Critical Grammar

Some American Idioms, English Language Proverbs & Clichés


How not to get totally confused when confronted with the unknown.

English grammar is extremely difficult to master. Even a lifetime of study will not ensure complete knowledge of the language.

It is okay not to know, it is NOT OK to fake it.

If you don't know something, ask questions. This is wisdom, as we discussed earlier. A learning environment is a place to learn and one cannot learn without asking questions, questioning themselves, being open to being questioned, questioning others (students, teachers, parents, friends, associates, etc.)! In your case, pick up your grammar handbook and, Look it up!

As I stated earlier, this text will not teach you everything you need to know about English grammar. To get you started, I have identified some of the worst culprits, the grammar issues that are most common to many new students of formal English.

Everyone has his or her own style of writing. As you learn to write and are able to express yourself more clearly in English, you will develop and improve your own style of writing. When you try to do this, do it with the goal of having your readers understand what you are attempting to communicate.

Here I have listed some of the most frequent English grammar issues that students encounter when learning to speak, read and write formal or standard English:

1. Singular/plural Agreement

This is one of the fundamental grammar rules in English: the nouns must agree with each other and the nouns must agree with their adjectives.

a. For example, in an essay about war, a student wrote:

Incorrect: "People must lose their life."

You will note that 'people' is the plural form of the noun 'person'. If 'a person' dies, then a person loses his or her 'life' (singular), but if 'people' die (plural, more than one person), then they lose their 'lives':

Correct: "A person must lose his or her life."
Correct: "People must lose their lives."

b. Another student wrote:

Incorrect: "Many time we read in the newspapers about crime."

The noun time (singular, which in this usage means 'occasion', 'event', 'occurrence', 'instance', or 'moment') does not agree with the adjective many (which means more than one). The sentence should read:

Correct: "Many times we read in the newspapers about crime."

This type of error is very basic and stands out when a teacher reads your writing. To avoid singular/plural disagreements, you must carefully proofread your work, asking yourself each time, "Do the nouns agree? Do the adjectives agree? Have I used singular with plural or plural with singular?"

Copyright: 2004 English 4 All, Inc.