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Free Grammar HelpWordsMisused Words U-Z

A-C D-E F-H I-L M-O P-R S-T U-Z

Below is a list of words that are commonly misspelled or otherwise abused. Some of them appear on other grammar pages on this site. Use the Question form to submit more.

Word

Common Mistake

"use to" or "used to"

When talking about something that happened in the past, use "used to", as in "I used to go to school," or "I used to live in Chicago."

was or were?

This is a common question when we have a singular concept used with a plural adjectival clause in the subject. Huh? OK, let's see an example from a reader's question.

A large portion of his works were sold. OR

A large portion of his works was sold.

Since the phrase "of his works" is an adjectival phrase describing which portion, it does not have to agree with the main verb. The subject of the sentence is "portion". "Portion" is a singular quantity. Therefore the verb must be in the singular form.

A portion was sold. (Portion of what? Of his works.)

Who or Whom?

Who — used as the subject of a sentence

Example: Who threw the ball?

Whom — used as the object of a sentence

Example: To whom was the ball thrown?

Use 'who' when it's the subject of a clause when even though the clause is the object of the sentence. Look for the verb. Is the who/whom doing the action? Then use "who."

I spoke to the principal, who is also the gym teacher.

Is the who/whom the object of the action? (i.e. someone else is doing the action.) Then use "whom."

I spoke to the principal, whom I admire.

See a whole page on Who and Whom.

Try it! Fill in "who" or "whom" in the following sentences.

Try it! Enter "who" or "whom" in the blank.

I don't know will be elected President.

I will vote for the one I trust.

To did you give your vote?

It's not a question of I will vote for; it's a question of gets the most votes.

Would of vs.
Would have

"have" is an auxiliary verb used to form a variety of verb tenses. When we speak, we abbreviate "would have" to "would've". No reasonably literate person would have written "would of."