- 01. Why Verbs Are One of the Most Common Mistakes in English
- 02. Irregular Pronouns
- 03. Vocabulary Errors in English Usage
- 04. Solving Pronunciation Problems for Non Native Speakers of English
- 05. Frustrating Spelling Type Errors in English Usage
- 06. Punctuation Pitfalls
- 07. The Matter of Correct Word Order
- 08. Expressing Importance
For most English language students, grammatical errors are the most typical stumbling block to achieving a good level of fluency. But the good news is that most ESOL students are making the same common mistakes in English, and therefore an article like this can certainly help to guide you if you are battling with some of the many irregularities found in English!
Some of the most common mistakes in English usage have to do with verb conjugation, pronouns, word order, and punctuation. But by pointing out these tricky aspects, you will not only find out how to avoid them but even pick up helpful tips on how to work around them too.
Why Verbs Are One of the Most Common Mistakes in English
Compared to most languages, English verbs are actually straightforward in their usage and conjugation. But of course, for non native speakers of English who are accustomed to not having their verbs change regardless of time or tense, the rules that dictate verbs in English are still able to confound them!
Here are some helpful tips to eliminate verb errors in English usage that will help you to grow in confidence when it comes to your English fluency:
The Seldom Use of Simple Tenses
When it comes to the past, present, and future tenses, these are generally used to indicate that something that happened, currently is happening, or will happen, is true.
- We are students
- This sentence demonstrates a declaration of a current state.
- We were students
- This sentence can be used to indicate that the group who are declaring this fact has already graduated!
- We will be students next year
- This sentence is appropriate for the group of people who will imminently be registered as students.
It may seem simplistic to use tenses correctly, however, there is a lot more to know when it comes to successfully navigating how to avoid common mistakes in English regarding tenses!
Grammatical errors in the use of progressive tenses
When it comes to one of the most common mistakes in English usage regarding tenses, that has got to be the progressive tense which can certainly challenge an English second language student:
Consider these examples as an illustration of this problem:
I am learn English, instead of, I am learning English.
I was go to school, instead of, I was going to school.
I will be study French, instead of, I will be studying French.
It’s always useful to download and study a list of verb tenses, which you could find here.
Grammatical errors and irregular verbs
Other common mistakes in English tend to be around the issue of irregular verbs. You could find helpful online resources on the topic of irregular verbs for people learning English as a second language, or find a private English tutor near you to give you in-depth explanations on this important issue at your own pace.
Typical grammatical errors in English can certainly occur around the topic of irregular pronouns. Here are some examples of sentences that you may have either heard on TV, or in conversation.
Neither girl brought their pen to class.
Neither means not one or another other, therefore, it should be obvious that using the plural pronoun “’ their” is incorrect.
Neither girl brought her pen to class, would be the correct use of the pronoun.
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Can you correct this example?
These examples that demonstrate the relationship between subject and pronoun, though quite common, are not simply not correct. This is why it is important that you include being immersed in a language in real life as part of your education, and remember that you will not only learn English from your English teacher.
Vocabulary Errors in English Usage
I am literally so annoyed I could explode!
The word literally is so often expressed as an extreme description of something.
That was literally the most gorgeous melody I've ever heard.
While trendy in its prolific use, using vocabulary incorrectly can not only result in grammatical errors but can even create misunderstandings!
While one might really love a particular melody in that way, it is not likely that anyone would literally explode from annoyance!
While it is important to immerse in a language, which can mean picking up typical colloquialisms, bear in mind that establishing correct English foundations should be your primary aim until you have mastered the language enough not to make grammatical errors that can cause misunderstanding.
Solving Pronunciation Problems for Non Native Speakers of English
Of course, one of the most common mistakes in English usage is concerning the many pronunciation problems for non native speakers of English. Fortunately, especially with the use of technology at our fingertips these days, this is easily solved through many methods.
For example, you could follow podcasts from the British council, whereby listening, you will greatly improve your spoken English.
This website, which is dedicated to English language learners just like you, will enable you to hear conversations between native speakers over ordinary, everyday topics like going shopping or ordering food in a restaurant. One of the advantages of a site like this that you can actually print out and read the transcripts while you follow the dialogue.
There’s no doubt that by doing so, will hone your listening-in-a-foreign-language skill, but also your writing and reading skills. What is more, podcasts like this would never engage in errors in English usage!
So apart from coming to grips with pronunciation problems for non native speakers of English, you could also become familiar with the English idiom, and of course its use.
Frustrating Spelling Type Errors in English Usage
Advice and Advise
English vocabulary has an annoying amount of word pairs that are the same except for that one letter!
Advice and Advise are a good example!
Practice and practise is another confounding one that follows the same rule. So how does one master this?
Well, in these instances, both advice and practice are indeed nouns that can also be used as adjectives:
I always follow the advice of my English teacher.
I think I am going to take some practice tests before the exam.
Contrast those with:
My English teachers have advised me to practise my writing and reading.
The first thing you will note is the difference in the spelling. Both words change from c to s when they change their function in the sentence. A good resource to consider to avoid spelling errors in English usage can be found here.
Although there is actually no dissimilarity in the manner in which these words sound regardless of whether they are spelled with an s or c when writing them, it is important to appreciate that even one letter can decide what kind of word it is!
If this sounds unnecessarily complex, do not worry because even first language English speakers can be truly challenged by the similar spelling between these verbs and nouns!
Farther and Further
Farther and further are also similar words, that without proper grammar use instruction can appear bewildering to both native English speakers and foreign language students alike!
Check out these potentially confusing examples:
We have to run one hundred meters farther to our new gym.
I want to further my French studies by taking a business French course.
In the first sentence example, there is a specific distance supplied; in the second example, a measurable quantity is not able to be given.
Still confused? So what does all this mean?
Well, the second word (further) suggests an immeasurable quantity, while the first one (farther) represents definite distance.
A slightly random note on farthings
If you are reading classic English literature as an aspect of your English education, you may have come upon the word farthing! Note that while this word has the same origin and root as the farther we have just discussed, they are completely unrelated!
Remember that you can also always refer to the Oxford English Dictionary for this and other vocabulary etymology and current usage as colloquial or urban slang!
Sadly, modern communication devices seem to encourage a lack or disregard for proper punctuation and a perfect example of this is evident with the use of your and you're, which is definitely one of the most common mistakes of English usage!
Your taking French classes.
Your, which is a possessive pronoun, has not been used correctly in this case. However, it would be correct to say:
Your taking French classes is going to improve your French.
Let’s really examine this sentence:
You're taking English classes!
Apostrophes always denote possession, but they also mark abbreviations or contractions – as is intended in the sentence above. It is really important to study and grasp how to use apostrophes as well as other punctuation in the correct way.
As you advance through your English courses with a private tutor in South Africa or anywhere for that matter, you are bound to develop a greater understanding of punctuation as well as its uses in both writing and reading.
Through this, you will also cultivate the ability to listen out for punctuation and to know how to use it when articulating yourself verbally. While the exclamation point or the question mark is easy to hear when verbalised, quotation marks for instance are not. Either way, the point is that by using punctuation in speech, you increase the comprehension of what is being said!
To that end, you might notice the quirky habit that some native English speakers have embraced to make quotation marks with their fingers as a way to illustrate this.
The Matter of Correct Word Order
In English, positioning words to arrange sentences follows this general rule:
Subject +verb+ object, except when phrasing questions, however, don’t forget there are many exceptions in the English language, which is why a private English tutor can be really handy!
On the matter of how to adjectives in the correct order, it’s important to emphasise that this is an area of English grammar that should be practiced often, especially until you can use serial adjectives like an English speaking person.
On the matter of the order of importance, you might find, during the course of your English reading, a sentence that is similar to this:
I love my parents, James Bond and the Queen of England.
The problem with this sentence is that it lacks a comma after Bond, leaving the reader to ponder whether that person's parents are indeed such illustrious beings.
In fact, the issue of the comma in Oxford English circles is currently a topic of debate. Some would argue that the sentence should be constructed like this:
I love the Queen of England, James Bond, and my parents.
By changing the word order here, it does eliminate the need for a serial comma, however, it also indicates that the writer’s parents are of less importance than the other people on the list!
If this sounds too complex to grasp, remember that the more you practice and the more fluent you become, the more agile you will be at adopting and using these and other strange English grammar rules!
If you are interested in learning English online, you could find a private tutor anywhere in South Africa, or indeed elsewhere in the world to take you through some of the complex grammar rules discussed in this article.
Remember too, that by finding fun and alternative ways to immerse yourself in the language will greatly help you to improve. Some of the easily accessible things you implement could include:
- Reading children’s books
- Finding a language buddy
- Listening to podcasts
- Watching English TV programmes
- Reading English newspapers
All of these things will go a long way to improve your vocabulary and help you to pick up the many nuances associated with speaking English!
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