4 Confusing Grammar Rules Cleared Up

Confusing grammar rules frequent the English language. Whether you’ve been composing essays in college for a couple of years or are just entering high school English, there are a handful of common errors that can trip you up. Correct grammar is essential for effective communication, both spoken and written, so it is important to brush up on these details every now and then to ensure you are showcasing your best potential to teachers, peers, and future employers.

While there are numerous intricacies to the English language, let’s take a look at four commonly confused grammar rules…

1. “You and me” vs. “You and I”

This is the one that you may often hear people changing as they speak. There is a misunderstanding that it is always wrong to say “you and me,” when in fact, “you and me” has its own unique usage which differs from that of “you and I.”

In short, “you and I” is a subject pronoun; you can think of it as “we.” For example, “You and I went to the market for fresh bread.” “You and I” can be substituted for “we” without any problem (“We went to the market for fresh bread.”). On the other hand, “you and me” is an object pronoun; you can think of it as “us.” For example, “He bought this fresh bread for you and me.” “You and me” can be substituted for “us” (“He bought this fresh bread for us.”). To help you decide whether to use “you and me” or “you and I,” plug in “we” or “us,” respectively, and see which one fits.  

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2. “Lie” vs. “Lay”

It is easy to remember that one definition of “lie” is to tell something that is untrue. Of course, “lie” can also mean to recline, as in “lie down on the couch.” The chief difference between “lie” and “lay” is that “lay” requires a direct object, while “lie” does not.

For example, in the sentence, “the bird is laying eggs,” the eggs are the direct objects being lain. Now, think about the sentence, “the mother lays the baby on the changing table.” What is the direct object? If you guessed it was the baby, you are correct.

3. “I.e.” vs. “e.g.”

“I.e.” and “e.g.” are handy abbreviations for the purpose of clarification, both of which come from Latin. But, contrary to popular belief, these terms should not be used interchangeably. “I.e.” means “in other words,” while “e.g.” means “for example.”

Here is an illustration of how to use them properly:  

-“Only 25% of test takers passed the test the first time — i.e., most students failed the test on their first attempt.”

-“Our café offers non-dairy substitutes — e.g., coconut, almond, and soy milk — for use in coffee beverages.”

An easy way to remember when to use “i.e.” and “e.g.” is by the letter they each start with. Think of the i in “i.e.” as “in” (“in other words”) and the e in “e.g.” as “example” (“for example”). You will never confuse them again!

4. “Good” vs. “well”

You probably already know the difference between “good” and “well” when they act as nouns (a manufactured good, a water-filled well). But what about their usage in other contexts? In short, “good” is an adjective; it describes a noun (a good vacation, a good idea). “Well” is an adverb; it describes the way in which an action is done (“he plays the clarinet well”).

It may seem complicated with phrases like “a well written story” and “a well articulated point.” However, we can look at these phrases and see that “well” is still acting as an adverb. “Written” and “articulated” are the adjectives.

Now is the perfect time to become more familiar with English grammar rules, if you have not already. Employing proper grammar will be extremely beneficial not just in your time as a student, but in college applications, grad school admissions, and job hunting down the line. A great way to keep these sharpened skills on your mind (in addition to studying) is simply to read and write on a regular basis — with a little practice, these rules, and others, are more than likely to stick with you!


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