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The Trickiest English Grammar Traps ESL Writers Should Avoid



Imagine any Queen of the United Kingdom. Every gesture is precise and full of grace. Nothing is too much, but everything is in its place. English grammar took after the ruling monarchs, and if you didn’t do the same by the right of birth, it is time to use your right for some online education. Make use of this list containing the trickiest English grammar traps, and you will easily avoid them further when doing your writing chores. To make it even more practical we have made several mistakes in this article which you can spot if you read these rules carefully. Can you find all of them?

“Make” vs. “Do” : What to Do not to Make Mistakes?

You often get stuck with this one, right? We did the same, till the grammar fairy had mercy and blessed us with the absolutely perfect idea:


DO is a VERB related to WORK


“Do” is used when you have to apply time, efforts and willpower to some task, while you would spend better time making yourself comfortable in front of a TV. “Make” can also be related to work, but in such cases, it mostly describes abstract actions, not something you need to roll your sleeves for. Compare:


do the laundry

do housework

do the dishes

do your work


make a fortune

make friends

make a decision

make money


Of course, this grammar rule has exceptions, but when you are in a hot spot choosing between “make” and “do,” in 80% of cases this rule will be enough to make a grammatically correct decision.  

Wordy = Nerdy: Stop Describing What Shouldn’t be Described

Some languages are descriptive, but English is strictly concise. If your mother tongue is descriptive, you most probably have problems with the number of words in your sentences. You try to make your text sound profoundly unique and expressive, but instead, it seems artificial and intricate. There are lots of useful tips on writing briefly and concise, but here are two major ones:


1. Don’t mention the “described” if the “description” makes it obvious:


Incorrect: The weather is cloudy and rainy today.

Correct: It is cloudy and rainy today.


Incorrect: The lawn’s shape is round.

Correct: The lawn is round.


2. Decrease redundant vocabulary and increase amount of transitional words and phrases:


less of: actually, basically, really, truly, etc.

more of: however, nevertheless, as shown, etc.

Bow to the Absolutism of the Absolute Modifier

Some words are strong enough and don’t require you emphasizing them. Such words are: straight, absolute, opposite, overwhelmed, or irrevocable, opposite, right, unique, finite,  dead,  immortal, entirely, perfect, eternal, fatal,  mortal, final, identical, infinite.


Something cannot be “very perfect,” “more mortal,” “enough opposite,” “almost entirely,”

“less unique,” etc.


Incorrect: Charles's idea was more unique than mine.

Correct: Charles’s idea was more prominent (distinctive) than mine.


Remember that absolute power doesn’t stand rivalry, so don’t make one absolute modifier explain another one. Mostly it is not a mistake, but rather an example of a poor writing style.


Incorrect: We had the entirely perfect vacation.

Correct: We had the perfect vacation or We had the entirely pleasing vacation.

Make a Historic Move: Write Historical Papers Historically Correct

While getting truly involved in crafting papers on History, writer’s ability to distinguish some of the related definitions is challenged. Before anything, you should learn how not to do mistakes with words derived from the “history” itself:


“Historical” can describe anything related to history, anything that happened in the past.

“Historic” describes a person or an event meaningful enough to be mentioned after hundreds or even thousands of years. A historic person is not only related to history, it is significant in it.

“Historically” is an adverb derivative from both “historical” and “historic.”


E.g. Lots of historical “facts” related to the historic battle near Pitsburg further were found out to be historically incorrect.

Tame the Modifier: No More Dangling and Misplacing

Adjectives and adverbs are historical put before the modified word, while prepositional phrases generally follow it. The dangling modifier wriggles its way into the texts written both by ESL and ENL writers and serves as a red flag for any editor. When a prepositional or descriptive phrase doesn't follow the described noun immediately, it is said that "a modifier is dangling."


Incorrect: I forgot the purse in the hotel room which I bought for my sister.


What did I buy? A purse or a hotel room?


Still incorrect: I forgot the purse I bought for my sister in the hotel room.  


Do they sell purses in the hotel rooms?


Correct: In the hotel room, I forgot the purse I bought for my sister.


Even if the context is absolutely clear, the reader should understand without extra effort which modifier describes the particular noun or action.


Congratulations! Now you are 5 steps closer to perfection in English, and it’s time to reward yourself with some snack. By the way, we’ve done some mistakes in this article. How many mistakes can you spot?





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