Don't Get Me Started On... Bad Grammar

For some people, the written word doesn’t come easily. English is a notoriously difficult language to learn from a foreign tongue due to its irregular and often illogical spelling patterns, verb formations and pronunciations. For example, think about how the letters ‘ough’ sound when used in the word ‘tough’ compared to the word ‘bough’. Or the silent ‘k’ at the beginnings of words such as ‘knock’ and ‘knee’. Or the fact that a ‘c’ can make an actual ‘c’ sound or an ‘s’ sound. And then there’s sets of double letters to consider, the ‘i before e’ rule, the conjunction of the letters ‘q’ and ‘u’, not to mention punctuation, contractions, tenses, prepositions, capitalisation, determiners, possessive determiners, pronouns, verbs, irregular verbs, nouns, noun phrases… the list goes on.

First thing’s first, let’s get this straight:

1.      Bad grammar: incorrect grammar use

2.      Poor grammar: a weak grasp of grammar

As far as I’m concerned (and as an English student), poor grammar is excusable. It applies to people who genuinely have difficulty with comprehending the never ending list of rules and regulations to the written word. Bad grammar, however, is a different offence. Bad grammar is when people are lazy with their words, ignorant to the grammatical crime they have committed when they write on the group chat, ‘your not going to believe this.’ My ‘not’?! Sorry, I don’t have one of those.

Here are the top five grammatical errors which truly make me question humanity as we know it:

1.      You’re/Your

It’s really very simple. In fact, they’ve already given you half of the other word, so that’s an added bonus. It’s a contraction: You’re = you are. ‘You’re going to the shops, you’re eating a doughnut.’ Your = a possessive determiner. ‘Your coat, your house.’ This confusion is probably the most frequently found in day-to-day text talk.

2.      They’re/Their/There

As with ‘you’re’, they’ve kindly dropped you a massive hint in that two thirds of the word ‘are’ have already been set into place. They’re = they are. The next one I’m more forgiving with as I still struggle with the spelling. Breaking all boundaries and going against the ‘i before e except after c’ rule is the rebellious third-person possessive determiner ‘their’. Whilst the spelling is debateable, I’d still strongly argue that there is little excuse for using it in the wrong context, for example, ‘their dog’. And finally, ‘there’. A substitute for a place/location. ‘It’s over there’.

3.      We’re/Were/Where

We’re = we are. Surely we’ve grasped the contraction rule at this point. ‘Were’ is the past participle of ‘are’. ‘They were, we were’, not to be confused with ‘was’ which is singular. ‘They was’ is a massive no-no. ‘I was, he was, she was.’ And ‘where’ is another substitute for a place, often used in a question: ‘where are you going?’ It can also be used in a normal sentence, ‘where I went last year/ where I’m going tomorrow.’

4.      Then/Than

‘Then’ is a point in time. ‘Then I realised’. ‘Than’ is a method of comparison. ‘I’m bigger than you’.


5.      Could have/would have/should have

This is my favourite and such an underrated issue. People who write ‘could of’ as oppose to ‘could have’. Give me strength. Stemming from the fact that ‘of’ and ‘have’ can sound quite similar in spoken English, especially when contracted, e.g. ‘could’ve’, but there is no getting away from the fact that ‘could of’ actually does not make sense. ‘Of’ is a preposition, a type of word which governs nouns, ‘three loaves of bread’. ‘Have’, or rather the infinitive ‘to have’, is a verb, used to show an action. It only works when the present conditional of ‘could’ is followed by an expression that begins with ‘of’. For example, ‘we could, of course, go to the park’.

Everyone makes mistakes, but some mistakes have no excuses. All of my friends know that any grammar errors in texts and messages are corrected with a * and a ‘you’re welcome’. Because it’s ‘you are welcome’, not ‘your welcome’ which would be a welcome which belongs to you. Make sense?