If you’ve been following along with our Grammar Guru series, you’ve hopefully learned a few tips and tricks to save you from embarrassing, widespread (but totally avoidable!) grammar mistakes that plague social media, email, text, and beyond. Today, we are tying up this year’s lessons with a nice little bow on top. Use my top 10 grammar tricks to sound smarter in conversation and more confident when writing.
1. Is it “you and I” or “you and me“?
Few things grind my gears more than reading a phrase like “Leave it to Sally and I to be late!” Many think this is correct, but it is not. “Leave it to Sally and me to be late” is correct.
GRAMMAR TRICK: Take the other person out of the sentence. Would you say “I” or “me”? Add the person back in, and you have your answer.
CORRECT: “Here’s a picture of Dave and me.” — Without Dave involved, you would say, “Here’s a picture of me.”
CORRECT: “Dave and I took a photo.” Without Dave, you’d say, “I took a photo.”
2. Is it “apart” or “a part”?
“Apart” and “a part” have entirely different meanings, and using the two interchangeably makes us look silly. To the ear, they sound the same, so our human tendency is to write it out as one word. But ask yourself if it should be two, particularly when writing.
GRAMMAR TRICK: If you can say “a BIG part,” then it has to be two words.
INCORRECT: “I am so happy to be apart of this team.” — Because you could reasonably say, “I am so happy to be a BIG part of this team,” it must remain two words.
CORRECT: “We are worlds apart” — Because you cannot reasonably say, “We are worlds a BIG part,” you should use the single word, apart.
3. Is it “everyday” or “every day”?
This is the same idea as above, but even more rampant. You’ll see it on store signs and published all over the place. “Open Everyday” is incorrect. The correct phrase would be “Open Every Day.” “Everyday” is an adjective and is only used in phrases like “everyday occurrence” or “these are my everyday essentials.” If you are saying you “do something every day,” it should be two words.
GRAMMAR TRICK: If you can say “every SINGLE day,” then it has to be two words.
INCORRECT: “I think about you everyday.” — You can say, “I think about you every SINGLE day,” so it has to be two words.
CORRECT: “This is a practical, everyday jacket.” — You wouldn’t say, “This is a practical, every SINGLE day jacket,” so it has to be one word.
4. Is it “fewer” or “less”?
Yikes, this one seems to be troublesome for people. If you’ve ever seen a grocery store checkout sign that says “10 items or less,” the person who made that sign made a huge mistake. “Fewer” is used when discussing countable things and “less” is used for singular, intangible concepts or abstract nouns you cannot count in a 1-2-3 kind of way.
GRAMMAR TRICK: Use “fewer” for things you can count, such as people, pieces of candy, occurrences, lemons, and users. Use “less” for things you can’t count, such as fear, love, water, air, anxiety, and happiness.
CORRECT: Fewer people (I can count people) would make mistakes if there was less apathy (I can’t count apathy) surrounding grammar.
5. Is it “anxious” or “eager”?
Use “eager” when you are excited for or about something. Use “anxious” when you are dreading something.
GRAMMAR TRICK: Eager starts with e, which sounds like “eeeek! I’m excited!” Anxious starts with a and that sounds like “ahhhh! I’m scared”
CORRECT: I’m so eager for a week off over the holidays!
CORRECT: I’m anxious to get the call back from my doctor.
6. Is it “lay” or lie”?
“Lay” means “to put or set (something) down.” On the other hand, “lie” means “to be in or to assume a horizontal position.” The important distinction is that “lay” requires a direct object and “lie” does not. You lie down on the mat (no direct object), but you lay the mat down on the floor (the mat is the direct object). Use “lay” when an object is being placed, and use “lie” when something or someone is reclining on its own or already in a reclined position.
GRAMMAR TRICK: Say the word out loud. The a sound in “lay” sounds like the a in “place,” as in to place an object. The i sound in “lie” sounds like the one in “recline,” as in “to recline on a sofa.”
CORRECT: My dog could lie there all day. — My dog could recline there all day.
CORRECT: Maybe if I lay his favorite toy here, he will move. — Maybe if I place his favorite toy here, he will move.
7. Is it “I could care less” or “I couldn’t care less”?
“I couldn’t care less” is correct. Always. No exceptions.
GRAMMAR TRICK: Break it down. If you could not care less, you are at the lowest possible care level. “I could care less” literally means you care somewhat, which is very different from not caring at all. And the point of this phrase is to indicate that you do not care at all.
8. Is it “anyways” or “anyway”?
It is “anyway.” 100% of the time.
GRAMMAR TRICK: “Anyways” IS NOT A WORD. End of trick. It took me a lot of practice to eliminate “anyways” from my vocabulary. But if I can do it, you can do it!
9. Is it “Zoe and I’s house” or “Zoe’s and my house”?
It is “Zoe’s and my house.” NEVER in the English language should you use “I’s”.
GRAMMAR TRICK: Separate the two people, write the possessive sentence, then recombine them.
CORRECT: Chloe’s and my anniversary is today. — Chloe’s anniversary is today. My anniversary is today.
INCORRECT: Mine and Chloe’s anniversary is today.
INCORRECT: Chloe and I’s anniversary is today.
10. Is it “Love, The Adams,” “Love, The Adams’s” or “Love, The Adamses”?
It is “Love, The Adamses.” Or just say “Love, The Adams Family.”
GRAMMAR TRICK: To make someone’s name plural, you will NEVER use an apostrophe. You will take the last name and add s or es.
I will be back next year for more lessons! If you have a grammar topic you’d like for me to cover, email me at [email protected].
Freshen up on Grammar Guru’s previous episodes!
Grammar Shape-Up Series: Apart vs. A Part
Grammar Shape-Up Series: Fewer vs. Less
Grammar Shape-Up Series: “Couldn’t Care Less”
Lay vs. Lie: Are You Using Them Correctly?
Apostrophes: Are You Over- Or Underusing Them?
IYKYK: The Acronyms You Need To Know
5 Words You’re Probably Using Incorrectly
3 Rules You’re Likely Breaking
Everyday vs. Every Day & Other Tricky Word Pairs
Grammar Guru: Prepositions CAN End a Sentence. Sometimes.
Grammar Guru: Are You Getting These 5 Phrases Wrong?
How the Oxford Comma Cost Someone $5M
Avoid This Common Mistake Made at Weddings and on Holiday Cards
The Trouble With Nordstroms, Krogers, Aldis & More
Grammar Guru: That or Which? Who or Whom?
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