AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
1. Confusion of
lay and lie. Lay is a transitive or action verb and
requires an object to receive
its action. (Example: Please lay the book on the table. Lay your head on my shoulder.)
Lie is an intransitive verb and is not associated with an object. (Example: I'm tired and need
to lie down. Lie on the cot to rest). The past tense of lie is lay. (Example: Exhausted he
lay on the ground for a day and a night). Hence the confusion. Do not say that you will
lay down if you mean that you are going to recline or place your body in a prone position.
Rather say you are going to lie down because your body is not considered an object and
does not take the action verb lay.
2. Confusion of
affect and effect. Affect and effect both function
as nouns and verbs, but
affect is usually used as a verb while effect is more frequently used as a noun. As a verb
affect means to influence or have an impact upon. (Example: Too much money chasing
too few products will affect the cost of living. The bleak novel affected my mood for
a day). As a noun effect refers to result or influence. (Example: What is the effect of too
much money chasing too few products? The effect of the acid on the metal was
devastating.) Effect is commonly misused for affect. Remember that effect or result is
the outcome of affect or influence.
3. Confusion of
conscious and conscience. Both conscious and conscience
are nouns and look
much alike but in meaning they have nothing in common. Conscious, referring to a state of
consciousness, means aware, cognizant, alert. (Example: I am conscious of the difficulty of
the task ahead. He is conscious of his mistake). Conscience refers to a moral sense of
right and wrong or of guilt. (Example: Her conscience got the better of her and she
confessed her guilt. The perpetrators of the holocaust had no respect for human life,
no conscience at all).
disagreement, particularly with everyone, anyone, someone.
anyone, someone are singular pronouns that take singular verb forms and singular pronoun
forms. We do not say "Everyone are coming" or "Someone are special to me." It is just as
incorrect to say "Did everyone get their coat?" or "Anyone who burns the flag should have
their rights taken away." Do not use they or their to refer to everyone, anyone, or someone.
Simply put, they and there are plural pronouns and do not go with the singular pronouns of
everyone, anyone, and someone.
Disagreement. He, she, and it always take the singular
form of a verb, never
the plural. (Example: He does, she does, it does. Never say or write he don't, she don't,
it don't). This is a serious breach of good usage that should always be avoided.
6. Misuse of the
apostrophe, especially with it. The apostrophe causes more trouble
any other mark of punctuation. It indicates possession and denotes contraction. (Examples:
Jane's sweater. They won't be going to the dance). Before modern English, possession
was indicated by the formation "The man his hat" rather than "The man's hat." Nouns almost
always form the possessive by adding " 's " but the exception involves the pronoun it. The
possessive form of it does not have the apostrophe. (Example: In hibernation the bear lost
its fat.) It with the apostrophe is the contraction for it is. (Example: In hibernation the bear
lost its fat). It with the apostrophe is the contraction for it is. (Example: It's cold in this
room). Never use the apostrophe for the possessive form of it.
-- Robert G. Blake