Common Grammatical Errors
I took the liberty of copying this page from Kerrin McMahan's philosophy site.
She teaches philosophy at East Los Angeles College. You can send her e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on common errors in English see: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html
The outline below (courtesy of Chris Campolo) lists many of the most common errors made
in writing. Each mistake is illustrated by an example or two, with suggested corrections.
The bad examples are in red, and the corrections are in
black. These are guidelines for my students. The rest of you can be as ungrammatical as
you like; it's none of my business.
A. Lack of Parallelism
She likes to hunt and fishing.
... to hunt and to fish -or- hunting and fishing.
Marx will certainly live an unhappy life because of his bitterness
and because he is paranoid.
... because of his bitterness and paranoia -or- because he is bitter and paranoid.
- misplaced correlatives
Malthus is not only famous in England but also in America.
... is famous not only in England but also in America.
- unnecessary shift in person and voice
Last night I read for hours, and then several pages were written by
... and then wrote several pages.
- improper series
This book is interesting, instructive, and it is also important.
... and important.
B. Incorrect Case (Noun or Pronoun)
- before a gerund
Father does not approve of Jack and me joining a labor union.
... of Jack's and my joining a labor union.
- predicate pronoun after a finite verb (phrase)
The capitalist is him, the man slapping the worker.
... is he, the man slapping the worker.
It certainly must have been her.
... must have been she.
- subject of an infinitive
I know he to be the landlord.
... him to be the landlord.
- predicate pronoun after an infinitive
I know the farmer to be he.
... the farmer to be him.
- direct object after a verb (phrase) or verbal
The manager called Tom and I into the board room.
... Tom and me into the board room.
Who are you planning to fire?
Whom are you planning to fire?
- object of a preposition
All but Nga and we are going to the protest rally.
... Nga and us are going to the protest rally.
C. Lack of Agreement (Subject-Predicate)
- This peasant uprising with its many weapons are easy to fear.
... is easy to fear.
- Owen's wide interests in health, productivity, and education
proves that he was a good person.
... prove that he was a good person.
- There seems to be several multinational corporations exploiting
the peasants in that country.
... seem to be several multinational corporations ...
- Each one of the Utopian Socialists are insane.
... is insane.
- Neither Malthus nor Ricardo are in favor of birth control.
... is in favor of birth control.
- 6. The committee on worker safety are about to announce its
... is about to announce its decision.
D. Lack of Agreement (Pronoun and Antecedent)
- Everyone in the factory is throwing their shoes into the
... is throwing her shoes into the machinery.
- Each one of you factory owners must leave behind your factory.
... must leave behind her factory.
- The more profit one makes, the more you want.
... the more one wants.
E. Dangling Element
Coming across the fields, the group of angry peasants met my gaze.
... fields, I saw the group of angry peasants.
Bound in beautiful red leather, Pierre received a volume of Marx's Das
Kapital for his birthday.
Pierre received for his birthday a volume of Marx's Das Kapital, bound in beautiful
To derive profits effectively, several years should be spent
... effectively, one should spend several years studying economics.
- gerund phrase
On entering the Village of Cooperation, several school houses became
... I saw several school houses.
- elliptical clause
When eight years old, the child's parents sent him to work in the
When he was eight years old, the child's parents ...
F. Double Negative
- Behind the loud weaving machine we could not hardly hear each
... we could hardly hear each other's voices.
- There cannot be any doubt but what Engels was a wealthy man.
... any doubt that Engels was a wealthy man.
- I cannot help but think that capitalism is about to fall.
I cannot help thinking that capitalism is about to fall.
- Without hardly a warning, the nobles fenced in their lands for
With hardly a warning, the nobles ...
G. Incorrect Tense (Sequence), Mood
- present perfect for past
I have worked for 18 hours last Saturday.
I worked for 18 hours last Saturday.
- past for present perfect
Did you pay your rent yet?
Have you paid your rent yet?
- past for past perfect
Yesterday I found my pitchfork where I left it last week.
... where I had left it last week.
- perfect infinitive for present
I would have liked to have been a wealthy man.
I would have liked to be a wealthy man.
The factory owner said yesterday that he cannot raise our wages.
... that he could not raise our wages.
Fourier believed that the ocean was made of lemonade.
... that the ocean is made of lemonade.
If I was a landlord I would raise the rent every week.
If I were a landlord ...
If Henry George won the election, the city would have been better
If Henry George had won the election ...
H. Incomplete Sentence
- infinitive phrase
To get enough to eat. Many people had to steal.
To get enough to eat, many people had to steal.
- dependent clause
When the demand died down. The price dropped.
When the demand died down, the price dropped.
- participial phrase
Trying to change the thread spool. The girl got her finger caught in
Trying to change the thread spool, the girl got her finger caught in the machine.
J.S. Mill wrote books in several fields. Philosophy, politics, and
... books in several fields: philosophy, politics, and economics.
I. Faulty Reference (Pronoun)
John is a slow worker, which annoys his boss.
John's slowness annoys his boss.
There is a labor strike throughout the city. I'd like to crush it.
... I'd like to crush the strike.
Smith's employer told him that he needed a tutor.
... told him, "I need a tutor."
J. Faulty Punctuation of Restrictive or Nonrestrictive Element
- relative clause
Marshall who was a famous economist was a caring man.
Marshall, who was a famous economist, was a caring man.
Capitalism is the system, that I like best.
... the system that I like best.
- participial phrase
The peasant working in the field saw the fire.
The peasant, working in the field, saw the fire.
George is the philosopher, most taken for granted.
... the philosopher most taken for granted.
Economic Sophisms a book by Bastiat is a fine example of
Economic Sophisms, a book by Bastiat, is a fine example of political satire.
K. Comma Fault
- We easily took control of the factory, the owner left in a hurry.
... of the factory. The owner left in a hurry.
- My father was a miner, my uncle was a farmer.
... miner; my uncle was a farmer.
- The manager thought that my deportment had improved and so he
changed the color of my cubicle.
... had improved, so he changed the color of my cubicle.
I. Incorrect Position
I only saw Malpelo in the mine, no one else.
I saw only Malpelo ...
I saw a poster for a new political party in the train station.
I saw in the train station a poster for a new political party.
My grandfather sold his fruitstand in New Jersey, which he designed
... his fruitstand, which he designed and built, in New Jersey.