Common mistakes in English – Part 2

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We continue with our series on common mistakes in English. In this part, we will mainly focus on homophones. Often described as the most confusing words in English, homephones are words that sound the same but have different meaning. But, let’s start with apostrophes.

1) Misplaced apostrophes

This is one of the most familiar mistakes in the English language. Many people use an apostrophe to form the plural of a word. Remember, apostrophes are never used to make a word plural. They indicate either possession (when indicating something belonging to one person, the apostrophe is placed before the ‘s’ – example, John’s pen; however, when indicating something belonging to more than one person, the apostrophe is put after the ‘s’ – example, the boys’ horse) or the omission of letters or numbers (e.g. don’t; 26 Jan ’98).

2) There, their, they’re

Well, this is a common error people make. ‘There’ refers to that place or position which is not here, e.g. “We went to Sydney and stayed there.” It can also be used to state something, such as, “There is no doubt who is the best student.”

‘Their’ indicates possession – something belonging to or associated with the people or things previously mentioned, e.g. “Their belongings are missing.”

They’re – it is short for “they are.” For example, “They are going to be here anytime,” can also be written as, “They’re going to be here anytime.”

3) Your/you’re

This confuses many, and yet it is so simple. ‘Your’ indicates something belonging to you. For example, “Your books are on the table.”

‘You’re’ is short for ‘you are’. For example, “You are (you’re) beautiful”

4)  Its/it’s

There we go again. Many people think the apostrophe in ‘It’s’ indicates possession. No, it is a short for ‘it is’. For example, “It’s raining outside.”

‘Its’ means ‘belonging to or associated with a thing previously mentioned’ but used when you are not talking about a person. Example – “Does a baby in its mother’s womb cry?”

5) Then/than

Confusing for many. Remember, ‘Than’ is used in comparisons. Example – He is better than his brother.

‘Then’ means ‘at that time’ or ‘afterwards/after that’. Example – We’ll go to the bank first, then the restaurant.

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6) Me/myself/I

The best way to remember it is:

When you are referring to yourself and somebody else, put the latter’s name first in the sentence. Then check what will sound right with it – ‘me’ or ‘I’. For example, with the sentence “Meera and I are going to office”, you wouldn’t say “Meera and me are going to office” Hence you wouldn’t use ‘me’ here.

However, you will use ‘myself’ if you have already used ‘I’, making you the subject of the sentence. For example, I’ll handle it myself.

7) i.e. and e.g.

i.e. means ‘that is’.

E.g. means ‘for example’.

They are usually used in informal writing.

8) Compliment/complement

Complement – It means ‘a person or thing that completes something’ or ‘a thing that contributes extra features to something else in such a way as to improve or emphasize its quality.’ For example, “The two of them complemented each other well; he was a good guitarist, and she a good singer.”

Compliment – It is a polite expression of praise or admiration. Example – “The dress looks nice on you.”

9) Fewer/less

While ‘fewer’ refers to items one can count individually, ‘less’ refers to a commodity which can’t be counted individually. For example, There are fewer cakes left in the shop.

Towards its north, you will find less water in this river.

10) Know/no

Often mixed up as the two sound the same. Know means ‘be familiar with’ or ‘be aware of something’. For example, “I know he is being honest.”

‘No’ indicates rejection. It is the opposite of ‘yes’. Also, ‘no’ with a full stop after it (no.) means ‘number’. For example, “No. of times people visited the site: 150.”

Can you think of more such mistakes? Well, send them across and we will keep on updating the list.

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