Learning English: Five Unobvious Written Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

Original author: Brett Johnson
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English grammar is not the easiest science, and in addition to the large number of mistakes that can be made due to carelessness, there are a number of more subtle points.

The last translation on the topic of errors in writing in English attracted the attention of the Habr audience, so today I am publishing an adaptation of another post - this time we will talk about five unobvious grammatical errors, the existence of which not everyone knows.

Error # 1. Comma before “that”

I did not know about this, but it turns out there is a rule according to which commas can be placed before the word “which”, but not before “that”.

False : He's got a beautiful house, that is located in a good neighborhood.

True : He's got a beautiful house, which is located in a good neighborhood.

An important point: the mere use of the word “that” in a sentence is not a mistake; you cannot just put a comma in front of it.

True : He's got a beautiful house that is located in a good neighborhood.

Error # 2. Comma splices

A mistake called comma splice is when you “blind” in one sentence, in fact, two smaller sentences that are not connected to each other. If you read such a long construction, and it is clear that it would be easier to do it if the union were there - this is comma splice.

There are several ways to avoid such errors:

  • Break one big sentence into two smaller ones.
  • A funny moment - but using a comma without a union is a mistake, and if you replace the comma with a semicolon, then this will not be considered an error.
  • A semicolon plus a connective (such as however or moreover) is considered an even more elegant way of circumventing an error.
  • The simplest and most effective method is to use connecting unions (and ”/“ but ”) to separate sentences.
  • Subordinate unions (although, ”“ if ”or“ since ”) are also suitable for this purpose.

False : Jenna is very good at singing, she went to the music school when she was five.

True : Jenna is very good at singing. She went to music school when she was five.

Error # 3. "Or" instead of "nor" in a sentence with Neither

Another rather difficult moment. I don’t know if I just didn’t think about it, but according to the rules, if the sentence has the word “neither”, then only “nor” can be used, not “or”.

False : I like neither burgers or ketchup

True : I like neither burgers nor ketchup

In addition, “nor” can be used if two or more objects are involved in the enumeration. In this case, you have to put this word in front of each of them.

True : I like neither burgers nor ketchup nor mustard.

Error # 4. Missing comma after introductory element

According to the rules of English punctuation, a comma is always placed after any introductory element, whether it is a word, phrase or sentence. Most often, an adverb acts as an introductory word.

False : Meanwhile the boy went outside to play football.

True : Meanwhile, the boy went outside to play football.

Error # 5. Whether and If

The word “whether” is used to describe situations where there is a choice of two or more options. In turn, if, on the contrary, there is no choice at all, then you need to use “if”:

True : I don't know whether I will go on vacation this year. (Two possible scenarios: a person goes on vacation or stays in the city).

True : I will go on vacation if I get the bonus. (That is, if the prize is not given, then there will be no vacation - there are no other options).

And what other subtle grammar points in English do you know?

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