English Knowledge - SPLessons

Common Errors – How to Avoid Them?

Chapter 7

SPLessons 5 Steps, 3 Clicks
5 Steps - 3 Clicks

Common Errors – How to Avoid Them?

shape Introduction

Common errors deals with errors in use of Articles, Nouns, Pronouns, Prepositions, Conjunctions, Subject – Verb Agreement, Tenses, Adjectives, and Adverbs.


shape Concept

Errors in use of Articles:

The correct use of the articles is one of the most difficult points in English grammar.

Articles are of two kinds.


    1. Definite (a, an)

    2. Indefinite (The)


Here are some rules regarding the correct usage of the definite and indefinite articles.


  • When you talk about a person or thing for the first time, use the indefinite articles (a and an) with them.

  • Use the in subsequent references to that person or thing.

  • Use the indefinite article to talk about a person or thing not known to the speaker or the listener.

  • We can use the in subsequent references to that person or thing.


Use of ‘An’:

  • Before words beginning with vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u are known as vowels and the remaining letters are consonants).
    Examples: an apple, an egg, an owl
  • Before words beginning with silent ‘h’.
    Examples: an hour, an honourable man, an heir, an honest man.
  • F, H, L, M, N, R, S, X are letters that are not vowels but begin with vowel sound.
    Example: ‘M’ has the sound of ’em’. So, ‘an’ is used before abbreviations beginning with vowels or these letters.

Use of ‘A’:

  • (a) In the sentence of one
    Example: She couldn’t speak a word to save himself.
    (b) With ‘one’ (Since ‘one’ begins with sound of ‘w’)
    Example: a one-man show, a one-rupee note.
  • Before words beginning with consonant sound.
    Example: a boy, a box, a dog.
  • With vowel letters having consonant value.
    Example: a university, a unique article, a unit (all these begin with consonant sound of ‘yu’).
  • With units and rate (per).
    Example: He earns rupees five hundred a month.
  • In exclamatory expressions before singular countable nouns.
    Example: What a Pretty girl!
  • When two subjects or articles are thought of as a single unit.
    Example: A cigarette is made of a paper and tobacco.
  • With certain expressions of quantity.
    Example: a lot of, a dozen, a great deal of.
  • With a person’s name to indicate that the person is perhaps unknown to the person addressed.
    Example: A Mr. Tom is at the door.
  • With a special meal (to celebrate something or in someone’s honour)
    Example: A party was arranged to welcome the Principal.
  • To make a common noun of a proper noun.
    Example: This man is ‘a second Newton’.
    (This phrase means ‘a philosopher as great as Newton’)

Use of ‘The’:
When we speak of a particular person or thing already referred to.
Example: The girl near the taps is my sister.

Use Example
When a singular noun represents a whole class The Mango is considered the king among fruits
With names of gulfs, rivers, oceans, islands and mountains
Example: the Himalayas, the Indian ocean,the Ganga river.
Certain books the Vedas, the Puranas, the Bible, the Ramacharitmanas.
Musical instruments the flute, the violin, the tabla, the trumpet
The inventions I hate the telephone for its constant ringing.
Parts of body They hit him on the hands.
Religious groups the Sikhs, the Hindus, the Parsees.
Names enforcing law the Police, the Navy, the Air Force.
Political parties The Congress, the Janata Party, the B.J.P.
Aeroplanes, ships, trains etc The Makalu'(aeroplane), the Vikrant (Ship), the Rajdhani express (train).
Before names of an empire, dynasty or historical event the Gupta dynasty, the old Stone Age, the First World War, the American Revolution.
Clubs, foundations etc. the Lion’s Club, the Ford Foundation.
Before common nouns denoting unique things the Sun, the Sky, the Earth, the World, the Stars.
With superlatives Gifts would be given for the most outstanding performances.
With ordinals He lives in the tenth block.
Before the comparative degree She is the cleverer of the two.
Before an adjective when the noun is understood He must not shun the disabled.

Errors in use of Nouns: –
1. Nouns which are used in singular form:

Nouns Example
Scenery, Information, Furniture, Advice, Machinery, Stationery, News, Poetry, Business, Mischief, Fuel, Issue, Repair, Bedding. She has received no information so far.
Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Classics, Ethics, Athletics, Innings, Gallows. Mathematics is very interesting subject
Brick, Bread, Fruit, Word (as ‘promise’) She is true to her word.
Words like Dozen, Score, Hundred, Thousand, Million when preceded by a numeral. She bought 2 dozen apples.
Expressions as a ten-rupee note, a two-hour journey, a four-mile walk, a five-year plan, a six-man committe etc. A twenty-rupee note is lying there.

2. Nouns used only in plural from:

Nouns Example
Cattle, police, poultry, people, gentry, peasantry, artillery. The Police have caught the thief.
Scissors, trousers, stocking, spectacles, shorts, alms, remains, riches, goods, measles. My Scissors are very sharp.

3. Nouns used both as singular and plural in the same form:

Nouns Example
Deer, sheep, fish, apparatus, wages. I saw a sheep grazing in the field.
Collective nouns as jury, public, team, audience, committee, government, congregation, orchestra. The team are looking quite fit.

4. Use of Collective Nouns:
Collective Noun: The word used to represent a group of people, animals, or things is known as collective noun.
Examples: Flock, Crowd, Committee, Choir, Group, Team.

Used for People:
Here are some examples of common collective nouns used for people:
A band of musicians
A board of directors
A choir of singers
A class of students
A crowd of people

Used for Animals:
Here are some examples of common collective nouns used for animals:
An army of ants
A flock of birds
A flock of sheep
A herd of deer
A hive of bees

Used for Things:
Here are some examples of common collective nouns used for things:
A bouquet of flowers
A bunch of flowers
A fleet of ships
A forest of trees
A galaxy of stars

5. One of or any of is followed by plural words.
Example: a. I want one of the books kept on the table.
b. Any of these tools may serve the purpose.

6. Plural nouns are used with fractions and decimal over 1.
Example: It took us one and half hours.

Errors in Use of Pronouns: –
Words used to replace nouns or noun groups are Pronouns.

Nominative/Vocative case (Comes before verb) Accurative/Objective case (Comes after verb) Possessive case Reflexive Pronoun
I Me My Myself
We Us Our Ourselves
He Him His Himself
She Her Her Herself
They Them Their Themselves
Who Whom Whose

Rules: –

  • The pronoun ‘One’ must be followed by ‘one’s’.
    Example: one must do one’s duty to one’s country.
  • When ‘one’ means ‘one in number’, the pronoun for it is third person singular pronoun (he, she it).
    Example: One of them has given up his studies.
  • ‘Everyone’ or ‘Everybody’ must be followed by ‘his’.
    Example: Everyone should love his country.
  • Each, every, anyone, anybody must be followed by the singular pronoun of their person.
    Example: Anyone can do this if he tries.
  • ‘Let’ is followed by pronoun in the objective case.
    Example: Let him go.
  • But and Except are followed by pronoun in the objective case.
    Example: I have no liking for such a man as he.
  • Verbs like ‘enjoy’, ‘avail’, ‘pride’, ‘resign’, ‘apply’, ‘acquit’, ‘assert’, ‘absent’ are followed by reflexive pronouns.
    Example: She resigned herself to fate.
  • Reflexive pronouns are never used with verbs ‘keep’, ‘conceal’, ‘qualify’, ‘spread’, ‘rest’, ‘stay’.
    Example: He kept away from the show.
  • When first, second and third person singular pronouns (I, You and He) are used together, they are placed in the order: You, he and I.
    Example: You, he and I are neighbours.
    In case of plural pronouns, ‘we’ comes first, then ‘you’ and then ‘they’.
    Example: We, you and they must work together.
    But if we have only two persons including first, then first person pronoun is written first.
    Example: I and Jacob have done this job.
  • ‘Who’ denotes subject and ‘whom’ denotes object.
    Example: Who do you think did the job?
  • ‘Whose’ is used for persons and ‘which’ for lifeless objects.
    Example: This is the table which I was talking about.
  • ‘Which’ conveys additional information and ‘that’ explains a certain thing.
    Example: I am talking about traffic management that forms a part of his duties.
  • The following expressions usually take ‘that’ in place of ‘who’ or ‘which’
    Only, any, It is, All, Superlatives.
    Example: She is the only woman that can do it.
  • ‘Each other is used for two; ‘one another’ for more than two.
    Example: They help one another.
  • The complement of the verb to be, when it is expressed by a pronoun, should be in Nominative case.
    Example: It was he, who did it.
  • When the same person is the subject and object, it is necessary to use reflexive pronouns.
    Example: I cut myself shaving this morning.
  • When a pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition it should be in objective case.
    Example: Between him and me there is an understanding.
  • The relative pronoun should be placed as near as possible to the antecedent.
    Example: Here is the book that you lent me.
  • The case of the pronoun following ‘than’ and ‘as’ is decided by mentally supplying the verb and completing the sentence.
    Example: I love more than (I love) him.

Errors in use of Prepositions: –
A word used with a noun or pronoun to show its relation to some other word in a sentence is known as a preposition.

Prepositions of Time:
1. At is used:
(a) With festivals
Example: He will come at Dussara.
(b) With a definite point of time
Example: He leaves his house every day at 8 a.m.

2. In is used:
(a) With the future tense referring to the period in which action may take place.
Example: You must be careful in future.
(b) With the parts of the day, (with noon, use at), months, seasons and years.
Example: She takes a walk in the evening.

3. With days and dates -‘On’ is used.
Example: His birthday is on the sixth of March.

4. ‘By’ refers to the latest time at which an action will be over.
Example: The examination will be over by 4 p.m.

5. ‘For’ is used with perfect continuous tense showing the duration of action.
Example: I have been here for five years.

6. ‘Since’ is used with the point of time when action begins and continues.
Example: She has been ill since last Thursday.

7. ‘From’ refers to the starting point of action.
Example: He came from Australia.

Prepositions of Position:

S.No. Use Example
1 ‘At’ refers to an exact point She is waiting at the door
2 ‘In’ refers to larger areas She lives in Delhi.
3 ‘Between’ is used for two persons or two things Share these sweets between him and me.
4 ‘Amongst’ is used with more than two persons or things but before the word which starts with a vowel letter. Divide the sweets amongst us.
5 ‘Among’ is used with more than two persons or things but before the word which starts with a consonant letter. Divide the sweets among the three girls.
6 ‘Above’ is used for ‘higher than’ We are flying above the clouds.
7 ‘Under’ is used for ‘vertically above’ It is shady under the trees.
8 ‘Below’ is used for ‘lower than’ Your work is below average.
9 ‘Over’ is used for ‘vertically above’ The bathroom is over the kitchen.
10 ‘Beneath’ means a lower position The ground was slippery beneath her.

Prepositions of Direction:

S.No. Use Example
1 ‘To’ is used to express motion from one place to another. We walked to the river and back.
2 ‘Towards’ refers to direction She saw me running towards her.
3 ‘Into’ denotes motion towards the inside of something. He fell into a ditch.
4 ‘At’ refers to aim. She aimed at the bird.
5 ‘For’ denotes direction The Minister left for the U.K.
6 ‘Against’ shows pressure She leaned against a tree.
7 ‘Off’ refers to separation She was wiping sweat off her face.
8 ‘From’ refers to the point of departure We scrambled from our trucks and ran after them.

Errors in use of Conjunction: –

S.No. Use Example
1 When ‘Scarcely’ or ‘hardly’ is followed by ‘when’. Hardly had I slept when the telephone rang.
2 When ‘Though’ is followed by ‘yet’. Though he worked hard yet he failed.
3 When ‘No sooner’ is followed by ‘but also’. No sooner did we reach there than it began to rain.
4 ‘Not only’ is followed by but also. Not only did he help her, but also dropped her home safely.
5 1. ‘Lest’ negative and so should not be followed by ‘not’; it is followed by ‘should’.
2. If ‘would or may is used in place of ‘should’, then ‘else’ should be used in place of ‘lest’.
1. Work hard lest you should fail.
2. Leave on time, else you would miss the train.
6 ‘Both is complemented by ‘and’, not by ‘as well as’. Both Tom and Jack are good at Science.
7 ‘So…. as’ is used in negative sentences, whereas ‘as….as’ is used in affirmative sentences. She is not so tall as her sister.
8 ‘Other’ is followed by ‘than’. She has no other claim than her wealth.
9 the word ‘reason’ is not followed by ‘because’, but by that. The reason why he didn’t go was that his father was ill.
10 ‘Because’ denotes reason. ‘In order that’ denotes purpose. He went to Mumbai in order that he might see Mr. Roy.
11 Words such as regard, describe, define, treat, mention, depict, portray are followed by ‘as’. She was treated as a slave.
12 ‘As’ and ‘since’ are also used to express reason. As she was not there, I spoke to her brother.
13 ‘Neither is followed by ‘nor’ and both are followed by same auxiliary verb. Neither did I read nor did I write.
14 ‘Either’ is followed by ‘or’. Either you are or he is to blame.
15 ‘unless, until, if not, so that’ should not be followed by ‘not’. Wait her until I come.
16 ‘If’ is used in conditional sense; ‘whether’ is used in uncertainty. I don’t know whether she was present.
17 To express ‘time before’ use until or till and to express ‘how long’ use ‘as long as’. Work as long as you live.
18 ‘Such’ is followed by ‘as’. ‘Such’ is followed by ‘that’ if we emphasize degree of something by mentioning the result. The extent of the disaster was such that not a single man could survive.
19 ‘Like’ is followed by pronoun; ‘as’ is followed by a clause. She runs like me.

Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement: –

S.No. Use Example
1 Singular subect must have singular verb She writes
2 Plural subject must have plural verb We write
3 Two subjects joined by ‘and’ will always take a plural verb. The doctor and nurses work together.
4 Two singular subjects joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ will take a singular verb. A doctor or a nurse is working in the hospital.
5 A singular subject and a plural subject joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ will take a singular or plural verb depending on which subject is nearer the verb. Neither Jack nor his friends are joining the tour
6 If the subject is singular and the predicate is plural, the verb must agree with its subject and not its predicate. Physical conditioning and mental attitude are winning combination.
7 Indefinite pronouns such as someone, somebody, each, nobody, anyone, etc. always take a singular verb. Each of my friends calls me once a month.
8 Indefinite pronouns which indicate more than one (several, few, both, many) always take plural verbs. Both of the books require careful reading.
9 Collective nouns (fleet, army, committee, crowd) are singular when the group works together as a unit and hence take singular verbs. The team runs in a smooth way.
10 Collective nouns are plural when the members of the group are acting individually and hence take plural verbs. The team are putting on their uniforms.
11 Some words such as news, measles, mumps etc. end in ‘s’ but represent a single thing. these words need singular verbs. The 8’o clock news is about to begin.
12 Some words like scissors, trousers, spectacles, shorts etc. end in ‘s’ and seem to represent a single thing, but they are two parts to that single thing. these words take plural verbs. The Scissors are on the table.
13 Words such as politics, ethics, athletics etc, end in ‘ics’ are usually singular and hence take singular verbs. Science is her favourite subject.
14 Title of the books need singular verbs Great Expectations is a good book.
15 Some nouns in the plural from represent an amount, a fraction, or an element of time. These nouns are considered singular and hence take singular verbs. Sixty minutes is enough to finish this work.
16 If two subjects are joined together by ‘as well as’ the verb will act according to the first subject. I as well as he am going out of station for a week.
17 The subject ‘many a …’ is always followed by the singular verb. Many a man was drowned in the sea.
18 If two subjects are joined together by ‘with the verb will act according to the subject. The students together with the principal were seeing the final match.
19 If the subject is ‘the number of…’ use a singular verb The number of girls in this team is ten.
20 If two subjects express one idea, use a singular verb. Bread and butter is wholesome food.
21 If the subject begins with ‘A number of..’ (=many), use a plural verb. A number of books are missing.
22 When adjectives such as ‘much, less, little’ and ‘more’ are used as nouns, they must have a singular verb. Less than a million of rupees is required.

Errors in the use of Tenses: –
The changed forms of a verb that indicte time of the action are known as tenses of the verb.
Rules:

  • When the verb in the Principal Clause is in the Past tense, the verbs of the Subordinate Clauses should be in the Past tense.
    Example: She said that She had finished her work.
  • But a paste tense in the Principal Clause may or may not be followed by the past tense in the sub-ordinate clause if the latter expresses universal or habitual truth.
    Example: My sister told me that smoking is injurious to health.
  • Any tense may be used in the sub-ordinate clause if it gives a comparison by using the word ‘than’.
    Example: The teacher liked Jack better than he liked me.
  • Any tense can be used when the sub-ordinate clause is in a quotation.
    Example: I finished my letter last night.
  • The present perfect tense (subject + has/have + \(V_{3}\)) cannot be used when an expression of past time (yesterday, last night, ago etc.) is used
    Example: If he had worked hard, he would have passed.

Errors in use of Adjectives: –
Adjectives are the words qualifying a noun or pronoun.

  • The adjectives ending in ‘ior’ like prior, junior, senior etc. take ‘to’ and not ‘than’ after them.
    Example: This pen is superior to that pen.
  • Some adjectives like unique, ideal, perfect, extreme, complete, universal etc.
    Example: It is the most unique book. (X)
    It is a unique book. (√)
  • Comparative degree is used in comparing two things or persons.
    Example: It is better of the two books.
    Superlative degree is used in comparing more than two things or persons.
    Example: He is the best of the three boys.
  • Double comparatives and double superlatives must not be used.
    Example: He is wiser than his brother.
  • when two changes happen together, comparative degree is used in both.
    Example: The higher you go, the cooler you feel.

Confused Adjectives:
1. Beautiful is used for woman ; handsome for man.
Example: She is a beautiful girl.
2. Each is used for one of two or more things; every is used for more than two things, taken as a group.
Example: He read every book I gave him.
3. Little means ‘not much’. A little means ‘at least some’.
Example: He slept a little.
4. Farther means ‘more distant’. Further means ‘additional’.
Example: Bombay is farther than Delhi.
5. Less refers to quantity, fewer denotes number.
Example: They have fewer books than I have.

Errors in use of Adverbs: –
Words that add information about the verb are known as Adverbs.

  • Adverbs of manner, place and time are usually placed after the verb or object.
    Example: I met him yesterday
  • Adverbs of frequency like never, often, usually, always, rarely, etc. and other adverbs like already, almost, just, quite, nearly, hardly are normally put between subject and verb.
    If there is more than one word in the verb, they are put after first word.
    Example: I quite agree with you.
    But if verb is ‘am’, ‘is’ and ‘are’, adverb is placed after the verb.
    Example: I am never late for school.
  • The adverb ‘enough’ is placed after the adjective.
    Example: He is cunning enough to tackle him.
  • ‘Ever’ is sometimes incorrectly used for ‘never’.
    Example: He seldom or never tells a lie.
  • Adverb ‘not’ shouldn’t be used with words having negative meaning.
    Example: The teacher forbade me to go.
  • The word ‘only’ should be placed immediately before the word it modifies.
    Example: Jack answered only two questions.
  • An adverb should not be used before an infinitive.
    Example: She did the job quickly.
  • The auxiliaries ‘have to’ and ‘used to’ come after the adverb.
    Example: She often used to go to cinema.

shape Model Questions

1. Find out which part of the sentence has an error. If there is no mistake, there is ‘No error’. (Stenographer’s Exam, 1995)
The road / to famous monument / passes through a forest.
(a) The road
(b) to famous monument
(c) passes through a forest
(d) No error
Solution: Add ‘the’ before ‘famous’.
Since, ‘the’ is used before particular objects.
Hence, part (b) has an error.

2. Find out which part of the sentence has an error. If there is no mistake, there is ‘No error’. (C.D.S. 1993)
Now that she is living in her own flat / she cleans the windows / twice a week in the summer and once a week in the winter.
(a) Now that she is living in her own flat
(b) she cleans the windows
(c) twice a week in the summer and once a week in the winter
(d) No error
Solution: Remove ‘the’ before ‘winter’ and ‘summer’.
Hence, part (c) has an error.

3. Find out which part of the sentence has an error. If there is no mistake, there is ‘No error’. (Stenographers’ Exam, 1994)
The customer handed over / a hundred-rupees note / to the shopkeeper.
(a) The customer handed over
(b) a hundred-rupees note
(c) to the shopkeeper
(d) No error
Solution: Replace ‘Rupees’ by ‘rupee’.
Hence, part (b) has an error.

4. Find out which part of the sentence has an error. If there is no mistake, there is ‘No error’. (I.E.S. 1994)
There is no question / of my failing / in the examination
(a)There is no question
(b) of my failing
(c) in the examination
(d) No error
Solution: Replace ‘my’ by ‘me’
Hence, part (b) has an error.

5. Find out which part of the sentence has an error. The error may be idiomatic or grammatical. If there is no mistake, there is ‘No error’. (S.S.C. 1994)
My brother / has ordered / for a new book.
(a) My brother
(b) has ordered
(c) for a new book
(d) No error
Solution: Remove ‘for’ in the part (c).
Hence part (c) has an error.