I’m not the only one who feels a little bad for anyone who is learning English as a second language, right?
Sometimes all it takes is just one wrong letter or apostrophe to turn a well-intentioned sentence into a grammar no-no.
When I was a freshman in college, every Communication major was required to pass a grammar exam. While most students saw this as another pain-in-the-butt test, I was part of a (small) group that transformed chummy late-night study sessions into a heated competition of who could score the highest grade.
Rivalry and frustrations aside, I was happy to learn how to steer clear of these easy-to-make errors. Sometimes they’re so common, we don’t even notice them! But with these clarifications in mind, you can feel confident you’re producing credible and high-quality content for your business.
Less vs. Fewer
Yes, less and fewer mean the same thing; you just use them in different circumstances. The easiest way to remember it is “fewer” is used for countable items. “Less” is for mass amounts.
You can’t individually count water, so “less water” is correct. On the other hand, you can individually count almonds, so “fewer almonds” is the way to go.
Farther vs. Further
While “further” does have a fancier ring to it, sometimes it’s just not the word for the job. Simply put: “further” is for figurative speech and “farther” is for actual distance.
You can’t “go further down the street,” but you can “delve further into the book.”
Bring vs. Take
I owe this rule to a copy editor I worked with during a newspaper internship and can safely say it’s engraved in my brain.
When to use “bring” or “take” comes down to a directional issue. Do you want someone to bring an object to you? Or are you taking an object to someone else or somewhere else?
Incorrect: “I’m bringing a casserole to your party.”
Correct: “Are you bringing the casserole to my party?”
If you’re transporting the casserole somewhere else, then from your prospective you’re “taking” it.” From my perspective, I’m not lifting a finger with this casserole, so you’re “bringing” it to me.
Which vs. That
Ready for a throwback to junior high? When to use “which” vs. “that” relates to restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. (But wait, what’s a clause? Just remember it as a unit containing a subject and a verb).
“That” is a restrictive clause, meaning a sentence won’t make sense without that clause. “Which” is non-restrictive, so if you take that part away, the sentence will still work.
Here’s an example of restrictive: “Houses that are large cost a lot of money.” You can’t take out “that” without the sentence falling apart.
And here’s non-restrictive: “Houses, which come in all shapes and sizes, cost a lot of money.” You’re not restricted to having the clause “which comes in all shapes and sizes” for the sentence to make sense.
So, in short, don’t say something like “This is the only house which is expensive.”
The main difference between “lay” and “lie” is “lay” requires a direct object and “lie” does not. So you can “lay a laptop down on a desk,” but you “lie down on the couch.”
Simple, right? But past tense gets a little tricky because “lay” is the past tense of “lie.”
I could never get this one right until one of my college grammar exam competitors (I mean study buddy) broke it down in a way that finally resonated with me.
Today I lie down.
Yesterday I lay down.
Today I lay it down.
Yesterday I laid it down.
Yes, it seems a little weird to say “I was feeling sick yesterday, so I lay down for an hour and felt much better,” but weird is correct in this situation.
So go ahead and write some grammatically awesome content! If you still think this is the sort of thing you’d rather leave to someone else, then contact PCG to talk about our professional content writing services.