7 Grammar Concepts That Confuse Even Advanced English Speakers

April 26, 2018
26 April 2018,

English can be a confusing language to learn. Grammar can seem very complicated and needs to be learnt to enable you to use the English language well when conversing with native or advanced English speakers.  It is very important to learn these grammar rules as we all want to be able to write and speak in English whether in the business world or socially.  Learn and understand these rules and this will help you build your confidence.  Here are the seven grammar rules that might confuse even advanced English speakers:


Sentence structure and incorrect word usage.


It is very important to use the correct structure of sentences.  A sentence must have a subject and a verb.  T


Correct sentence examples:

In spite of everything that happened, he enjoyed his holiday.

The teenagers arrived home late so they knew their parents would be cross with them.


Many words are used in the wrong order which changes the meaning of the sentence.  In addition to this, it is important to use adverbs (words which describe verbs for example she ran quickly with quickly being the adverb) and adjective (words which describe nouns for example he wore a blue shirt with the word blue being the adjective) in the correct position within a sentence. 


Correct word examples

 She accepted his offer to go out for dinner.  (Accepted can be confused with excepted with the meaning of accepted being general right, normal or in this case to say yes (accept) an invitation whereas if excepted was use the sentence would have an entirely different meaning as excepted means to be excluded from an event or situation).


She needed a breath of fresh air as the room was so hot.  (Breath means the air that is inhaled or exhaled in respiration whereas breathe means to breathe in air and oxygen). 





Apostrophes are very confusing as the position can vary depending on whether the noun is singular or plural.  They also show possession.


The child’s coat                 This refers to one coat belonging to one child

The child’s coats                This refers to several coats belonging to one child

The children’s coats           This refers to the coats of several children

The children’s rooms          This refers to the rooms belonging to the children

It’s not my favorite film        It’s means it is not my favorite film

A hard day’s work              This means it was a hard day of working

America’s foreign policy     This refers to the foreign policy of America.

Annabel and James’s dog  The dog refers to both Annabel and James but only one

                                         apostrophe is needed.


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They’re, their and there


These words and the spellings of them need to be learnt as they all have a different meaning.


They’re is the shortened form of they are. 


Examples of how to use they’re correctly:


They’re late so will miss the train.

They’re coming by car.

They’re at the beach already.


Their refers to an item or event that belongs to a group of people.


Examples of how to use their correctly:


Their train was cancelled.

Their coats are hanging up in the cupboard.

Is that their car?


There is used for position.  Examples include:


Put your case over there.

There is a bag of potatoes in the cupboard.

The television remote is there on that chair.


They’re, their and there are homophones which means that the sound of these words are the same but they each have different meanings and different usages.  There are many other homophones which also fall into this category, which also need to be understood and learnt as they can alter the meaning of sentences.



Affect and effect


These two words are confused by many English-speaking learners.  The meanings have to be learnt and remembered so they can be used correctly.


Affect means when a situation can be changed or influenced.


For example:


The weather affected the growing of the crops as it rained so heavily.

The weather will affect what we do this coming weekend when we visit London.


Effect refers to the change itself.


For example:


The book had a great effect on him.

The effect of the tsunami was devastating.



Me, myself and I


These two words have the same meaning but are used in different context.  Here are some examples of how to use these correctly:


When you have finished the project please can you give it to Tom and me?

He smiled at me.

Please come with me.

Susie invited Henry and myself to dinner.

Charlie and I went to the cinema.

My wife and I went out for supper last night.



Who, whom, whose and who’s


These again have to be learnt as to how to use correctly.




This is used in questions for example:


Who lives in England?

 Who’s (a shortened form of who is)

 Who’s leading the discussion this morning?

Who’s your favorite political leader?

Who’s visited the White House?




Isn’t that the person whom we saw this morning?

That is the man whom we talked about yesterday.


Whom can also be used instead of the word who but sounds better in these examples.  Who always forms part of a question whereas whom does not always need to be used in a question – see the second example above.




Whose gloves are these?

Whose glasses are these?

Whose coat is this?


Use whose when you do not know whom the item belongs to.





It can be difficult for English learners, even some advanced English speakers to understand that in English when a noun becomes plural the endings change and one does not always just add an ‘s’.


Here are some examples of words where an ‘s’ is added at the end of the noun to make the plural form:


Singular form                     Plural form


Car                                    Cars

Table                                Tables

Chair                                 Chairs

Cat                                    Cats

Bike                                   Bikes

Oven                                 Ovens

Book                                 Books

Boat                                  Boats

Carrot                                Carrots

Avocado                            Avocados

Zoo                                   Zoos


Here are irregular examples which just have to be learnt:


Mouse                              Mice

Fox                                   Foxes

Box                                   Boxes

Bus                                   Buses

Church                             Churches

Potato                               Potatoes

Tomato                              Tomatoes

Mystery                             Mysteries

Activity                              Activities

Woman                             Women

Lady                                  Ladies

Man                                   Men

Child                                  Children

Knife                                 Knives

Half                                   Halves

Life                                    Lives

Strawberry                         Strawberries

Scarf                                 Scarves

Echo                                 Echoes

Cargo                                Cargoes


Learning correct grammar is important as it gives us a better understanding of the language and to allow us to become advanced English speakers.  All languages have tenses and you will need to learn how to use English language to discuss the present, the future and the past both in conversation and in writing.  By learning English grammar this will help you to be able to write better in the business world and to be more analytical in reading whether reading for pleasure or for business purposes.  You can learn English grammar at home using the internet and there are many modules to help you improve your written English.  However, if your goal is to improve English fluency and become and advanced English speaker we recommend practicing with a Native English teacher. That is the best way to learn perfect grammar naturally and get a native-sounding accent.

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