Grammatical Problems

“A” and “An”

Use “a” before a word that begins with a consonant sound, and use “an” before a word that begins with a vowel sound. “a dog chased me”, or “an apple fell on me”.

Adjectives before Nouns

For people who speak a Romance language like Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese there is a tendency to place the adjective after the noun. In English the adjective always comes before the noun. For example, “the big dog” is correct but “the dog big” is incorrect.


Do/Don’t and Does/Doesn’t

You use “do” and “don’t” for first person singular, second person singular and plural, and third person plural. For example “I do/I don’t”, “you do/you don’t”, and “they do/they don’t”. Use “does” and “doesn’t” for third person singular. “He does/she doesn’t”.


Lend, Loan, and Borrow

In some languages the same word is used leaving only the “to” and “from” to determine who gives and who receives, but in English different words are used for the giver and the receiver. I “loan” to you and you “borrow” from me. The person who borrows is the “borrower” but the person who loans is the “lender”. Loan and lend mean the same thing when they’re referring to money or objects, but when you use the word figuratively you use “lend” but never “loan”. For example:

“lend me a hand” (give me some help)
“lend me your ears” (listen to me)


Double Negatives

In other languages like Spanish and Portuguese it’s considered okay to say “I don’t need no more” but it’s incorrect grammar in English. Double negatives are used sometimes in songs or poetry but in everyday speech they’re considered wrong.


Past Tense Issues

Correct: I did that, I have done that, I should have done that, I went, I have gone, you took one, you have taken one, he made it, he has made it, they wanted to go, they have wanted to go.

Incorrect: I have did that, I done that, I has done that, I has did that, I should have did that, I have went, you has took one, you taked one, you has taken one, he maked it, he have made it, they has wanted to go.


Me, Myself, and I

Use “me” as the object in a sentence. “He gave it to me”, or “For me, it’s difficult”.
Use “myself” when you are the subject and the object, or for emphasis. “I hurt myself”, or “I do that a lot myself”
Use “I” as the subject. “I gave it to him”, or “I think you’re right”


In, On, and At

Use “in” for an enclosed area like a room.
Use “on” for a flat surface like a floor.
Use “at” for a location like a building.

in on at
in town on the roof at the train station
in the city (county, state, country … etc.) on the sofa at work
in the office (meeting room, building … etc.) on the wall at home
in the living room (den, bedroom, kitchen … etc.) on the surface at the mall
in the car (truck, van, taxi … etc.) on the bus (train, plane … etc.) at the track
in the refrigerator on the ground at the casino
in school (enrolled) on the chalkboard at the store
in the hospital on the patient list at school (in class)
in the chair on the sofa at home
in the theater on the stage at the movies

Here are some more examples of how these could be used:

  • I’ll wait for you at the airport

  • I live on the fourth floor at 123 Main St. in Newark, New Jersey

  • I’m on TV (this means that you can see video of me on your TV)

  • It’s on the TV (before flat screen televisions TVs were shaped like a box and you could place items on top of the TV set)

  • I heard it on the radio (it was broadcast via the radio)

  • I’m on the computer/internet (I’m using the computer/internet)

  • I’m on the phone (I’m using the phone)

  • It’s in the newspaper (the newspaper printed it)

  • It’s on the internet (a website published it)

  • He’s on medication/drugs (he’s using medication/drugs)

There are other expressions that refer to time:

  • Meet me at 5 PM (at a certain time)

  • Call me on Monday the 5th (on a certain day or date)

  • I’ll see you in a week/month/year (in an approximate period of time)

Leave a Reply