Teaching Online Contents
I and Me Aren’t Interchangeable
Which one of the sentences below do you think is grammatically correct?
Matt and I went for a walk.
Matt and me went for a walk.
If you guessed the first sentence, you’re right! However, don’t stress out if you guessed wrong. Many native English speakers get this rule confused, and you may often hear the second sentence in casual conversation even though it’s incorrect.
I and me are’t interchangeable. They are used in different grammatical constructs.
I is a pronoun that serves as a subject of a sentence. In the first example, Matt and I went for a walk, both I and Matt are subjects of the sentence while went is the verb.
Me is a pronoun that serves as an object of a sentence. Me is needed when someone else is performing the action. To use the example above, it would be absolutely correct to say: Matt took me for a walk. Matt is the subject and me is the object in the sentence.
Knowing your subjects and objects will help you use these types of pronouns flawlessly!
Be Careful When Using Their, They’re and There
This is another case of confusion between pronouns, contractions and, additionally, adverbs. Let’s analyze each of the words in question.
Their is a possessive determiner. When using their, you indicate that something belongs to them.
- Their car has broken down.
- Their dinner party was a big hit.
- It’s not their child.
They’re is a contraction of they are, very similar to you’re from tip number three.
- If they’re not coming, I’m leaving early. (If they are not coming, I’m leaving early.)
- They’re so happy to have been invited! (They are so happy to have been invited!)
- She doesn’t think they’re going to like it. (She doesn’t think they aregoing to like it.)
There is an adverb indicating a location of something, whether specific or abstract.
- Your keys are over there, on the table.
- When we got there, the place was already closed.
- There is more than one way to skin a cat. (An idiomatic expression.)
Once you understand the difference between these three words, you won’t make a mistake like their nice (instead of they’re nice) or there dog (instead of their dog) ever again!
This fun comic by The Oatmeal provides a few more examples of common errors arising from the confusion between contractions and pronouns.
Mix It Up with Active and Passive Voice
In many English sentences, the subject is the one performing the action described by the verb of the sentence. This is called “active voice.”
- While the children played a game in the backyard, their dad prepared dinner.
Both clauses of this sentence contain active voice: children played (a game) and their dad prepared (dinner).
In other instances, the subject is being acted upon. Someone else is performing the action! This is “passive voice.”
- While a game was played by the kids, dinner was prepared by their dad.
This sentence also has two clauses, and both of them are written in the passive voice: the game was played (by the kids) while dinner was prepared (by their dad).
While it’s recommended to use passive voice sparingly (not often), you should know how to recognize and use both active and passive voices.
A good mix of active and passive verbs will make your English, especially written English, varied and colorful. Don’t be afraid of combinations!
Oxford Dictionaries has more great examples of active and passive voice usage.
Always Use Complete Sentences, Not Sentence Fragments
The most basic sentence in English has two elements: a subject and a verb.
- She sings.
- I write.
- They survived.
Having a subject and a verb is the minimum requirement for English sentences. If either of those is missing, the sentence isn’t complete. It becomes a sentence fragment instead:
- Walking past the house
- Survived the ordeal
- Prefer this sandwich
Sentence fragments shouldn’t be used alone. The examples above can be easily made into full sentences or become part of a longer sentence. For example:
- Walking past the house, I noticed the lights were on.
- She is happy to have survived the ordeal.
- I would prefer this sandwich.
Make it a rule for yourself to always write in complete sentences. Check if there’s a subject and a verb in your sentence. If not, insert one! Connecting sentence fragments into more complex sentences will make your English speech and English writing correct and varied.