As a grammar Nazi…ahem, I mean, English major, good grammar is a trait that I look for in most people. And if you’re somebody with bad grammar… Well then, I’m afraid it’s off to the chopping block with you! I’m kidding, of course.
If you are somebody who lacks grammar skills or if you are easily confused by the number of grammatical rules out there, then you’ve come to the right place! Here are some common grammatical errors that I’ll help you in sorting out, dear reader!
Firstly, let’s learn the difference between to, too, and two
I’ve been told that this is one of the major obstacle courses when it comes to a first-time grammar learner or even somebody who has mastered almost every aspect of the English language but still gets tripped up every now and then.
Just to simplify things, ‘To’ is a preposition that can have several meanings.
These meanings range from using it as an alternative to ‘towards’ and ‘until’.
‘To’ can also be used to indicate goals. E.g., ‘I will go to class today.’ (‘going to class’ is the goal that is being indicated)
It can also be used to indicate a sense of direction/movement, as in ‘If you look to the left, you will see the Statue of Liberty’ (with ‘left’ being the direction being indicated to here).
Another usage of ‘to’ is to indicate attachment/relationship between two objects or people. For example, ‘This car belongs to me’ (indicating relationship between a person and their car) or ‘He’s like a brother to me’ (indicating relationship between me and somebody else).
Yet another usage of ‘to’ is to indicate a range or period of time, as in when you’re telling somebody the time: ‘It is 10 minutes to 2’ or when baking a cake: ‘The muffins will take about 3 minutes to bake’ (I’m no baker, so don’t take my word for it though).
‘Too’, on the other hand, is NOT a preposition like ‘to’. Like the former, this one doesn’t have too many meanings. It can, however, be used as an alternative to fancier words such as ‘besides’, ‘in addition’, ‘also’ and ‘as well’, and can also be used to indicate excessiveness.
Examples of ‘too’ as an indicator of excessiveness:
- Grammar is too hard.
- You are too full of yourself!
Just to show off and go one step further in our lesson, here’s an example of using ‘to’ & ‘too’ in the same sentence (yes, it can be done!):
- She is too full of herself to even think about others!
- It is too late for him to cancel plans now.
And as promised, here’s the bonus:
The difference between to, too, and two?
Plain and simple…’two’ is just a number that comes between ‘one’ & ‘three’. Sure, it sounds the same as ‘to’ & ‘too’ but you should never use it as an alternative to either.
Passed vs Past
Next up, we’ve got two other problematic words that have posed many-a-conundrum: ‘Passed’ & ‘past’. But fret not, because soon you’ll be able to take these two on head-on as well without breaking a sweat!
What you need to keep in mind is that ‘past’ is never used as a verb, whereas ‘passed’ is always a verb. In fact, ‘passed’ is the past tense of the word ‘pass’ which means ‘to go by’ or ‘to move through’ or ‘to take place’. It can be used in sentences such as these:
- Time passed us by so quickly.
- They passed the time by playing video games at a nearby arcade.
‘Past’, on the other hand, has a variety of usages, ranging from its use as an adjective to refer to a time gone by or to something that has already occurred. For example:
- He worked here in the past.
- The past few days have been hectic on us.
It can also be used as a preposition as an alternative for words like ‘beyond’ or ‘later then’. Examples of these are:
- He walked past us.
- This milk is past its expiration date.
And it can also be used as a noun to refer to an earlier time or in order to evoke nostalgia (I must confess, as an early 2000s kid, I tend to use it a lot!). Here’s an example: ‘We drank tea out of earthen cups in the past’.
Why stop there though? ‘Past’ can also be used as an adverb to refer to something beyond a certain point or time. For example: ‘A year went past very quickly’.
It’s vs Its
And now, finally, for the big boss of them all, let’s move on to discover the difference between it’s & its. I can already tell there are beads of sweat dripping down the side of your face, dear reader, but again, you’ll soon learn that it’s all a piece of cake!
A great way to remember when/where one must use it’s & its, all you need to remember is that it’s stands for or is a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. This is similar to ‘can’t’ being a contraction or a shorter way of saying ‘cannot’. An example of it’s in a sentence: ‘It’s raining today’ (without using the contraction it’s, this sentence sounds like this: ‘It is raining today’).
On the other hand, ‘its’ is used as a possessive pronoun to indicate that something belongs to something or someone. E.g.:
- The car was tipped on its side.
- The cow was being milked by its owner.
And now, for the cherry on top of the cake, here’s how they can both be used in the same sentence:
‘Look at that cat. It’s so happy to be surrounded by its kittens!’
See? So easy! And that’s all for our lesson today. I hope you enjoyed it and are no longer scared of the big bad wolves of grammar.