Published on February 17, 2014
Common Errors Committed By English Learners. (With helpful explanations.) 1. Article Confusion: Wrong: The people use a lot of credit cards. Right: People use a lot of credit cards. Definite article is not used when speaking generally. If you are speaking about a specific people (The people of the North, The people in the next room), then the definite article is necessary. Plurals in English do not have an indefinite article. 2. Which and What Confusion: “Which” and “What” are not always interchangeable. A general rule is, if the choice is in front of you, use “which”: • I have two kinds of toys, one Plastic and one Fluffy, Which one do you want? If the choice is more abstract, use “what”: • What kind of toys do you like? 1
3. Modals with Infinitives: Wrong: I must to leave. It is getting late. Right: I must leave. It is getting late. True modal auxiliaries like can, might, could, should, would and must never take infinitives. They use the root verb, no conjugation. 4. He said me hello: Wrong: He said me hello. Right: He said hello (to me) The object of the verb “say” is what is said, not the person it is said to. Many times it is not even necessary to indicate to whom it was said. 2
5. Tomorrow comes my friend: Wrong: Tomorrow comes my friend. Right: My friend will come tomorrow. (or is coming tomorrow) Often, when a student starts a sentence with a prepositional phrase or an adverb of time, the tendency is to follow that with a verb. An English sentence must start with a subject. 6. The more big: Wrong: That house is the more big than that. Right: That house is bigger than that.. One must know about the comparatives and superlatives of the words, that whether we add –er or –est or use more or most, but “the” is only used with an adjective with “-est” ending or “most,” for example, the biggest, the most beautiful 3
7. Adverbs vs. Adjectives: Confused by many English speakers , English learners often mix up adverbs and adjectives. ‘Well’ is an adverb, ‘good’ is an adjective. Example: You ran well,and your run was good. The test was good and went well. 8. S.V.O.: Subject-Verb-Object word order, In English, unlike many other languages, the subject is ALWAYS necessary and this order has to be followed. Example: Andy ate cereal. 4
9. Prepositions: These are difficult in every language because every language uses them a bit differently . In English, “IN” is used both for closed spaces and periods of time, “AT” is used for a specific time or place and “ON” is used to describe the surface something is on or a day. 5
10. Apostrophes: Apostrophes are used in contractions or to show possession. However, they are not used with possessive pronouns like his, her or their. The most common error is to put apostrophe where apostrophe has no use, when you form a plural for nouns, there is no need to add an apostrophe. These are all wrong forms of plural nouns:Cat’s, Dog’s, Lot’s (not even a word), ABC’s. Plural forms in most cases are made by simply adding an ‘s’ to the singular form:Cats, Dogs, lots, ABCs. Even though the use of apostrophe before an S in pluralizing an acronym is quite universal, it is still incorrect. 6
11. Capitalization: In English, we capitalize: “I” as a subject (and everywhere it is used), First letter of a sentence, Proper names, national nouns and adjectives, days of the week and months. 12. Ending sentences with preposition: It has also become common to use prepositions inappropriately or to end phrases and questions with prepositions. Examples of some prepositions: at, of, with, in. Wrong: Where is the movie theater at? Correct: Where is the movie theater? When asking about the location of a place, “at” should not be used after “where.” For those who don't know, prepositions are any words that a squirrel can "run" with a tree (i.e. The squirrel ran around, by, through, up, down, around, etc. the tree). 7
13: Different than and Different from: Words like ‘rather’ and ‘faster’ are comparative adjectives, and are used to show comparison with the preposition ‘than’ ( greater than, less than, faster than, rather than) The adjective “different” is used to draw distinction. So, when “different” is followed by a preposition, it should be used with “from,” similar to “separate from,” “distinct from,” or “away from.” My living situation in New York was different from home. Development is different in New York than in Los Angeles. 14. Gone and Went: Both are past participles of the verb ‘to go’ Correct: I should have gone somewhere. Incorrect: I should’ve went somewhere. 8
15. ‘Who’ vs. ‘Whom’: When considering whether to use who or whom, you have to rearrange the sentence in your head. General rule: Subjects start sentences (or clauses), and objects end them. 'Who' is a subjective or nominative pronoun, along with 'he,' 'she,' 'it,' 'we,' and 'they.' It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. 'Whom' is an objective pronoun, along with 'him,' 'her,' 'it', 'us,' and 'them.' It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using 'who' or 'whom' depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. Examples: Who loves you? You’re loved by Whom? 9
16.Homonyms: (Homographs/Homophones) Mostly confusions are caused by Homonyms: accept/except, tire/tyre, see/sea, write/right, here/hear, etc. 17. ‘Fewer’ vs. ‘Less’ Use "fewer" when discussing countable objects. For example, "He ate fewer chocolates than the other guy," or "fewer employees attended the meeting.“ Use "less" for intangible concepts, like time. For example, "I spent less than one hour finishing this report." 10
18. "Lie" vs. "Lay" Lie Lay Present Lie Lay Past Lay Laid ‘Lay’ is a transitive verb. It requires a direct subject and one or more objects. ‘Someone lays something somewhere’. Its present tense is “lay” (I lay the pencil on the table) Its past tense is “laid” (Yesterday I laid the pencil on the table). “Lie” is an intransitive verb. It needs no object. Its present tense is “lie” (e.g., The Andes mountains lie between Chile and Argentina.) and its past tense is “lay” (e.g., The man lay waiting for an ambulance). The most common mistake occurs when the writer uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” (e.g., I laid on the bed) when he/she actually means the intransitive past tense of “lie" (e.g., I lay on the bed). 11
19. Irregular Verbs: We can't list all the irregular verbs, but be aware they do exist. “drive" and “eat" also fall into the category of irregular verbs. Because the list of irregular verbs is so extensive, you'll have to look into them individually and now how to use them. 12
20. Anxious: Unless you’re frightened, worried, scared of them, you shouldn’t say you’re “anxious to see your friends.” You’re actually “eager,” or "excited." To be “anxious” implies a looming fear, dread or anxiety. It doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to something. 21.Continual and Continuous: They’re similar, but there’s a difference. “Continual” means something that's always occurring, with obvious lapses in time. “Continuous” means something continues without any stops or gaps in between. Examples: The continual music next door made it the worst night of studying ever. Her continuous talking prevented him from concentrating. 13
22. Nor vs. Or: “Nor” expresses a negative condition. It literally means "and not" You’re obligated to use the “nor” form if your sentence expresses a negative and follows it with another negative condition. Use "nor" before the second or farther of two alternatives when "neither" introduces the first. Think of it as "or" for negative sentences, and it's not optional. For example: "Neither my boss nor I understand the new program.“ "My boss didn't understand the program, nor did I." 23. Its vs. It’s: Its = a possessive pronoun. Example: The puppy is going to find its toy. It’s = contraction of it is. Example: It’s so hot in July. Easy reminder: You can replace it’s with it is every time and re-read your sentence for meaning. 14
24. Disinterested and Uninterested: A “disinterested” person is someone who’s impartial. Disinterested means "impartial" or "not taking sides.“ (In other words, not having a personal interest at stake.) Uninterested means "not interested.“ (In other words, not showing any interest.) Correct: A good referee should be disinterested. (He does not take sides.) Incorrect: He was disinterested in Jill's hobby. Correct: He was uninterested in Jill's hobby. (He shows no interest.) 25. Farther and Further: The word “farther” implies a measurable distance. “Further” should be reserved for abstract lengths you can't always measure. Examples: I threw the ball ten feet farther than Bill. The financial crisis caused further implications. 15
26. Envy and Jealousy: The word “envy” implies a longing for someone else’s good fortunes. “Jealousy” is far more nefarious. It’s a fear of rivalry. “Envy” is when you covet your friend’s good looks. “Jealousy” is what happens when others go mad over your good-looking friend. 27. Since and Because: “Since” refers to time. “Because” refers to causation. Examples: Since I quit drinking I’ve been happy and healthy. Because I quit drinking I no longer have any liver problems. 16
28. Whether and If: Many people seem to assume that “whether” is interchangeable with “if." “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives. “If” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives. Examples: I don’t know whether I’ll go out tonight. I can go out tonight if I have any money. 29. May and Might: “May” implies a possibility. “Might” implies far more uncertainty. “You may get a headache if you stay out in cold.” “You might get a headache if you don’t cover yourself.” Someone who says “I may have more cookies” could mean he/she doesn't want more cookies right now, or that he/she “might” not want any at all. 17
30. Lose vs. Loose: Lose: a verb, to be without something; the loss of something. I do not wish to lose more weight Loose: an adjective, free or released from attachment; not bound together; not strict. My belt is very loose around my waist. Easy reminder: Lose has come to be without its extra “o” 31. Me vs. I: Rule to remember: I=subject and Me=object. Use the pronoun I, along with other subjective pronouns, such as we, he, she, you, and they, when the pronoun is the subject of a verb: Clare and I are going for a coffee. Use the pronoun me, along with other objective pronouns such as us, him, her, you, and them, when the pronoun is the object of a verb: The dog followed John and me to the door. 18
32: Effect and Affect: Effect=noun, produced by a cause; a result. The effect of your leadership is visible here. Affect=verb, to act on; to produce a chance. She affected all of us with her. “Effect” is the thing produced by the affecting agent. 33. Whose vs. Who’s: Whose= possessive form of who. Whose plans are these? Who’s= a contraction for who is. Who’s going to clean all this mess Easy reminder: You can replace who’s with who is every time and see if it makes sense. 19
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