Tag Archives: verbs

Avoiding Verb Problems

Verbs are action words (like goworkhelp, and run). Most of the time verbs are easy to use correctly. You should be aware, though, of common verb problems that can mar your professional image.

Here are a few errors to watch for:

  • Using seen without a helper:
    Carruthers seen him with his sister several times. WRONG
    Carruthers had seen him with his sister several times. CORRECT  (“had” is a helper”)
    Carruthers saw him with his sister several times. CORRECT (when you’re not using a helper, “saw” is the correct word)
  • Omitting the “d” ending with supposed to and used to:
    Wilson use to fix cars before his arrest. WRONG
    Wilson used to fix cars before his arrest. CORRECT
    We’re suppose to attend a training session next Tuesday.  WRONG
    We’re supposed to attend a training session next Tuesday. CORRECT
  • Using snuck (considered slang) instead of sneaked:
    Roberts snuck into the closet outside the major’s office and stole a box of pens. WRONG
    Roberts sneaked into the closet outside the major’s office and stole a box of pens. CORRECT
  • Placing the apostrophe in the wrong place in contractions. Remember that the apostrophe takes the place of a missing letter: Do not becomes don’t; is not becomes isn’t; was not becomes wasn’t; and so on.
    Farris was’nt on duty yesterday. WRONG
    Farris wasn’t on duty yesterday. CORRECT
    I’am thinking about getting a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. WRONG
    I’m thinking about getting a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. CORRECT
If you’re writing on a laptop, a PC, or a Mac, the spellchecker or grammar checker may warn you that you’ve made an error. ALWAYS check your reports before you submit them, and–if possible–ask a friend or co-worker to read your reports as well. It’s much better to catch and correct errors before your report is seen by a supervisor, newspaper reporter, or attorney.

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Getting Verbs Right: Of or Have?

I’ve often said that it’s the small, everyday words that get writers into trouble. Of is a good example, especially when you’re thinking about verbs.

When you’re speaking, “could’ve” and “could of” sound the same. To an educated reader, however, they look very different: Could’ve shows you’re a professional who’s careful with verbs, while could of marks you as a careless writer.

Mattson could’ve left through the bedroom window. CORRECT

Mattson could of left through the bedroom window.  WRONG

It’s a good idea to write out “have” in instead of abbreviating it. That practice will help you avoid the embarrassment of using of incorrectly.

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