Four Tips for English Grammar

Four Tips for English Grammar
Beth Dumbauld

English grammar rules can be confusing for everyone, even native English speakers. Whether considering punctuation, verb tense or those pesky words that sound the same but are spelled differently, everyone who writes runs into an English grammar roadblock from time to time. However, some English grammar issues are more common than others, so here are four quick tips to use whether writing an email, school report, or company presentation.


Pronouns can be downright tricky. There are subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) and object pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us, them). Use a subject pronoun, not only as the subject of a sentence, but after to be verbs when the pronoun renames the subject. To be verbs are: isarewas, were, will bemay bemay have been, etc. For example, “Eric and she are friends. Eric and she are the subjects of the sentence. Use an object pronoun when the pronoun is the direct object, the indirect object, or the object of the preposition. For example, “Ella met him at the restaurant.” Him is the direct object.

Subject/verb agreement

The easiest way to think about the subject/verb relationship is to see if the sentence subject is plural. If so, the verb must also be plural. For example, “The airplanes in the hangar is waiting for engine replacements.” This is incorrect because there is more than one airplane. Correct: “The airplanes in the hangar are waiting for engine replacements.” One suggestion is to take all the other words out of the sentence and look at the subject and verb together to see if they agree. In this case, airplanes are rather than airplanes is.

Who vs. That

The rule about using “who” or “that” comes down to what the subject of the sentence is, a person or a thing. If the subject is a person, always use “who.” If the subject is a thing, “that” is always appropriate. For example: “The sailor that completed the Cape Horn race is young.” is incorrect because sailor is the subject and a person. Correct: “The sailor who completed the Cape Horn race is young.”

Using Numbers

Many writers don’t consider whether to spell out numbers when they’re writing, but this can be an issue. Generally speaking, if the number is ten or less, you should spell it out. Otherwise, it’s acceptable to use the number itself. One exception: always spell out the number if you use as the first word of a sentence. You also want to consider consistency when spelling (or not spelling) numbers. For example, if you spell out a number in one paragraph, you’ll want to spell out all the numbers used in your composition.

Learn More About English Grammar

There are many other common English grammar mistakes students make when writing essays, reports or compositions. It’s said that there is always an exception to English grammar “rules” and not being able to master English grammar can potentially affect future job performance. Taking online English classes through StraighterLine will give you the opportunity and ability to improve your writing skills while learning proper grammar rules and usage, giving you valuable skills that will last a lifetime.

Please take a moment to review our English courses and register for one now.

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