The most common grammar mistakes and how an English teacher can fix them!


Given the complexity of the English language, teaching it at both primary and secondary level is not without its challenges, but English teachers have a pivotal role to play.

This is especially the case when it comes to grammar, as both primary and secondary teachers can attest to – after all, misspelt words and misplaced commas can completely change what a pupil is trying to say.

Here we’ve looked at some of the most common mistakes that pupils make, as well as some of the techniques that English teachers can use to fix them.

‘There’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’

A tricky one for English teachers, especially as these homophones all sound the same but have different meanings.

The key for primary teachers, and for secondary teachers trying to reinforce the point, is to continually outline the rules that apply.

‘There’ applies to a statement or a place, ‘their’ indicates possession, while ‘they’re’ is a shortened version of they are – use sentence sheets or ask pupils to construct lines using the different forms to enhance their understanding.

Comma usage

An incredibly powerful tool that has the power to completely change the meaning of a sentence, depending on where it is used.

Common uses include in compound sentences, in lists, or when using introductory clauses in a sentence – a good way for an English teacher to emphasise this is to construct sentences where placing commas in different places will alter the meaning.

Pupils can then be taught to check what they are writing and to decide if using a comma is absolutely necessary.

Misplaced apostrophes

Perhaps one of the common grammatical mistakes revolves around using apostrophes and places them in the wrong places.

They can be used for several reasons, but most commonly they indicate possession – something belonging to someone or something else – or to showcase a contracted word where some letters are not required.

There are numerous games and exercises that primary and secondary teachers can use to reinforce this way of thinking, from written tasks to group work or even asking pupils to write certain lines on the board.

Your’ and ‘you’re’

Another common mistake that is the bane of many English teachers is around using ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.

The latter is a shortened version of ‘you are’ and a good exercise for teachers is to print different sentences which all have ‘your’ in – used rightly and wrongly – before asking pupils to identify those that need to be changed.

Could/would/should of

A grammatical error that arises because the shortened form of the phrase could have sounds similar to could of when said aloud.

The same applies when using would have and should have – primary teachers should look to do written tasks where the words can be seen on the page to overcome this, as pupils should be more likely to spot their mistakes.

If the mistake is still being made at secondary level, a teacher might want to get pupils to write out the longer forms in full until they can kick the habit.

Giant paragraphs

Some pupils will have a knack of including several thoughts in one paragraph, which can result in incredibly jumbled writing and long strung-out sentences.

Pupils should be encouraged to be succinct with their thoughts and to write one paragraph per point, especially at secondary level when analysis forms a key part of writing.

Looking firstly at the ‘what’ and then explaining the ‘why’ can help to provide pupils with a structure to base their paragraphs on.

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