct!
The shop sold it’s cars. -> The shop sold it is cars. | Wrong! Correct: The shop sold its cars.
Whose vs. who’s
Another one that a lot of people get wrong. Again, the same rule applies: who’s comes from who and is or who and has, while whose simply shows who something belongs to.
Who’s coming with me? -> Who is coming with me? | Correct!
Who’s shoes are these? -> Who is shoes are these? | Wrong! Correct: Whose shoes are these?
Remember, if you’re asking who something belongs to, always use whose.
Lie vs. lay
My personal favourite – I don’t think anyone ever gets this right. I’ve seen these words used the wrong way more times than I’ve seen them used correctly. I’m gonna try to make this as easy to understand as possible, because it’s a bit tricky.
The word lie is personal, it’s something you do yourself without anyone or anything else involved. Example: I lie on the couch.
The word lay, however, is something you do to something or someone else. Example: I lay the book on the table. You’re not the one lying on the table, the book is, you’re just the one putting it there. You can also use this with people: I carry her and then lay her on the couch. (Keep in mind all of this is in the present tense.)
I think the part above, although a bit strange at first, is easy enough to get used to and remember. Where things get annoying is with the past tense and the past participle.
The worst thing: the past tense of lie is lay.
Present tense: I lie in bed today.
Past tense: I lay in bed yesterday.
Past participle: I have lain in bed since last week.
The past tense and the past participle of the verb lay are more fun though, especially if you have the sense of humour of a 15-year-old boy. Both the past tense and the past participle of lay are laid. That’s really easy to remember if you just think about the world’s favourite expression: I just got laid.
That is, surprisingly enough, perfectly correct. Remember how lay is something you do to someone or something else? Well, when you say someone gets laid, they’re getting laid by someone else, so it makes sense. (I don’t know how much longer I can keep talking about getting laid in a serious way so I’m gonna stop.)
Present tense: I lay the book on the table now.
Past tense: I laid the book on the table yesterday.
Past participle: I have laid the book on the table every day since I was born.
There is a wonderful post about the difference between lie and lay on the Quick and Dirty Tips website, which is where I learned pretty much everything I know about grammar a few years ago. You can check out the post here. The website features a very useful image that sums up the present and past tense and the past participle of both lie and lay – I’m gonna insert the image below, but keep in mind that it’s not my work and originally comes from said website.
If you have problems remembering all of this, I would suggest you download the image and save it, so that whenever you’re unsure which word to use you can check. That’s what I did when I first found out that there even was a difference between lie and lay. (Good times.)
I know this seems like a lot – just take it step by step, and don’t feel like you have to know any of this. Grammar is not a vital thing, it’s just a nice little extra that can make your blog (or any other piece of writing you might be working on) seem a bit more professional. I personally love grammar and language in general, so learning stuff like this is fun for me, but it’s not for everyone, and I don’t want you to feel pressured. Also, don’t forget that everyone makes mistakes, and there’s nothing wrong with slipping up sometimes.
If this post was helpful in any way, I would love to know. And if there are any other grammar-related things you’d like me to talk about, I’d be more than happy to! I’m now going to shut up, because I think I’ve annoyed you guys enough for today.
‘Till next time and happy reading!