I’ve put together an idiot’s guide to grammar. It’s a guide that’ll stop people thinking you’re an idiot.
You’re and Your
In common with all grammar, it’s the difference between knowing you’re shit and knowing your shit.
You’re is a contraction of ‘You are’.
‘Your’ is something that belongs to you.
Because they sound the same people write the second when they mean the first. It’s an unforgivable mistake, and exposes a basic lack of literacy. People who mix these up simply never learned the difference. They are poorly educated, and that’s what their readers will realise.
Their, There and They’re
‘Their’ means something belongs to them.
‘There’ means not here, but in that location.
‘They’re’ – a contraction of ‘they are’ means those people are doing something.
They’re sure their car is over there.
Of and Have
This is another mistake that exposes a poor education. But also a spoken illiteracy. People simply will not want to read what you write, or hear what you say if you get this wrong. It’s as bad as mispronouncing ‘H’.
‘Could of’, ‘would of’, ‘should of’ are not English. They have no meaning. They sound a lot like the contractions for Could have, would have and should have: Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve. It’s an understandable mistake, but not one you should make if you want people to think you’re literate.
If you doubt how poor it sounds, imagine someone writing ‘They of’ instead of ‘They’ve’, or ‘I of’ instead of ‘I’ve’. It’s precisely the same.
It’s and Its
This is a more forgivable error, but even so not one you should be making. The rules aren’t as simple as the ones above, but they’re not difficult, either:
Usually, You’d use and apostrophe because you’ve missed some letters out:
‘Oliver’s a great writer!’ is a contraction of ‘Oliver is a great writer.’ You’ve lost the ‘i’ of ‘is’.
That’s when you use an apostrophe in ‘it’s’: when you’ve dropped letters. The ‘i’ of ‘is’, or the ‘ha’ of ‘has’, for instance.
But normally you’d also use an apostrophe when you mean something belongs to someone. ‘Oliver’s book’ means the book belonging to Oliver.
But when the ‘its’ you’re using means ‘something belonging to it’ you don’t use an apostrophe: ‘its wheels are turning’.
So, if you’re talking about a thing being inside the right box: ‘It’s in its box’
Lose and Loose
If you lose something, then you can’t find it. It’s lost.
But if something isn’t tight, then it’s loose.
You cannot loose something, other than an arrow when you fire it.
Alot, A lot and Allot
The bad news is there is no such word as alot. Many things are a lot of things. Two words. You can’t escape it, I’m afraid. You might allot time to something, when you set aside time for it.
You and I
This is forgivable. So many people get this wrong, even accomplished journalists. ‘You and I’ is not the same as ‘You and me.’
There’s an easy rule of thumb to help you get this right. Try and replace what you’re writing with ‘We’ or ‘Us’. If ‘Us’ works in the sentence, then you’re looking for ‘You and me’. If ‘We’ works, then use ‘You and I’.
Now with this guide you and I will always get our grammar right and people won’t be able to condemn you and me for getting it wrong.