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9 Most Confusing Confusions in English Grammar

grammarmonkeySome English grammar can be really confusing.

So, I decided to write this article to point out some grammar mistakes that cause much confusion, and also how to get them right.

I’ve made all of these grammar mistakes before, which is how I got to write this post, anyway 🙂 .

And now, I present to you,

9 Most Confusing Confusions in English Grammar!

photo by baboon™

1. Subject pronouns and object pronouns

Wrong: He sat between you and I.
Correct: He sat between you and me.

I now fully understand this rule once I took an English lesson about subject and object pronouns.

The subject is the one that does things. (He sees me)

The object is the one who has the thing done to him. (He sees me)

Another type of object is the prepositional object and it is the one which the preposition is directed at. (He sees it with me)

So, here is a table of subject and object pronouns.

Subject pronouns Object pronouns
I Me
You You
He Him
She Her
We Us
They Them

So, if you are using a pronoun as a subject, use a subject pronoun. Same thing on the objects.

It’s “between you and me” because “you and me” is the object of the preposition between.

It’s “I know him” because “him” is the object of the verb “know”.

It’s “William and he read” because “William and he” is the subject.

2. Who or whom?

Here’s a tricky one: “Who/whom did he see at the party?”

Here’s what you need to know:

Who = subject pronoun
Whom = object pronoun

So, to get the answer, change the question to a statement: “He did see whom at the party.”

Whom is an object, so that is the answer 🙂 .

Question: “Who/whom ate all the cookies?” Statement: “Who ate all the cookies.”

Hope I’ve made it clear =) .

3. “Than me” or “Than I”?

Wrong: He runs faster than me.
Correct: He runs faster than I.

Ahh, this is one of the mistakes that I have been frequently making last time 😛 .

“Than” is a conjunction, which introduces a subordinate clause, so the subjective pronoun “I” is used. See usage note.

The easiest way to make sure this is right is to make the sentence “long”.

“He runs faster than I” becomes “He runs faster than I run”.

“I run slower than he” becomes “I run slower than he runs”.

However, there is an exception in which you have to use the object form of the pronoun. Here’s an example:

“Jon gave Dan more apples than he gave me” –> “Jon gave Dan more apples than me”.

4. “It is me” or “It is I”?trex

Wrong: It is me, the great tyrant Tyrannosaurus!
Correct: It is I, the great tyrant Tyrannosaurus!

It is important to note that “is” is a linking verb, meaning it renames the subject with a subject predicate.

Now, normal transitive verbs have an object. (He sees me) Me = object.

Linking verbs have subject predicates instead. (That guy was I) I = subject predicate.

Here’s another example. – “A dog is a great pet.”

A dog = subject
a great pet = subject predicate

You can see that “subject = subject predicate”. A dog = a great pet. That’s why they are called linking verbs; because they link two subjects.

And since linking verbs link to subjects, subject pronouns must be used. So that’s why it is “It is I” and not “It is me”.

I hope you get what I’m saying. Unfortunately, I think Mario will never get it.

itsmemario

T-rex photo by Esparta

5. i.e. and e.g.

Wrong: Please volunteer to bring some food for the party, i.e., fries, nuggets, and chips.
Correct: Please volunteer to bring some food for the party. e.g., fries, nuggets, and chips

Believe it or not, last time, I thought i.e. and e.g. can be used interchangeably! But I was wrong. i.e. and e.g. have different meanings.

e.g. = For example
i.e. = That is/In other words (for clarifying stuff)

Here are some examples.

To stay healthy, eat vegetables, e.g., spinach. <— Here I used an example of a vegetable.

I love to eat the vegetable that I like the most (i.e., carrots). <— Here I used i.e. because it clarifies the “vegetable that I like the most”. I cannot use e.g. because there is no vegetable other than that.

6. Lightening

This is perhaps the most common spelling mistake ever.

Wrong: Being struck by lightening is a shocking experience!

Correct: Being struck by lightning is a shocking experience!

Lightening
The present participle of lighten.

e.g. I was lightening the load on my camel because it was exhausted.

Lightning
A streak of static electricity through the sky, usually accompanied by thunder.

e.g. You got struck by lightning? That must have been a shocking experience!

Lighting
The arrangement of light, especially in photography.

e.g. The photo was dull because the lighting wasn’t good enough.

Photo by Owen Zammit

7. “If I was” or “If I were”?

Wrong: If I was an elephant, I would give you a ride.
Correct: If I were an elephant, I would give you a ride.

Wrong: If I were rude, I apologize.
Correct: If I was rude, I apologize.

“If I were” is more for situations when you are imagining things, usually followed by a sentence on what you would do in that situation.

If I were you, I would read more books about animals.
If he were an animal, he would be a parrot!

“If I was” is more for things that could have happened in the past or now.

If he was singing that well, he should become a singer. (This is an answer to a girl who told me that when her friend sang just now, her heart melted)

If she really was kind to animals, I respect her. (This is a thought after reading news about a girl saving a cat from drowning, but you are not really sure whether it’s true)

Here is an example of the differences between “If I were” and “If I was”.

If she was hardworking, she would be a famous singer by now. <– I’ve only met her once and all I know is she wants to be a famous singer.

If she were hardworking, she would be a famous singer by now. <– I know her very well; she wants to be a famous singer but she’s very lazy.

Conclusion: “If I were” is for imagination. “If I was” is for things that could have happened.

lie8. Lie down, don’t lie to me, and birds lay eggs

Oh dear. These 3 words are perhaps the most confusing as some parts of the three words are parts of each other.

Lie has two completely different meanings. The first meaning is to rest in a horizontal position. The second is to bear false witness.

Lay means to put into a position of rest or bring forth eggs.

Here are the tenses of the words:

Lie down – lie, lay, lain.
Don’t lie to me – Lie, lied, lied.
Lay eggs – lay, laid, laid.

That’s why they are confusing! They sound similar and you can easily have them mixed up!

Here are some examples of common mistakes when using those words.

Wrong: I have lied on the grass all morning.
Correct: I have lain on the grass all morning.

Wrong: I laid on the couch.
Correct: I lay on the couch.

So, here’s three things to remember when you’re not sure how to use those words:

Remember that lie (don’t lie) and lay are regular verbs, which mean they add the usual suffix “-d” to form the past tense (lied, laid). Their past participles (have lied, have laid) are the same.

Remember that the word lie (lie down) is the most complicated; an irregular verb; doesn’t use “-d”; past tense is lay, and past participle is lain.

Remember that the word lay is the only transitive verb – You can’t “lay” on the bed; you must lay something. You can lay yourself on the bed, though.

photo credits: grandmasandy+chuck, btsergio, Pixieslayer,

9. Take and bring

This is probably one of the most confusing confusions in grammar!

Whether to use bring or take all depends on the perspective. You use take when the item is going away from the perspective and bring when the item is coming to the perspective.

For example, you and your friend are going to a place. You might ask your friend, “Are you going to bring your cell phone?”

If you’re not going but your friend is, you might ask your friend, “Are you going to take your cell phone?”

But still, it can be confusing. So, use substitutes instead.

“Are you going to carry your cell phone with you?”

Problem solved 🙂 .


I hope you’ve enjoyed my post! I hope that you are not confused now. LOL 😛 .

So, have you ever made the grammar mistakes above? Please share your experience in the comments below. I know I’ve made every single one of them before. 🙂

By Gloson

Hello, my name is Gloson and I am an 11-year-old kid who lives in Malaysia. Here, I blog about anything interesting that I learn, including how-to's tips, and more.

Besides blogging, I am a funny poet who writes funny poetry that makes you giggle. Some of my funny poems can be found in this blog.

You can also find my cats series, a series of the funny and cute cat photos I took, here.

94 replies on “9 Most Confusing Confusions in English Grammar”

Well done Gloson. As an Ennglish speaker I admire all those bloggers whose second language is English. There are almost more exceptions to the rule than rules themselves! You did an excellent job explaining some of the common mistakes that are also made by some English speakers too. Happy blogging Gloson 🙂

Patricia Perth Australia

Hi Gloson,

Really great post and clarifications of some things about English language. English is the general language and the better you are at it the better it is for you.

I just tweeted and commented on your post on Blogengage, I hope you emerge a winner.

Thanks so much,
-Onibalusi

Hi Oni!

Thank you very much for dropping by! Yes, I agree. English is a language that we all must be good at because it is the universal language. 🙂

And thank you so much for commenting on my post and retweeting it! I really appreciate it Oni! 🙂

Cheers!
Gloson

Hi Gloson,

I sometimes slip up on these grammar pointers too.

Thanks for sharing the detailed breakdown and have a wonderful day!

Ryan

Hi Ryan!

Yeah, me too. I still slip on these rules sometimes, even though I might have written this post. LOL 😛 .

Thank you very much Ryan! You have a great day too! 🙂

Cheers!
Gloson

Hi Gloson! I haven’t visited your blog in awhile and I am sorry for that. This entry made me smile.:) But you always make me smile! There are alot of “confusing confusions” in the English language but I think you do very very well. I admire anyone who learns a second language. I tried to learn Spanish, but I wasn’t very good at it.
Most of these things I do intuitively after speaking English for 44 years, but I make mistakes sometimes too. Thank you for the refresher lesson.
And I’ll speak English with you anytime!:)

Hi Roni!

That’s ok. So nice to see you again Roni! 😀

I’m really glad I made you smile and you also always make me smile through your amazing photos.:)

Yeah, I make grammar mistakes too, and I may slip on those rules even after writing this post. Haha 😛 .

Thank you very much for the kind comment! I really appreciate it Roni! 🙂

Cheers!
Gloson

An amazing post, very nicely explained. By the way, I am also confused between “in my opinion” or “according to me”. I hope you clear my confusion.

Hi Vinayak!

Thank you very much!

Just don’t use “according to me” when expressing your opinion; use “in my opinion”. You can use “according to Peter” or another person’s name, but never “according to me”. You can say “according to my research” or “according to my understanding”, though 🙂 .

e.g. According to Peter, all birds fly. However, according to my research, there are birds that can’t fly.

Hope you’re not confused anymore 🙂

Cheers!
Gloson

Hey Gloson!

I recently moved from the UK to live with my Wife here in Montreal, Canada. The language they use here is Quebecois, a form of French and I am having huge difficulties in learning the language! Very confusing!

Good to see you are doing well with your English though! Keep it up. 😉

Hi Phil!

Thank you very much! Cool! I’ve never heard of that language before. Haha! Don’t worry. Learning new languages can be hard and I think the easiest way to pick it up is the listen and use that language.

Cheers!
Gloson

Hi Ching Ya,

Nice to see you drop by here! Haha. I think everybody has made those mistakes. I’m glad you like my article!

The results for the blogengage contest have come out. My entry won the 3rd place! 🙂

Cheers!

What a great education on grammar, Gloson! I’ve made quite a number of those mistakes you’ve mentioned and man.. that lie, laid, lain thing is driving me nuts :D:D But your post has helped explain that bit a lot. Definitely gonna correct the way I use i.e and e.g

I wish my old English teachers back in primary and high school know as much as you. Haha

Hi Gloson,
I am really happy to see that a kid like you teaching the most common mistake bloggers and even other bloggers make in grammar.
Jayant Dange

Hi Dan,

Oh, those two. Yeah, those two words are frequently confused too. I guess one way to remember them is to remember that “Then” is for time because “e” looks a little like a clock, and that “Than” is for comparison because “a” is bigger than “e”.

Cheers!

Gloson, great post!
Now I really discovered the difference between i.e. and e.g..
One day I asked what is an “i.e.” for my english teacher, here in Brazil, and he didn’t know the answer. :O
Thanks a lot and congratulations for your great work!

Hi Alan!

Thank you very much and you’re welcome! I’m really glad I helped you figure out the difference between i.e. and e.g.! 🙂 Have a great day!

Cheers!
Gloson

Huh !! It’s really a great post. In my school days i used to skip the grammar class by sleeping.:P It’s really hard to learn it, but i need to learn it. Without English it’s really hard in this world and i am working on it. I learned few things from this post . Thanks for the share. 🙂

Wow! This is really amazing. You are such an incredible creature of [email protected] having a great blog like this. Awesome!

BTW, These are also my common mistakes in my English grammar. I usually have faulty on the proper usage of “I” and “me”. Thanks anyway, I’ve learned a lot today. Also, Congratulations for winning the blogengage contest 1.

I joined the blogengage contest 2 with my entry http://bit.ly/gvec4K . Please check it out and have your comment and vote for it. I would really appreciate it. I thank you.

I bookmarked your site in my toolbar.

Hi LS Geekster,

Thank you very much for the kind words! I’m glad I’ve helped to clear your confusion. Haha 🙂 . Thanks for bookmarking my blog!

Good luck on the contest! I’ve left a comment on your entry and voted too :).

Cheers,
Gloson

As English isn’t my native language, I found your post rather interesting and would like to share it in my blog. Although I seldom make mistakes like these, this post was rather interesting for me. By the way, good blog you have! Well done!

I think you are right sometimes English Grammar can certainly tend to be pretty confusing. For example, the lie word…It can denote different things , people really do tend to get confused with words like that.

Hi Gloson,
This is an extremely informative post. English tends to have a ton of rules, and then all of those rules each has a handful of exceptions. I give anyone credit who has picked it up as a second language. I’ve broken many of these tips myself, and I have been speaking it all my life. Well done!

PS Pointing out Mario was hilarious.

Hi Brian!

Thank you so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed this post and found it hilarious. LOL, agreed. English is indeed a complex language. I myself have broken the “I” after writing this post. Haha 😛 Guess I still need to work on my English. 🙂

Cheers!
Gloson

Bravo, Gloson!

It’s s refreshing to see this post! I’m sure you’ve had no end of people tell you just how common these mistakes are, even for native English speakers! My mother was a stickler for grammar, and even though I never knew the actual rules for these specific examples, she would give me the substitutions to test whether I was using the proper language or not.

It helped a lot! Nowadays, however, proper English beside vernacular seems so stilted and I end up putting off some people. Then again, I don’t mind that at all! Speaking proper English shows a certain caliber of character, I think. =)

Delena

Creative post. I was fighting with grammar from several years. And this article is full of good basic information of grammar only. Thanks for sharing.

Nice post covering some very common mistakes.

With the “than I” vs. “than me” problem, I guess it depends on whether you are treating “than” as a conjunction or a preposition. Although our teachers would have always told us it’s a conjunction, with so many young people treating it as a preposition now that may well become the accepted use in the future. Grammar use changes over time and we have to accept that whether we like it or not.

With “bring and take”, I think it’s easier to think of them in the same way as “come and go”. If you are going somewhere then you take something with you. If someone is coming to your house then they are going to be bringing something.

Nice job, although many argue about so-called “correctness” after usage takes over. Some of those “mistakes” are so commonly used, they prove that the language is changing. I’m speaking of #3 and #4 where “it is I” and “he runs faster that I” maybe correct by traditional rules of English, but they are no longer so uncommon as to be considered substandard. In fact, to speak “correctly” often makes you seem pretentious.

Not all of these examples deal with grammar. Some are spelling mistakes and some deal with vocabulary (lie/lay).

Were you being ironic, or is it a genuine grammar mistake in your introduction when you say, “which is how I got to WROTE (sic) this post, anyway”? hee hee

Hi Bill,

That is kinda ironic… Hee hee. 😛 Thanks for pointing that out. I guess that even writers who write about grammar mistakes sometimes make grammar mistakes on the same post on which he is writing about grammar mistakes! lol.

Yeah, I agree with you. The language is changing, and new words (and also rules) are being invented. Hmmm… quite true, but grammar does deal with the correct usage of words, doesn’t it?

Cheers,
Gloson

Good job kid! One thing you could add to make it an even 10 is the chronic misuse of “due to,” which is now in a spiral of horror because even professional writers misuse it. The best way I can explain it is to say it can be used only with a noun or noun phrase (i.e. not a verb or verb phrase.)

Wrong: We are cancelling due to bad weather.

Right: The cancellation is due to bad weather.

Rule of thumb: If you can replace “due to” with “because of” or “as a result of” in the sentence you are writing, then those are the phrases you should use! (i.e. “The cancellation is because of bad weather” would make no sense.) 🙂

Hi Liane,

Wow, I never knew about the “due to” mistake. Thank you so much for adding to the post. I really appreciate that. 🙂

Cheers,
Gloson

What a great post Gloson! So many people who use English as their first language never use the above technicalities correctly. I find that at times, I write my posts and use incorrect grammar because it has become so widely accepted. When I do, it gives me an emotional hit because my mom was a self proclaimed grammarian. She gave me a hint when I was young and that was to finish the sentence in order to use the correct word. e.g. Who is going? He and I or him and me? If you finish the sentence, you see that…He and I are going. -not- Him and me are going. That was probably not the best example but you get the idea!! Great post my friend!!

Hey Claudia,

Very nice of you to drop by! Haha, yeah, perhaps when these broken rules are becoming more widely accepted, they may become new rules! I get it. 😛 It was very nice of your mom to give you lessons. Haha :P. Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed the post Claudia. 🙂

Cheers,
Gloson

Thank you for writing this! English isn’t my native language and I’m not that good in it so I often make mistakes. I’ve always thought that it’s “It’s me” and “It’s I” sounds wrong to my ears. That’s how deep the wrong grammar is in my brains.

Glosan! Thanks a lot for this useful post, you really cleared some of my doubts in this post. If possible keep posting this kind of articles i’m sure your readers will like it 🙂

Thanks for the article Gloson. I’m afraid to say it was needed and I thought some of the ‘wrongs’ I was using were correct, such as “If I was an elephant” still looks right to me 🙁 I’m going to keep the page open and restudy it because I still haven’t got my head around it all. Much needed and appreciated.

Hey there, Gloson!
I have always checked my grammar by saying things aloud in my head and choosing whichever “sounds” the most accurate. Horrible, I know! Heh?

This was a wonderful post though, which really helped me understand why these sentences are a certain way. Aha, such an inspiring kid. 😀 Would really love to meet you one day.

Hey Tiffany!

Thank you very much for dropping by! =D Yeah, just because I posted this doesn’t mean I have “prefect” grammar when I speak. Get it? “Prefect” grammar? hahahahah 😀

Haha, I’m glad I helped you and I wish you the best for SPM! =)

Bestest Regards,
Gloson

Hey Gloson,

What a great guide. As someone how never took any formal class to learn to write in English, I do make mistakes, though as soon as I learn of them, I go back and fix the problem.

One of the biggest confusion I had was about the “I were” and “I was”. And even my girlfriend who is a native English speaker wasn’t able to get me to understand it.

“….“If I were” is more for situations when you are imagining thing…” That makes it clear as a day for me Gloson. Thank you.

Wow Gloson what a great work really,
I think so many people do these mistakes like i was doing before reading your post. Its a great guidance and creative work. All points are very confusing but 7 and 8 are the most common mistakes and confusion which every one do unconsciously.
Thanks for correcting us 😀

Thanks Gloson!
Your post is really useful. It proves me a lots.
Just this morning, I had an argument with one of my classmates who always insisted that “between you and I” is the correct saying. The situation is “This is the secret between you and …”. And we had to choose the correct answer for the word in blank. And she chose “you and I”.
Now I have to make a buzz on her Y! to show her this link. There’s a Lady Gaga song called “You and I”. Maybe she was confused by this song.

Wow I can’t think you’re so young Gloson when I first click to this page.
Your grammar is really really amazing
even much better than any college students out there
I myself sometimes make some basic mistakes although know how to write it correctly
like take and bring
so crazy
thanks for your post and advice anyway

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