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5 Common Verb Mistakes to Avoid

  • May 25 2015
  • Comments Off on 5 Common Verb Mistakes to Avoid

You might think of grammar as an annoyance, and that putting in the effort to ensure that your verb tenses are correct isn’t worth it. However, one study done by the Society for Human Resources and Management found that 45% of all employers seek to increase their training on grammar and other such language skills.  How you word something is just as important as what you are saying, and so it’s crucial that you avoid easy verb mistakes to ensure that your writing is fluid and correct. Here are five of the most common verb mistakes.



1.  Lay vs. Lie

Many people incorrectly assume that the correct thing to say is “I’m going to lay down.” However, this is not correct as “lay” must have an object attached to it. A person can lay something somewhere, but if it is yourself that is laying down then you lie not lay. The only time you lay is when you lie in the past tense.



2.  Irregular Verbs

The English language has many surprises that aren’t necessarily intuitive. There are many irregular verbs in the language, so many in fact that we couldn’t list them all here. For instance, there is no past tense word that exists for “broadcast.” You cannot say “Broadcasted”, as it isn’t a word. Instead, you would say, “the news was broadcast yesterday.” Additionally, the words “hang” and “sneak” both fall in this category. Due to the fact that the list of all irregular verbs is extremely extensive, you must look each one up individually in order to see how to conjugate them.



3.  Lack of Verb and Subject Agreement

In the English language, the verb must always agree with the subject in a sentence in both person and number. If the subject of the sentence is plural then the form of the verb will also have to be plural. If the verb is singular then the subject will also be singular. On top of this, if the subject is in first person then the verb must also be. For example, it is incorrect to say that “one of my teachers constantly grade my papers wrong.” Although “teachers” is plural, the subject of the sentence is singular since it is “one of my teachers.” This means that the plural verb is wrong. Instead you should say, “One of my teachers constantly grades my papers wrong.”



4.  Inappropriate Active or Passive Voice

Although the passive and active voice aren’t grammatically incorrect or correct, writers will often use one or the other at an inappropriate time. Keep in mind that the passive voice removes the actor from a subject position or even from the sentence altogether. This removal of the actor should be used at certain times, especially when writing a business or science paper, however in most cases it is more appropriate to use an active voice in writing. For example, “the microwave was turned on” would be the passive way of saying “I turned the microwave on.” Keep in mind that at appropriate times using an active voice can keep your readers more engaged with your writing, however if your writing is meant to be more technical then a passive voice may be more appropriate.



5.  Inappropriate Tense Shifts

It is important that you use verb tense on a consistent basis. If you begin your writing using the present tense, and then shift into the past with no reason for doing so then this will only serve to confuse your reader. Although you do need to change tenses in order to reflect that a time change occurred, this doesn’t happen often in copy or blog writing. For example, “I called you yesterday, so we go shopping” is incorrect due to the fact that there is no clear reason as to why you switched from the past to the present tense. The proper way to say this sentence would be “I called you yesterday, so we could go shopping.”


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Cameron Mackey

Cameron is the Content Manager for the Vorongo Blog. He has spent three years in various content marketing roles. When he is not working with Vorongo he enjoys photography and hiking.

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