11+ English Grammar: Common Mistakes

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

There are dozens of grammar mistakes that are commonly made, and you will often find that examiners for the 11+ like to test you on them with a dedicated set of questions or short passage in which you need to spot the errors. If not, then your grammar will still need to be excellent throughout the creative writing section. Here, we’ll look at some of the most common mistakes, and see how to use the correct words.

They’re, Their, There

Perhaps the most common of all grammar mistakes is confusion around these three words. Let’s look at each in turn.

They’re is short for they are. The simplest way of avoiding a mistake here is always thinking to yourself, ‘they are.’ Think it out in full, then add the apostrophe to abbreviate. Let’s look at it in a sentence:

They’re on the way to the cricket match, although it’s going to rain.

Their is the possessive form of ‘them’ – it means that they own something. It could be their horse, their car, or their life. Let’s look at it in a sentence:

Their boat was their life; they spent all their time on it.

As you can see, it’s a very common word that you simply must be able to get right.

There means in a specific place, or at a specific place. We might say, ‘over there,’ or, ‘it’s there.’ Let’s look at it in a sentence:

Just over there, in the distance, he could see the tower.

Now let’s put all three into one sentence:

They’re worried that their savings won’t be enough – it’s so expensive over there.

If you don’t feel confident on the above sentence, go back over it and repeat the words until you do.

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You’re, Your

Much like they’re and their, these words are an abbreviation and a possessive. Let’s look at each in turn.

You’re is short for you are. The best way of avoiding a mistake here, again, is to think about the words in full. Think ‘you are’ and then abbreviate it. In a sentence we would see:

You’re the only one I care about, she said.

Your is the possessive form of you. It can be used for both singular and plural – so when addressing one person or multiple people. Let’s look at it in a sentence:

Your love is the only thing I care about, she said.

Let’s put the two together into one sentence:

You’re always there for me; I think it’s your kind heart that means you’ll never leave.’

Again, if you’re not confident on the above then go over the differences between the two until you are.

It’s, Its

Once again, we have an abbreviation and a possessive. We’ll look at each in turn.

It’s is the abbreviated version of ‘it is.’ As with the previous examples, just think about this in full each time to make your life simpler, and then add the apostrophe to shorten it.

Its is the possessive form of ‘it.’ Let’s look at the two in a sentence together:

It’s time that we took its collar off – it’s so loyal anyway, she said.

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Me & I

You should be aware of when to use me, and when to use I. You use ‘I’ if the subject of the sentence is you. People normally get these confused when they are talking about themselves and someone else.

That means if you and Tom went to the shop, then you should write:
‘Tom and I went to the shop.’

However, if you and Tom were attacked by a dog, then you would write:
‘A dog attacked me and Tom.’

You can reason this by removing the other person each time. You wouldn’t say, ‘me went to the shop’ and nor would you say ‘a dog attacked I.’

Who, Whom, Whose, Who’s

As with the first examples in this sheet, you should think about who’s as an abbreviation. It’s ‘who is’ with the words put together and an apostrophe inserted. In contrast, ‘whose’ is the possessive form of ‘who.’ Whom is the objective  form of ‘who’ – that means it’s used when ‘who’ is the object of the sentence.

As an example, we would say:

Whose coat is this? Who’s going to admit taking it?

Who are you? From whom did you get that?

A simple trick is to replace ‘who’ with ‘he’ and ‘who’ with ‘whom’ when trying to figure out which to use. So we would have said ‘from him’ rather than ‘from he.’
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