English speaking or writing is a terrorized and fearful thought, especially for a lot of students and young chartered accountants. English, as lot of us believe is our weak forte and we all struggle to find it difficult to communicate in this language. The prime reason for this fear is because English is not our first language of communication and whatever is not our base/prime, causes fear and doesn’t let us perform our best.
Though speaking is something many of us strive to make better, not many people work on improving their grammar and therefore, when you start to write in English, you are bound to make mistakes. Imagine a situation when instead of using ‘their’ you used ‘there’, which effectively changed the meaning of that sentence. A very embarrassing situation to be in. This can happen with you in any communication, be it your CV or be it an email to prospective employer or be it any email to your client. And if your communication happens to be read by a person who is very particular regarding grammar, then you are bound to doom. Imagine what kind of impression would you leave on the person who received your communication and the mental image he/she would frame for you as a person. There is a tendency to judge others by the way they write and I can assure you of not being in the good books of such people if you do not use correct grammar.
So, why not try and start to make improvements in us so that we use absolutely correct grammar and make a very good impression on others. Trust me, this will go a long way in creating a brilliant impression and help you create a very strong brand of yourself.
What I have done is prepared a cheat sheet of various words generally used interchangeably but have absolutely different meanings and if used incorrectly can completely alter the meaning of the sentence. These are some of the commonly used words and also very commonly used incorrectly and hopefully this cheat sheet is able to help you.
Lets have a look at them, understand them in the correct manner and then use them appropriately. This may not be the ideal or the complete cheat sheet, however it does cover substantial instances. I would be happy to have your comments in this and add any more of such words.
1. Its vs It’s
“Its” is a possessive pronoun meaning, more or less, of it or belonging to it. Its is used to mean to own something.
“It’s” a shorter or contraction for “it is” or “it has”.
A simple test to check if you should use “its” or “it’s” is to see if you can replace “it’s” in your sentence with it is or it has. If you can replace it then your word is it’s, otherwise your word is its.
Another test is that “Its” is the neuter version of his or her. Try replacing ‘her’ or ‘his’ into your sentence where you think ‘its’ belongs. If the sentence works grammatically then your word is indeed ‘Its’.
Examples of using “it’s”
(a) It’s good to know you;
(b) It’s a nice house
Examples of using “its”
The dog has knows its ability to identify the thieves.
In the above sentence ‘its’ is a possessive pronoun where its ability means the dog’s ability.
2. Your vs You’re
Your is also a possessive form of “you”, referring to something that a person has, something that belongs to the person in question or the person you are talking to. ‘Your’ reflects ownership, as in “mine, yours and ours”.
You’re is a shorter version or contraction of “you are”.
Try replacing “you are” in your sentence where you intend to use you’re/ your and if it makes sense then you’re is the right word. If not, then your would be the right fit. You could also replace “your” with “my” in the sentence. If it fits, then use “your”.
Examples of using “you’re”
(a) You’re a good friend (meaning you are a good friend);
(b) I don’t know what you’re talking about (meaning, I do not know what you are talking about)
Examples of using “your”
(a) Your destiny has played funny games with you (here your destiny is used to mean the destiny of the person you are talking about);
(b) Is your stomach aching (if you replace ‘your’ with ‘my’ the sentence would still make sense and that means ‘your’ is the right word).
3. Their/ There/ They’re
‘Their” is possessive, something similar to what we discussed above for ‘its’ and ‘your’. It’s a possessive form of “them”.
‘There” is used when we want to refer to a place, thing or object.
‘They’re” is a shorter version or contraction of ‘they are’.
You can use “there” with the verbs “is, am, are, was and where” to indicate existence of something. For example – “There is an antique store in the mall” or “there are many documents lying on the table” or “there was an earthquake in this area sometime back” or “there was nothing in the plate left for me to eat” etc.
Examples of using “their”
(a) Children standing on chairs are behaving nicely since their parents are nearby;
(b) My friends have lost their tickets.
Examples of using “there”
(a) There is a nice picnic ground near the temple;
(b) There are so many books in that store.
Examples of using “they’re”
(a) They’re a nice group of people;
(b) They’re the best two football players in the team.
4. Then vs Than
“Then” refers to timing – you did one thing, then you did another.
“Than” is comparative.
Examples of using “then”
(a) I went to the temple and then to the party;
(b) I wanted to kiss you but then you said it’s too early for our relationship.
Examples of using “than”
(a) My painting was much better than yours;
(b) My eating habits are much better than when I was in college.
5. Affect vs Effect
“Affect” is a verb. It means to produce a change in or influence something.
“Effect” is a noun that means a change that occurred. However, in some situations ‘effect’ can also be used as a verb.
Examples of using “affect”
(a) The boss’s negativity affected all the staff;
(b) Not winning didn’t affect her as much as I thought it would.
Examples of using “effect”
(a) Oil process have a direct effect on the cost of goods;
(b) The effect of the medicine on her illness was surprisingly fast.
6. Loose vs Lose
“Loose” (pronounced as “loos”) refers to the tightness of something.
“Lose” (pronounced as “looz”) is used when something is lost.
When you have misplaced an object or a person from your possession, use “lose”. For example – “I always lose my mobile phone”. Similarly, when you are close to a defeat in a competition, use “lose”. For example – “I think Rajat is about to lose the match”.
However, when an object has free movement and is not restricted by restraints, use “loose”. For example – “Anuradha likes her hair loose and not in a ponytail”.
I hope you would have find them useful. I would be talking about some other commonly mi-used grammar words in my next article “How To Correct Your English Grammar – Part 2”.
Authored by Nimish Goel (www.nimishgoel.com), a qualified chartered accountant who’s passion is to coach young chartered accountants and aspiring students achieve the best in their life. Nimish used to work with EY and PwC in India and has also worked with KPMG in Europe. He now runs his own consulting company and runs a blog www.nimishgoel.com. He can be reached for any queries and issues on his blog.