It s vs its
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It’s vs. Its. It’s is a contraction of it is or it has. E.g. It’s cold outside although it’s high noon. Its is the possessive form of it. E.g. Do you know its owner? Please remove its cover. Its color is beautiful. Lie or Lay?.

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It s vs its
It’s vs. Its

  • It’s is a contraction of it is or it has.


    It’s cold outside although it’s high noon.

  • Its is the possessive form of it.


    Do you know its owner?

    Please remove its cover.

    Its color is beautiful.

Lie or lay
Lie or Lay?

  • Lie – a verb which means to recline. It doesn’t take a direct object.


    I will lie down in the evening.

    Let’s all lie on the carpet.

  • Lay – a verb which means to place or set down. It always takes a direct object: the thing that is placed or set down.


    Lay the newspaper on the table. 

    I have laid the flowers near the grave.

Like or such as
Like or Such as?

  • Like – used when we are talking of large, indefinite fields of similarity

    E.g. Movie like this one are very entertaining.

    In this example, like means “similar to”.

  • Such as – used when we are talking of specifically named persons, places, or things included in a small field

    E.g. Countries such as the United States and Japan are important to the world’s economy.

    In this example, the use of such as intends to specify those countries as examples, not just to put them into a broad category of countries that are important to the world’s economy.

Littler and littlest
Littler and Littlest

Although sometimes used, both these forms (littler, littlest) are regarded as juvenile, or perhaps dialectical.

When size is involved, the better forms are smaller and smallest; when quantity or importance is involved, the better forms are less (sometimes lesser) and least.

Majority is or majority are
Majority is or Majority are?

Many words that mean a group of things — number, total, and majority, for example — can be singular or plural. Sometimes they mean the group acting as a whole, sometimes the members of a group.

As with the other “two-faced” words, consider whether these are referring to the whole or the parts.

A little hint: The before the word (the number, the majority) is usually a clue that it's singular; while a (a total, a majority), especially when of comes after, usually indicates a plural.

E.g. The majority is unhappy over the decision. Still, a majority of the members are hoping for a reconsideration.

May or might
May or Might?

  • May expresses likelihood

    E.g. She may attend the court hearing.

  • Might expresses a stronger sense of doubt, or a contrary-to-the fact hypothetical

    E.g. She might have been able to attend the hearing if she hadn’t gone to the doctor.

Me myself or i
Me, Myself, or I?

  • Traditional grammar dictates that “the first person singular pronoun is I when it's a subject and me when it's an object.”

    E.g. The letter had to be signed by both Peter and me.

  • The -selfpronouns are called either reflexive or intensive, depending on how they are used in a sentence. In either case, myself should not be used unless there is an I previously in the same sentence.


    I saw the ghost myself.

    I consider myself lucky.

Me myself or i1
Me, Myself, or I?

Note: Don’t use -selfpronouns when a nominative objective pronoun is in order.


She gave the award to him and me. (Not myself.)

He and I (not myself) are going to hear mass.

  • If you separate each pronoun into its own sentence, it will be easier to determine which pronoun to use.

  • E.g.

    They gave the prize to her and _______.

    Separate it into: “They gave the prize to her.” and “They gave the prize to me.” The answer, thus, is me.

Mrs ms miss

  • Mrs. is used to refer to a married woman.

  • Ms. is widely used in business and public life to refer to or address a woman, particularly if her marital status is either unknown or irrelevant to the context.

  • Miss is used to refer to an unmarried woman.

    Note: Some women may indicate their preference, which should be honored. If a woman has a professional or academic title (e.g. Doctor, Captain, or Professor, for instance), use this instead of Mrs., Ms., or Miss.

Not only but also
Not only...but also

This can be a difficult correlative conjunction to work with because of the extra words and their placement in the sentence.

Just make sure that the parts that follow each set of words are formatted the same way; i.e., use two verbs that make chronological sense, two nouns, or two adjectives.


Good: He is not only a great speaker, but also a wonderful writer.

Bad: He is not only a great speaker, but also writes wonderful novels.

Note: Make the second example better by rewriting it with two verb clauses:

He not only speaks with ease, but also writes wonderful novels.

Number or amount
Number or Amount?

  • Number refers to things that can be counted as individuals. 

    E.g. A number of girlfriends, a number of cars, a number of problems

  • Amount refers to a mass quantity; i.e., things that cannot be counted as separate items.

    E.g. An amount of stress, an amount of debt, an amount of sympathy

Ok or okay
OK or Okay?

OK, Okay, or O.K. – colloquial English word denoting approval, agreement, or acknowledgment.

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends okay.

The Associated Press recommends OK.

Both of these are acceptable in informal writing; however, it’s best to avoid these in formal writing.

On or upon
On or Upon?

  • On and upon are interchangeable, but upon is overly formal for most communications.


    The results were based upon their findings. (Too formal!)

    The results were based on their findings. (Better!)

In or into
In or Into?

  • Into – a preposition that shows both the direction and the result of the movement.

  • In – may be used both with verbs that show movement and with verbs that do not show movement.

    For verbs showing movement, in and on may be used instead of into and onto , although into and onto are clearer. In this case, they show both directionand result.

    With verbs that do not show movement but show location, use:

    in  - within, or inside

    on - touching the surface of, or topside

In into

Study the following examples:


Mark jumped into/in the pool. (You may use both, but into shows both the direction and the result of the movement).

Mark says that the water in (not into) the pool is cold.

Miranda threw her coat on/onto the table. (You may use both, but onto shows both the direction and the result of the movement).

Miranda left her coat on (not onto) the table.

All right or alright
All right or Alright?

We have always been taught that “alright is not all right”.

However, the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style states:

  • “Alright” as one word “has never been accepted as standard”...but it then also goes on to explain that “all right” as two words and “alright” as one word have two distinct meanings.


    The numbers are all right. (Meaning: the figures are all accurate.)

    The numbers are alright. (Meaning: the figures are satisfactory.)

    Although alright is now very common, it is still considered by some as a misspelling of, or less acceptable than, all right.

Shall or will
Shall or Will?

  • In Britain: Shall is used to indicate the future if you are using 1st person (I or we); Will is used if you are using 2nd or 3rd person.


    I shall have tea with my cousin this afternoon. He will arrive at around noon.

  • Shall is also used to express intention or determination on the speaker (someone other than the subject of the verb).


    Tomorrow, you shall be my wife.

Shall or will1
Shall or Will?

  • In America, will has replaced shall in all except a few cases – in legal documents, in lofty prose, or in being polite or offering an invitation.


    This contract shall take effect on June 1, 2013.

    “We shall overcome...”

    “...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...”

    “Shall I take your coat, sir?”


In academic writing, quotations should be copied exactly as they appear in your reference, but you should also produce a paper that does not contain grammatical or mechanical errors. A way to ‘handle’ a source that contains an error is to rephrase the quotation in your own words (while crediting your reference for the idea). If the quotation will not be given justice if you rephrase it, however, and you decide to keep it despite the error, then use [sic] (an abbreviation of the Latin sicut, which means ‘thus’). This would indicate that the original source is responsible for the error.


“I’d rather die then [sic] marry you.”

Since vs for
Since vs. For

  • Since – indicates a point in time (since + starting point)


    I have lived in Winnipeg since I was 11.

  • For – indicates the length of a period of time (for + period of time)


    I have lived in Winnipeg for 10 years.

    I have been living there since a long time – Incorrect

    I have been living there for a long time – Correct

So that such that
So...that, Such...that

  • So [adverb/adjective] that

    So is paired with that to create emphasis. So (an adverb) intensifies or modifies an adjective or adverb in the cause-clause. That follows in the effect-clause with a remarkable or extraordinary comment. 

    (Note: very cannot be used in place of so.)

    E.g. The wedding was so moving that there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

So that such that1
So...that, Such...that

  • Such [adjective + noun] that

    Such is paired with that to create emphasis.  Such (an adjective) modifies the adjective + noun phrase in the cause-clause. The that-clause complements the such-phrase with an effect of extraordinary or remarkable nature. Such is one of the few adjectives that occurs before the article (determiner) of the noun.

    E.g. It was such a moving sight that we were all speechless.

Such so
Such, So

  • So + adjective or adverb

  • Such + noun (with or without adjective)

    So and such are used to add emphasis.


    It’s so warm today.

    It’s such a warm day.

    It’s such a pity.