Common Grammar Mistakes Kids Make and How to Fix Them

Mom helping daughter with homework
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As kids grow and learn they make mistakes along the way, particularly when it comes to grammar. While you may see a number of grammar errors in your child’s writing as he gets older, some of the more common mistakes kids make are in verbal language.

Knowing those , why kids make them and how to fix them can save you some editing once your child starts writing.

Grammar Mistake: Logical missteps.

What it sounds like:

“I goed to the store with Daddy so we could buy traps to catch the mouses.”

Why it happens:  

Overgeneralizing word rules is a very common grammar mistake, especially in toddlers and preschoolers.

English is hard language with a number of exceptions to common rules. Just when kids learn to add an “s” to make a word plural or to add “ed” to make the past tense of a verb, they have to start learning the many exceptions to the rules.  

How to fix it:  

You can tackle two learning opportunities in one when dealing with logical missteps--active listening and gentle grammar correction. When your child uses a sentence with a logical misstep, there are two ways to handle it.

You can reflect back what your child said using the correct grammar (“Oh, you went to the store with Daddy to buy traps to catch the mice?”) or you can explain the rule and the exception. (“You know what’s strange? It seems like it would make sense to say ‘goed,’ but the word for that is ‘went.’”)

Grammar Mistake: Confusing “than” and “then.”

What it sounds like:

“I’d rather have cookies then cake.”

Why it happens:

One big reason kids make this grammar mistake is because they’re not hearing the words correctly. There’s a slight difference in pronunciation anyway and certain regional dialects make the difference nearly undetectable, which can make it hard to hear which word is being used. Older kids tend to make this mistake because, like adults, they overthink the usage of the word.

How to fix it:

Define when your child should use .  Start by asking your child to figure out whether he’s talking about time or comparing two things. Then is used to express time and than is for comparison.  

Once your child has a sense of context, you can teach him to associate “then” with the rhyming word “when,” as they both refer to time. On the other hand, “than” can be associated with the word “compare” because they both have the letter “a” in them.

If that doesn’t work, teach your child to replace the word with “next” for “then”  or “in comparison to” for “than.”  For example:

"I ate cookies, then I ate cake,"  can also be said as "I ate cookies, next I ate cake"

        and

"I'd rather eat cookies than cake," can also be said as  "I'd rather eat cookies in comparison to cake."

Grammar Mistake: Changing tense in the middle of a paragraph.

What it sounds like:

“Dad said we should go to the store to buy traps for the mice. Then he says we have to wait until you get home.”

Why it happens:

This grammar mistake is actually more common in writing than it is verbally, although it happens in both cases. Many times kids simply don’t keep track of what tense they began with when telling a story and switch partway through.

How to fix it: When your child is finished speaking or writing, repeat back the sentence or sentences that didn’t sound quite right. Ask him to listen to see if he can catch how it doesn’t sound right. If he’s unable to hear it, reframe the sentence with the correct tense and .

Grammar Mistake: Knowing when to use “I” and when to use “me.”

What it sounds like:

“Dad and me went to the store to buy traps for the mice.”

Why it happens:

Parents spend a lot time prompting children to use the personal pronoun “I” when the word “me” is used in a singular sentence. Often children will overgeneralize this correction and think it means anytime they are referring to themselves they must use the word “I.”  

How to fix it:  

Teach your child to take the other person out of the sentence to check whether it sounds correct without him.

For example, “Me went to the store to buy traps for mice,” doesn’t sound right, so your child will know to use “I” when he adds Dad back in. It works the opposite way, too.

Take, for example, the sentence, “Please can you drop Dad and I at the store?”  If your child takes Dad out of the sentence--“Please can you drop I at the store?”-- it doesn’t sound right, either. Once your child practices doing this a few times, he's more likely to do it in his head before saying the sentence out loud.