10 Common Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb

Grammar Mistakes

Published on June 4th, 2019

Writing is one of the most effective forms of communication. But even those who have a foundational understanding of grammar make these common grammar mistakes.

To err is human. To correct your grammatical mistakes, divine. Here is a list of some common grammar mistakes that make you look dumb.

1. Your Vs. You’re

Your Vs. You’re

The pairing you’re and your often causes confusion. In fact, it’s not hard to find hundreds of mistakes bearing this out in the Oxford English Corpus.

The difference between these two words is relatively straightforward. The word your is the possessive form of the pronoun you, while the term you’re is simply a contraction of the words you.

Since your is an adjective, we can typically expect a noun or pronoun to follow it in our sentence.

You’re actually stands for the words You are.

Other Contractions Are,

  • Can’t=Cannot
  • Won’t=Will not
  • Don’t=Do not
  • Haven’t=Have not

2. It’s vs. Its

These two English words are very often used incorrectly by native speakers. It’s important that you understand the difference.

It’s: It’s is a contraction of it is or it has.


  • It’s been a long time.
  • It’s time to go.
  • Its: It is is the possessive form of it.


  • What is its purpose?
  • The bird lost some of its feathers.

3. Their, There, And They’re

‘Their’, ‘there’, and ‘they’re’ are often confused and misused because they are homophones (they sound alike).
Always Remember:

  • ‘Their’ is the possessive case of the pronoun they as in “They left their cell phones at home.
  • ‘There’ is an adverb that means “in or at that place,” as in “She is there now.”
  • They’re is a contraction of the words ‘they’ and ‘are’.

Homophones: “There” and “their” are homophones; Homo means “same,” and phone means “sound.” homophones, or words sound the same, but are spelled different and have different meanings.

4. Affect Vs. Effect

Affect and effect are different in meaning, though frequently confused. Affect is chiefly used as a verb and its main meaning is ‘to influence or make a difference to’, as in the following example sentences:

  • The pay increase will greatly affect their lifestyle.
  • The dampness began to affect my health.
  • The weather will affect my plans for the weekend.

Effect, on the other hand, is used both as a noun and a verb, although is more commonly used as a noun. As a noun it means ‘a result or an influence’, as in:

  • Move the cursor until you get the effect you want.
  • The beneficial effects of exercise are well documented.
  • Over time the effect of loud music can damage your hearing.

5. “Who’s” Vs “Whose”

“Who’s” Vs “Whose”

Apostrophes get people into trouble, so it’s no surprise that people often struggle with whose vs. who’s. Who’s is a contraction of who is or who has. Whose is the possessive form of who or which.

6. Specially Vs Especially

Especially and specially are adverbs.

Especially means ‘particularly’ or ‘above all’:

  • She loves flowers, especially roses.
  • I am especially grateful to all my family and friends who supported me.

We use specially to talk about the specific purpose of something:

  • This kitchen was specially designed to make it easy for a disabled person to use.
  • He has his shirts made specially for him by a tailor in London.

7. Elicit Vs Illicit

Illicit is an adjective, with two meanings:

  • not allowed by laws or rules;
  • going against moral standards; unaccepted or not approved of by society.

Elicit is a verb, with two meanings:

  • to manage to get information from someone:
  • to cause or draw out a particular reaction.

8. Loose And Lose

Loose and lose are two completely distinct words, with different meanings and pronunciations.

  • Lose functions as a verb, and its most common meanings, among many others, are to be deprived of or cease to have or retain.
  • Loose can function as an adjective and a verb.
  • As an adjective, loose means not firmly or tightly held in place; not compact or dense; and free from restraint or confinement.
  • Loose also acts as a verb, meaning to set free; release from fastenings or restraints and to undo.

What does loosen mean? Loosen functions as a verb, but it has a slightly different meaning than loose. To loosen means make less tight or firm; to make more lax.

9. “Alot” Vs. “A Lot”

A lot and alot might seem like alternate spellings of the same word. However, this is not the case. Alot is simply a common misspelling of a lot. A lot is an expression that means a large number or a great quantity.

When to use a lot: A lot is actually just the word lot with the article a in front of it. It has the same meaning as a great amount or a large number.

10. Then And Than

Then And Than

These two words look very similar. Than can also sound almost the same as then when you pronounce it. However, than and then are completely different words with different meanings, so if you use the wrong spelling, you might confuse people or fail to get your message across.

Here’s how to get it right.

Than: This word is a preposition and a conjunction. You will mainly find than when people compare one person or thing with another: we use than to introduce the second part of the comparison:

  • I’m happier now than I was a year ago.
  • We both like coffee better than tea.
  • Tom is much shorter than his brother.
  • There were more people at the beach today than yesterday.

Than is also used with verbs in the past tense (especially the past perfect) and certain adverbial expressions to say that one thing happened immediately after another:

  • Hardly had Sunita started work than her boss asked to see her.
  • No sooner had I sat down than the doorbell rang.

Then: This word is mainly an adverb and it has several meanings. Here are the two most important ones (you’ll find all the meanings in the dictionary).

  • We use then to talk about a particular time in the past or the future:
  • I was living in Nigeria then.
  • The restaurant closes at 11 o’clock, so we must get there before then.
  • By then, Sara was completely exhausted.

We also use then to talk about something coming immediately after something else in time or order:

  • First, add the oil to the pan, then the vegetables.
  • This afternoon I’ll clean the house, then I’ll visit my friends.