11 Grammatical Mistakes That Instantly Reveal People’s Ignorance

11 Grammatical Mistakes That Instantly Reveal People’s Ignorance

All it takes is a single tweet or text for some people to reveal their poor grasp of the English language. Homophones — words that sound alike but are spelled differently — can be particularly pesky. Regardless, you should never choose incorrectly in these nine situations.

#1 ‘Your’ vs. ‘You’re’

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, while “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.”

Example 1: You’re pretty.

Example 2: Give me some of your whiskey.

#2 ‘It’s’ vs. ‘Its’

Normally, an apostrophe symbolises possession, as in, “I took the dog’s bone.” But because apostrophes also replace omitted letters — as in “don’t” — the “it’s” vs. “its” decision gets complicated.

Use “its” as the possessive pronoun and “it’s” for the shortened version of “it is.”

Example 1: The dog chewed on its bone.

Example 2: It’s raining.

#3 ‘Then’ vs. ‘Than’

“Then” conveys time, while “than” is used for comparison.

Example 1: We left the party and then went home.

Example 2: We would rather go home than stay at the party.

#4 ‘There’ vs. ‘They’re’ vs. ‘Their’

“There” is a location. “Their” is a possessive pronoun. And “they’re” is a contraction of “they are.”

Use them wisely.

#5 ‘We’re’ vs. ‘Were’

“We’re” is a contraction of “we are” and “were” is the past tense of “are.”

#6 ‘Affect’ vs. ‘Effect’

“Affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun.

There are, however, rare exceptions. For example, someone can “effect change” and “affect” can be a psychological symptom.

Example: How did that affect you?

Example: What effect did that have on you?

#7 ‘Two’ vs. ‘Too’ vs. ‘To’

“Two” is a number.

“To” is a preposition. It’s used to express motion, although often not literally, toward a person, place, or thing.

And “too” is a synonym for “also.”

#8 ‘Into’ vs. ‘In To’

“Into” is a preposition that indicates movement or transformation, while “in to,” as two separate words, does not.

Example: We drove the car into the lake.

Example: I turned my test in to the teacher.

In the latter example, if you wrote “into,” you’re implying you literally changed your test into your teacher.

#9 ‘Alot’

“Alot” isn’t a word. This phrase is always two separate words: a lot.

#10 ‘Who’ vs. ‘Whom’

Use who to refer to the subject of a sentence and whom to refer to the object of the verb or preposition. Shortcut: Remember that who does it to whom.

Example: Who ate my sandwich?

Example: Whom should I ask?

#11 ‘Whose’ vs. ‘Who’s’

Use “whose” to assign ownership to someone and “who’s” as the contraction of “who is.”

Example: Whose backpack is on that table?

Example: Who’s going to the movies tonight?

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.


  • I see quite a few kids using “payed” instead of “paid” now. Payed is when you are talking about rope, and paid is about money.

    And “apart of” instead of “a part of”, which are opposites.

  • “Alot” doesn’t bother me, it seems to be filling a small need linguistically.

    On the other hand, “could of, should of, would of ” … instead of the “have” is grating. Do kids even learn the spelling of contractions like “could’ve…” anymore?.

    • I gave you an uptick for the 2nd half (‘of’ vs ‘have’ and lack of contractions in English lessons) but I can’t agree with ‘alot’.
      It’s either ‘a lot’ or ‘allot’.
      What small linguistic need are we filling here? The need to save one space? 🙂

      • Arguing against “alot” is like fighting the linguistic drift that gave us “an apron” from “a napron”which saved no spaces.
        “Lot” (as opposed to “lots”) is rarely used without the “a”, and probably gets semantically grouped with single token terms like “many”.

      • No, it is never ‘allot’. Where did you get that idea? Allot is a verb that means to divide or distribute something.

    • The problem is that they’re actually thinking “could’ve” but don’t realize that’s the legitimate contraction so they write out the closest thing to the way that contraction is said without knowing about the contraction, which is “could of”.

  • I’m not sure whether this is just something specific, but a lot of the people I know will use “seen” instead of “saw”. e.g. “I seen you today.”

    Also, people using “done” instead of “did” or visa versa.

    • In the seen case, you would use “I have seen you today” and in the done case, you would use “I have done something today”.

  • its only a matter of time before alot is classed as a word. a good chunk of the population use it and dont care

  • The one that drives me to rage is people using ‘addicting’ when they should use ‘addictive’.

    Drugs, TV shows, bacon etc. are not addicting, they are addictive.

    When I see someone, including a journalist, describe something as addicting I cannot take them seriously.

  • Let’s not forget “loose vs lose” as in “I thought I was going to loose my mind”.

  • Let’s get this cleared up. Each of these points of grammar is basic to the extent that they should have been mastered by ninety percent of children by the time they graduate from primary school. I fully realize that language often changes permanently by habitual misuse, and that this is a perfectly natural process, but should we be proud of a society where a large proportion of the population has not mastered its own native tongue?

  • Is it OK to use the spelling tomato’s as a contraction if you usually spelling the plural of this fruit tomatoes?

    • Are you trying to imply the tomato owns something, or are you contracting ‘tomato is’? Apostrophes are never used to pluralise. If you’re writing on a blackboard outside a greengrocer you should never need one.

        • A general convention is you apply the contraction to the singular form and only then convert to a plural. In your case, “tomato” is the singular and there is no contraction there, so there wouldn’t be one in “tomatoes”. If you contracted it to “tom’o” then your plural form would be “tom’oes”.

          Contractions are allowed at the end of words (eg. you gon’ get a beatin’) but you should avoid pluralising those words to avoid confusion. Most guides would advise against the kind of contractions in my example anyway, as they’re examples of pronunciation differences and shouldn’t be embedded in the written form of the word to begin with.

      • We were comparing a tomato’s level of ripeness against that of an orange. In that case the tomato would own it’s level of ripeness so you wouldn’t say tomatoes would you?

        • In your example, “tomato’s” is correct for the property of a single tomato. If you were talking about multiple tomatoes the apostrophe would go on the end – “comparing the tomatoes’ ripeness”. That said, the original post specifically mentioned a contraction, which the possessive apostrophe isn’t.

          (Also, your “its” shouldn’t have an apostrophe, the word is already possessive the same way “his” is. An apostrophe in “it’s” always means “it is”.)

  • I don’t respect people who consider others ignorant, when the crux of the problem is a lack of education. Also, don’t start correcting others grammar again please, I still remember the rancorous nonsense we had when a simple grammatical error destroyed the thrust of a comment and the writers confidence.

      • I personally have a poor education, but I wouldn’t appreciate being called ignorant because of a spelling error.

    • Why not? You do know that grammar is extremely important, so why would you say to not correct someone’s wrong grammar? Then you’re the one who’s being ignorant right now. The writer called those people ignorant because they don’t know how to use those words properly, and if there’s no criticism then those ‘ignorant’ people wouldn’t have learned their mistakes. Heck, even if they have not noticed it. So you better think twice before you even utter a word in a foolish manner.

  • I usually feel that as long as I can understand the other person, that’s fine. Language evolves.

    And I don’t like the situation of correcting someone, only to find out that either a) the reason they made the mistake is they’re dyslexic, or b) they were under stress at the time or c) I’ve made an error in correcting them. People in glass houses and all that.

  • Spelling: It’s the difference between “knowing your shit” and “knowing you’re shit”.

  • People (usually kids) who say “I’ll verse you” or “who are you versing?”.

  • But because apostrophes also replace omitted letters — as in “don’t” — the “it’s” vs. “its” decision gets complicated.It really doesn’t. “It’s” is short for “it is”. It has no other meaning.

    • Yep. Pronouns can’t take the possessive suffix, only nouns from memory. Pronouns have modified versions with the possessiveness built in instead (his, her, its, their, etc.).

    • “It’s” is short for “it is”. It has no other meaning.

      This is not true. It’s had another meaning for a very long time.

  • Or maybe words are just things that are completely made up, as are the rules around how to speak and write them. Considering the amount of English words that no longer represent their ‘original’ forms and that many others are bastardisations or incorrect translations of foreign words, it seems that anything goes as long as we can communicate.

    Grammar and punctuation does not exist because it is the correct way to write. That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in a while and shows a distinct lack of understanding about language. They exist as rules to better help us communicate with each other. If someone writes ‘it’s’ when they mean ‘its’, and you know this, then why does it matter. I’ll give you a clue, it doesn’t.

    I could have written that paragraph with no punctuation at all and anyone could have understood it without having an aneurysm. Granted I wouldn’t do too well as a journalist but as a human being I would get along okay.

    Communication is important, as is understanding each other. Grammar and punctuation are fine things to learn, but they are rules written down at a point (or points) in time. They are not real. Helping someone improve their spelling and grammar is by no means a waste of time and should be encouraged. Rudely correcting someone for not using an arbitrary rule is just sad.

  • Also, “more that” when it should be “more than.”

    Also, “different than” when it should be “different to.”

  • Anyone remember ” ‘udson with a haitch”? That’s taken to be correct nowadays. It’s not “haitch”, it’s “aitch”.

  • Sexual words for a description of everything proves people’s ignorance and illiteracy. Using the words ‘cool’ and ‘hot’ for descriptions of everything except the words’ meanings shows ignorance also.
    ‘I, personally’ is incorrect, ‘actually’ is used too often to be annoying before a verb, and the word ‘like’ which is used incorrectly proves ignorance, illiteracy and stupidity and causes the reading or hearing it often to be tedious.

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