These grammatical errors are so widespread, you can count on finding them anywhere from comment sections online to professionally edited and published books. Not to be a prescriptivist, but you need to know these errors and avoid making them. You won’t make a good first impression if you tell a potential new employer that you’ve come up with an ‘all together’ new method of analyzing data. Agree? I bet you do.
Just to refresh it in your memory, here’s the list:
Fewer vs. Less
Use ‘fewer’ with countable nouns, and ‘less’ with uncountable ones.
|Fewer||I’ve gone skydiving fewer than ten times.||There was fewer than a gallon of water left.|
|Less||I have less time on my hands these days.||A tweet contains less than 140 characters.|
Then vs. Than
The adverb ‘then’ is used to signify actions in time, whereas ‘than’ is used to make comparisons.
|Then||I went to the library and then to the supermarket.||Strawberries are better then raspberries.|
|Than||Rather than waiting fifteen minutes, I left.||I than proceeded to the meeting point.|
Effect vs. Affect
‘Effect’ is a noun, and ‘affect’ is a verb — usually. That’s an easy enough to remember rule of thumb, but if you can’t, just use ‘impact’ to be safe. It’s going to save you from making an error almost every time, but hardcore grammar nerds will still have a problem with you.
|Effect||The effect was quite calming.||It’s impossible to effect the judge at this point.|
|Affect||I tried to affect the situation, but it was no use.||The affect I experienced was unexpected.|
Disinterested vs. Uninterested
‘Disinterested’ means impartial, and ‘uninterested’ means bored.
|Disinterested||The judge is a disinterested party.||I was so disinterested, I nearly fell asleep.|
|Uninterested||He’s uninterested in the process.||Being uninterested in disputes makes me a great boss.|
Lay vs. Lie
‘Lay’ means to place or to put, and ‘lie’ should be used in all other cases.
|Lay||Lay the paper on the teacher’s table once you’re finished.||She lied her bag next to her laptop.|
|Lie||I need to lie down.||My back hurts when I lay down.|
It’s vs. Its
‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’. ‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun.
|It’s||It’s raining.||Its March 15th.|
|Its||My cat needs to be seen by the vet — its claws won’t retract.||The baby dropped it’s toy.|
Altogether vs. All together
‘Altogether’ means entirely, ‘All together’ means that something applies to an entire group of people.
|Altogether||A different matter altogether.||An all together new approach.|
|All together||My friends are dancing all together.||My classmates are altogether in this photograph.|
Who’s vs. Whose
‘Who’s’ is a contraction of ‘who is’. ‘Whose’ is the possessive form of ‘who’.
|Who’s||Who’s the boss?||Whose responsible for fire safety in the office?|
|Whose||Whose pen is this?||Who’s phone number do you need?|