Thursday, November 5, 2020

13 Grammar Faux Pas

Last week was dead on the subbing front. And as I write this over the weekend (all of my posts are written the weekend before), I've got a bit of nervous energy going, so I'm channeling it into a grammar post. 

From reading blogs to tweets to everything else on the internet, I encounter many grammar faux pas. Some are just typos. Others are because those doing the writing don't know better. In the interests of general education, I'm going to point out 13 such errors that I run across frequently.

This is a Thursday 13. I learned about this meme via Barefoot Susie

I don't intend to call anyone out, so if you recognize yourself, I do mean these kindly. And, I'm fully aware I'm tempting Muphry's Law (or any of the other variants of this theme) wherein any post written about grammar will have at least one grammar error in it. Feel free to point out my mistakes in the comments. 

So, in no particular order: 

1. Plurals vs. possessives

If the word is plural, add an S. If the word is possessive, add an apostrophe plus S. 

2. Plural last names

On your Christmas cards, say "Greetings from the Smiths". Not "the Smith's". The second is a possessive. Sometimes pluralizing last names can be a challenge if your name ends with an S already. Jones would be the Joneses. Just don't use an apostrophe. Please. 

3. To/too/two

Ah, the commonly confused homophones. These are frequent fliers. It's pretty simple to tell them apart, though. First, is it a number? If you mean 2 of something, it's "two". 

Next, do you mean also? Or, is it an intensifier? That's "too". The weather is "too cold". Harold borrowed a sweater. Then Jane did, "too". 

If it's neither, then it's "to". "To" is a preposition. You went "to the store". Oh, and you can use "to" to end a sentence, so long as it's this one you want.

4. They're/there/their

While we're on homophones, this one is a biggie. Start with "they're". It's a contraction of they and are. So, if you reread the sentence in your head, replace with "they are". If it works, it's "they're". (This works for all such contractions. I've been doing the rereading thing ever since high school, so more than 30 years. I'm correct 99% of the time.) 

Next, is it a possessive? That is, are you saying that something belongs to them? Then it's "their". 

And then we're left with "there". It can mean a place. Or a state of being. Or sometimes it's kind of a place holder. So, eliminate that you mean they're or their, then it has to be there. 

5. You're/your

Second verse, same as the first. Start with "you're". It's just you and are. So, if you replace in your sentence with "you are", then it's "you're". 

"Your" is possessive. (Reread the previous sentence replacing my "your" with "you are". Sounds wrong, doesn't it? That's how I knew it was "your". Seriously, I do it every time.) 

6. Should've/would've/could've

Yes, it sounds like "should of", "would of", and "could of", but it's not. It's the contraction of should and have (and would and have, and could and have). It's not "of", it's " 've". 

7. Then/than

This is one I've seen a lot of lately. Everywhere. "Then" is when you're talking about time. "Than" is used for comparison.

8. Choose/chose and loose/lose

Choose is "ch-ew-zzz". Chose is "ch-oh-zzz". "Choose" when you're trying to pick between things. "Chose" when that decision has been made. 

Loose is "l-oo-ss". Lose is "l-ew-zzz". "Loose" is the opposite of tight. "Lose" is when something goes missing.

9. Breath/breathe

Breath ends on a harder "th". You take a breath. Or you breathe. Breath is the noun. Breathe is the verb.

10. Cloth/clothe

Cloth is fabric. Clothe is when you wrap yourself in clothing. Cloth is a noun. Clothe is a verb.

11. Shelf/shelve

You may have a bookcase full of shelves, but if you only have one, it's a shelf. To shelve is to put something on a shelf. 

12. Something/some things

You can have something. Or some can have things. There is no "somethings". If it is, then it should be written "some things".

13. Peak/peek/pique

It's not so much the peak/peek thing. Most of us get that right. Peak is the top of a mountain. Peek is to quickly look at something. But some use either peek or peak when they mean pique. Pique is to stimulate interest or curiosity. I hope I've piqued your interest in the third homonym of number thirteen.


  1. I am always amazed that people misuse all 13 so often. My husband is one of them and it drives me crazy!

  2. No one even cares anymore about the difference between lie and lay. I am ancient, so the use of the word "loan" as a verb annoys me. The verb is "lend." Back in my day, no one would ever say, "Please loan me some money." Yes, I suppose some folks on the cutting edge of ignorance were already using loan as a verb, but no one cares about that anymore either. Time marches on, mangling language.

    1. I can never keep lie and lay straight, so more often than not, I employ a different word. Or, I mangle it. I was not aware of loan/lend. Thanks for the lesson.

    2. Lay is transitive. There has to be a direct object. Hens lay eggs, a person lays his cards down on the table, workers lay track. Lie is intransitive. She lies on the bed. But here's where it gets confusing. The past tense of lie is lay. So: yesterday she lay on the bed all day. Past perfect is laid. She laid in bed for a month with her broken leg. English is not an easy language, even for native speakers.

    3. Uh huh. In my writing group, there was a woman who would explain this to us. And I just have a block or something. It made no sense to me. So, I'd let her fix all my instances of it.

  3. Hi Liz - we all need to raise our game re our grammar ... I get so frustrated to see errors with your/you're from us all as bloggers and writers ... take care and all the best - Hilary

  4. HAHA....did you write this post with me in mind!!??? haha....Love it.

    1. I was laughing as I hit enter on the above comment. I am what you call a lazy writer, or that is what I call myself. I will leave out a comma, leave out the 's and just do s. Now at work when typing up something that will go out to others for an email to the powers that be I watch what I am doing, otherwise, some days it just takes to much of a effort. When I comes to speaking, I have my own speak also. haha...Its call Pam Language. I once was sitting between a guy from Egypt and one from Mexico, both on the phone talking in their language to family. When they got off the phone I stated that I needed to learn another language and the dude from Mexico said, "Why? You can't even speak English"....haha....oh well.

    2. A couple of those *cough* 11 *cough* may have been from things I saw in your blog. Definitely not all, though.

  5. I see choose and loose sooooo many places they aren't supposed to be. Forgetting the e at the end of breathe and clothe as also extremely grating to me.

  6. Gosh, even though I know better with all 13, I know typos and lack of proof-reading probably mean I am guilty of all at one time or another. It's probably ironic for me to now say grammar mistakes irk me, lol.

  7. Our collective grasp of proper grammar ....

    1. I think that's true for any era in history, actually. But in this era, more of us have access to writing and publishing things for others to read, so it's more glaring.

  8. Everyone is capable of mistakes. I used to be a Grammar Nazi but I've let up as I've aged. Times change, people change, and in the end . . . well, it's the end. These are all on the mark, though. Good list for a Thursday 13, and welcome to the little band of odd folks who write 13 things on Thursdays.

  9. #1 drives me crazy. I see it all the time. I don't think I'm guilty of it. I don't think I'm guilty of too many of these but then I did transcription for 40 years where we had to do lots of grammar stuff :)


  10. I know Grammar expert would be on me. For the majority of blog post I do.

  11. What can you say about comments on photos or videos of cute babies or animals that go like this - "too cute, too beautiful, too sweet?"

    1. Nothing. And I never correct people online. Well, rarely. Sometimes I want to shut someone down on Twitter and I'll hit their grammar. But that's when I make a mistake. (And I don't see an error in: too cute, too beautiful, too sweet.)

  12. I never heard of Muphry's Law before. That's amusing and clever. And Pam's exchange with you cracked me up.

    Though I make my share of mistakes they are often esoteric, such as typing 'form' when I meant 'from'. My fingers get carried away.


    My biggest grammatical pet peeve is dangling participles. Now there's every chance my writing has a share, but I see and/or hear them almost daily. My husband surely gets tired of hearing me gripe.

    On a funny note, I wanted to be an editor from an early age and of course the job is pretty much extinct now. However, a friend from Israel once asked me to edit a technical manual for her. I was honored, especially when she gave me credit within the document.

    Be well!

    1. We all do typos. I do typos. I had a great tweet once, and after I had posted it, I discovered I had omitted an "a". Oops.

      I'm guilty of dangling participles. It's something I need to work on.

  13. Names that end in S always trip me up when I need to add an apostrophe or pluralize them.

    1. Yeah, they're hard. I think the thing I linked to for that actually had a list of rules to use for them. It was more than I'd ever seen.

  14. I hope I am in this...I hope:)

  15. I really liked this one. A part of my job is to ensure the accuracy language in news copies.

    One wrong usage/mistake that annoys me is when people (especially here in India) say: 'one of my friend' instead of 'friends', or 'one of the book' etc.

    The usage is not new, but it's only in the last like three of four years I have been hearing people saying like this.

    Going by the number of people getting this wrong, I have a fear soon this will be become accepted as correct!

  16. It makes me happy when people have trouble with these because it means job security for me. I didn't see it on your list, but loose/lose is the one that annoys me the most.


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