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Grammar Tips

You and Me vs You and I

“The gift is from Tom and me” not “The gift is from Tom and I”.  To know whether it’s correct, just take out the name before “me” and you are left with “The gift is from me”. (Listen to BBC Breakfast when they say goodbye at the end of the show.) However, “Tom and I are going to the wedding” is correct - again, just take out the name before “I” - you would say “I am going to the wedding”, which is correct.  “Tom and me are going to the wedding” is definitely incorrect.  

Composed of vs Comprises

The words ‘comprises’ and ‘comprising’ should never be followed by the word ‘of’. Either: “water comprises hydrogen and oxygen” or: “water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen”. The following sentence is therefore wrong: “The company has expanded rapidly and now comprises of four strategic business units.” It should either be written as: “...and is now composed of four strategic...” or “...and now comprises four strategic...”.

Yours sincerely vs Yours faithfully

Use ‘Yours sincerely’ when the addressee is named ie, Dear Mr Jones. Use ‘Yours faithfully’ when the addressee’s name is unknown ie, when using Dear Sir or Dear Madam. (The ‘s’ of sincerely and ‘f’ of faithfully should always be in lower case.)

What are nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs etc?

A noun is an object, name or place eg, book, Sue, Leeds

An adjective is a describing word eg, good, exciting

A verb is a doing word eg, to sit, to read, he went

An adverb describes the verb eg, sit quietly, eat slowly

A preposition is eg, on, against, under, around

A pronoun is a substitute for a noun eg, I, we, they, it, you, them, him, us

A connective links phrases eg, and, so, by, but, because


If you would like to learn some easy rules for using apostrophes, click on The Elusive Apostrophe.

Frequently misspelt words

Accommodation           Correspondence    

Liaise/liaison                Embarrass/embarrassment

Manoeuvre                  Disseminate

Fulfil/fulfilment            Definitely

Dependent vs Dependant

Dependent - the outing is dependent on the weather

Dependant - someone who depends on someone else

Effect vs Affect

Will this have the desired effect?

How will this affect you?

(Take care: ‘to effect’ something means to bring about eg, to effect change)

Practice vs Practise

What time is the practice? (noun)

Are you going to practise? (verb)

How long have you been practising law? (Verb)

Licence vs License

Where’s my driving licence? (noun)

You will need to license this vehicle (verb)

Who is the licensing authority? (adjective)

Stationary vs Stationery

The car is stationary (tip - remember the two ‘a’s)

We’re running out of stationery

Complimentary vs Complementary

Complimentary is free/no charge

Complementary means enhancing, related

(A promotional email dated 10 June 2011 bore the title “Complementary copy of The **** magazine” and went on to describe “How to claim your FREE issue”. It should of course have been spelt “Complimentary”; such a mistake only served to embarrass the magazine.)

Compliment vs Complement

A compliment is when someone says something like, “your hair looks nice” or “you’re always so friendly”.  Don’t confuse this with complement which means “goes with” eg, “those shoes really complement that dress” or, “to complement your purchase of a new dinner set, you may wish to buy these coffee mugs”.

We can also say, “he was very complimentary about me” and “that’s a complementary colour”.