Why does grammar matter? The simplest answer to this question is that proper grammar allows us to communicate effectively with others. It clarifies misunderstandings and sounds both sophisticated and correct. Grammar essentially is defined as the set of rules that makes up a language, which makes it the most important component for verbal communication. Naturally, certain deviations occur and evolve and perhaps are added to our existing knowledge such as the common use of the term “y’all.” However, other deviations are unacceptable because they create confusion among the user and receiver. Here are various examples of incorrect grammar to help explain this idea in more detail.
I need to lay down.
What the user thinks they said: I need to lie down (to rest).
What the user actually said: I need to lay (something) down.
What we see at play here is the common interchanging of the word “lay” for “lie." It is confusing because the receiver has two ways to interpret the phrase: either the user is trying to say that they need to rest or the user is going to put something down and has left out a word (i.e. I need to lay down this paper).
I don’t want no spaghetti.
What the user thinks they said: I don’t want any spaghetti.
What the user actually said: I want some spaghetti.
This common misconception is called a double negative and it should never be used because the two negatives cancel each other out, thus, completely changing the meaning of the user’s words.
I am so glad to have been apart of the family dinner.
What the user thinks they said: I am so glad to have taken part in the family dinner.
What the user actually said: I’m so glad I was not at the family dinner.
“Apart" vs. "a part" seems to be a growing misunderstanding in modern communication. “Apart" means to be separate from something or someone. "A part” means to be a component of something. Therefore, it is always important to double check which one it is that you want to use so as not to offend anyone.
Let’s eat Grandma.
What the user thinks they said: (addressing Grandma) Let’s eat.
What the user actually said: Let’s eat our grandmother.
Ah the comma - a most underrated yet absolutely necessary part of the rules of grammar. One can presume that the user here is addressing Grandma rather than offering her up as a tasty meal. But why leave that option open? Save a life and just add the comma that informs Grandma that you are including her… not eating her.
Pick up you’re trash.
What the user thinks they said: Pick up your trash off the floor.
What the user actually said: Pick yourself up because you are like trash / Get your act together.
“You’re" and “your" cause problems when they are misinterpreted. “Your" shows possession while “you’re" is a contraction that means you are. The difference between your trash and you are trash is non-negotiable.
What the user thinks they said: The Smiths (as in the family’s last name)
What the user actually said: The Smith’s (unknown possession)
Imagine receiving a letter signed "The Smith’s." Not only does it read and sound incorrect. It is also confusing. Do the Smith’s not know grammar or did they leave off a word such as The Smith’s Cat? That is a question that we will never be able to answer.
These examples are by no means all of the misuses of grammar. Yet, they demonstrate a wide variety of the different miscommunications that we perceive from incorrect usage of grammar. As you can see, grammatical errors range from minor infringements to lethal accusations. So, overall it is better to be safe than sorry and follow grammar rules in everyday writing and speaking.