Common Grammatical Errors

Don’t fret if you have used a few of these phrases incorrectly. Just read on and learn, grasshoppers.

Comprise vs. Compose
The word “comprise” means to include or contain, or to consist of. A proper use of the term would be as follows:
• The United States comprises 50 states.
• The committee comprises 10 members.

Think of the bigger whole comprising the smaller parts. Never use the term, “is comprised of.”

For smaller parts that make up the larger whole, use “compose.”
• The neighborhood was composed of two old buildings, a railway station, and my house.
• An orange and a banana composed the model’s lunch.

Your vs. You’re
The term “your” indicates a possessive. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are.” Do not confuse the two.
• Your book is under the bed.
• She said you’re the one who pranked her.

Should Of vs. Should Have
Never use the phrase “should of.” The proper phrasing is “should have.”
We can use the phrase “should have” to indicate past events that did not happen, or to speculate about events that may or may not have happened.
• I should have stashed a spare key under my car.
• She should have reached the train station by now.

Older Than I vs. Older Than Me
The correct phrasing is “older than I.” You say, “She is older than I am,” NOT “She is older than me am.”

Between You and Me vs. Between You and I
The correct phrasing is “between you and me.” The word “between” is a preposition, making “you and me” the objects of the preposition. You would therefore use the objective form of the pronoun, “me.”

That vs. Which
Use “that” with restrictive clauses and “which” with nonrestrictive clauses. A restrictive clause limits, or restricts, the meaning of the subject. For example, read the following sentence:

• The ring that she wore had belonged to her grandmother.

The phrase “that she wore” restricts the meaning of the sentence. Without those words, you would not know which ring had belonged to the grandmother.

A nonrestrictive clause provides additional information about a subject that is not necessary to understand the meaning of the sentence.

• A rug, which was handmade, covered the hole in the floor.

If you left out “which was handmade,” it would not affect the meaning of the sentence. Also note that a nonrestrictive clause is usually bracketed by commas.

Who vs. That
“Who” refers to people. “That” refers to things.

• Sally is the one who wrote the poem you read yesterday.
• The car in the driveway is the one that I crashed last week.

So, there you have it. Just study these rules and you will already be on your way to becoming a better writer. And all editors will love you for that. You may now leave the temple.