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5 Quick English Grammar Tips

Common Mistakes Made by Native English Speakers

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I often hear five English grammar mistakes from people who grew up speaking English. It's a difficult language to master. In many rural areas, English grammar becomes relaxed and just plain wrong. How's your grammar? Here are five quick English grammar tips.  Brush up before you go back to school. You might save a little embarrassment.

And while you're at it, pick up a grammar book and listen carefully to the people around you who you know have proper grammar. Listen.

Without using a lot of confusing grammatical language, I'll explain as easily as I can why the following examples are mistakes.

Be sure to check out:

1. Me and Tim, Tim and I

Wrong: Me and Tim are going to a movie tonight.

Right: Tim and I are going to a movie tonight.

Why?

If you take Tim out of the sentence, "you" are the subject. You are going to a movie. When you're going to a movie, what do you say?

"I am going to a movie."

You wouldn't say, "Me am going to a movie."

When you add Tim, the sentence construction remains the same. You're simply adding Tim, and it's correct to say the other person's name first.

"Tim and I are going to a movie."

Your test is always to take the other person out of the sentence, decide on "I" or "me," and then put the other person back in.

2. We Was, We Were

"Am, are, was, and were" are all parts of the powerful little verb, "to be."

What trips people up with this mighty little verb is present tense and past tense. If something is happening now, it's present tense. If it already happened, it's past tense.

Singular and plural also becomes a problem. Compare the following:

We (Tim and I) "are" going to a movie. (present tense, plural)

I "am" going to a movie. (present tense, singular)

We (Tim and I) "were" going to a movie. (past tense, plural)

I "was" going to a movie. (past tense, singular)

Can you hear the difference?

It is never correct to say, "We was..."

Why? Because we is plural. We always "were"...

Variation on this problem:

I see. I saw. I have seen.

Never: I seen.

3. Had Ran, Had Run

I heard this on the scanner in the newsroom one day: "He had ran into the woods by the time I got there."

Wrong.

Right: "He had run into the woods by the time I got there."

This is a problem of not understanding the perfect tense.

It's confusing, no doubt.

Kenneth Beare, About.com's Guide to ESL, has a complete English Tenses Timeline.

Richard Nordquist, About.com's Guide to Grammar and Composition, also offers help with English tenses.

4. She Don't, She Done

This is a problem of conjugating the verb, "to do."

Wrong: She don't know what she's talking about. (You wouldn't say, "She do not know...")

Right: She doesn't know what she's talking about. (She does not know...)

Wrong: Everyone knows she done it. ("Done" is not the past tense of did.)

Right: Everyone knows she did it.

Kenneth Beare's English Tenses Timeline is a good source for help here, too.

5. It's Broke, It's Broken

We're not talking finances here. Well, fixing whatever is broken might involve finances, but that's another matter altogether.

I hear people say, "It's broke," when they mean, "It's broken."

This problem has to do with the part of speech called past participles. Listen:

It breaks.

It broke. (past)

It has broken. Or: It is broken.

Never: It is broke.

Have other questions? Join us in the forum and ask away!

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