Another 10 Common English Errors

This is a list of 10 more common English errors. This list follows our previous popular list of Top 10 Common English Errors. Hopefully a few of these will help to fix one or two mistakes that we all make from time to time.

10 Who / Whom

This particular error has become so common that it is beginning to look like the word “whom” may vanish entirely from the English language. The reason for this is that so many people have no idea what the difference is. The difference is a simple one: who “does” the action, and whom has the action “done” to them. We use this difference in other words – “I” and “me” for example. “who” is the equivalent of “I”, and “whom” is the equivalent of “me”. The technical term for this difference is noun case – “who” is the nominative case, and “whom” is the accusative. Here is an example of correct usage:

Who is going to kill Bob? (I am going to kill Bob)Bob is going to be killed by whom? (Bob is going to be killed by me)

The Elements of Style,... William Strunk Jr., E.... Best Price: $1.42 Buy New $3.00 (as of 05:15 EDT - Details) English does not use cases as much as it used to. Many other language do use cases frequently, such as German, Latin, Greek, etc.

9 Irony

On the previous list of errors I included Irony as a bonus – it deserves its own place and a fully description so here it is. There are four types of irony (none of which resemble remotely anything in Alanis Morissette’s song:

I. Verbal irony

This is when the speaker says one thing but means another (often contrary) thing. The most well known type of verbal irony is sarcasm. For example: “He is as funny as cancer”.

II. Tragic irony The Only Grammar Book ... Susan Thurman, Larry Shea Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $5.75 (as of 03:45 EDT - Details)

Tragic irony occurs only in fiction. It is when the words or actions of a character contradict the real situation with the full knowledge of the spectators. For example: In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo mistakenly believes that Juliet has killed herself, so he poisons himself. Juliet awakens to find Romeo dead so she kills herself with his knife.

III. Dramatic Irony

In drama, this type of irony is when the spectator is given a piece of information that one or more of the characters are unaware of. For example: in Pygmalion, we know that Eliza is a prostitute, but the Higgins family don’t.

IV. Situational Irony

1100 Words You Need to... Murray Bromberg, Melvi... Best Price: $2.96 Buy New $12.35 (as of 03:35 EDT - Details) Situational irony is when there is a difference between the expected result and the actual result. Take for example this account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Regan: “As aides rushed to push Reagan into his car, the bullet ricocheted off the [bullet-proof] car, then hit the President in the chest, grazed a rib and lodged in his lung, just inches from his heart.” The bullet proof car – intended to protect the president, nearly caused his death by deflecting the bullet.

You may want to check out our list of 10 images of irony.

8 Effect / Affect

These two words are commonly confused – probably due in part to the fact that both words have more than one meaning. I will explain clearly the main difference and just briefly mention the other (rare) meanings:

Affect (a-FECT): this is usually a verb (doing word) and the form most commonly confused with “effect”. It means “to influence” or “to cause a change”. For example: John’s protest affected great change in the farming industry (John’s protest caused change to happen).

Effect (e-FECT): this is usually a noun (thing) and it refers to the “end result” or the impact something has on someone or something. For example, “the cocaine had a numbing effect”, or “her smile had a strange effect on me”. Eats, Shoots & Leave... Lynne Truss Best Price: $1.02 Buy New $6.54 (as of 05:00 EDT - Details)

For those who are curious, affect (AFF-ect) means “emotion” but this meaning is used almost exclusively by psychiatrists. And just to further confuse the whole thing, “effect” can also mean “to create” – which is probably the reason that many people confuse it with affect (a-FECT). For example: “I am trying to effect a new council in the city”.

But wait, there’s more: something can “take effect“, but it cannot “take affect“.

Confused? No wonder. Here is a simple way to remember the basic rule:

If it’s something you’re going to do, use “affect.” If it’s something you’ve already done, use “effect.”

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