Common English Mistakes you NEED to Avoid
Level: All levels Reading Time: 8 minutes Category: Study Tips
Using the wrong article
(…or skipping them altogether!)
Articles is an English teacher word that means A, An or The.
These are very difficult for a lot of English learners because they don’t exist in a lot of languages, and even if they do, they don’t match up very well. This often means that people skip them when they speak English because they are not sure how to use them correctly.
However, articles are very important in the English language because articles give extra information and context to the listener. In short, without articles, it can be very tricky to understand what you mean.
- Did you eat a sandwich?
This seems like a general conversation about eating sandwiches, however…
- Did you eat the sandwich?
This time, the speaker is talking about a specific sandwich that we both know about. Perhaps they are accusing me of eating their sandwich from the fridge!
If you want to avoid confusion when you are speaking, you need to make sure you are using articles correctly. Here is a tip that will help you get it right most of the time.
[bctt tweet=”If the listeners don’t know which thing you are talking about, use A. If everyone knows which thing you mean, use the.”]
Looking back at our example:
- Did you eat a sandwich?
You don’t know which exact sandwich I am talking about. It could be any sandwich!
- Did you eat the sandwich?
This time, you know exactly which sandwich I am talking about. We both know it was the sandwich that I left in the fridge!
This rule will help you get it right most of the time, however, there are some more rules and exceptions that you should learn about. Check out this lesson to learn more about them.
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Using the wrong preposition
(… is it in Netflix or on Netflix?)
Prepositions are those little words like in, on and at. There are some others, but these are the most common ones.
Just like with articles, these things can be quite tricky. Most languages have something like this, for example in Japanese, they have に, へ, and で, but they don’t really work in the same way as their English counterparts. This means that many learners find it really difficult to use them accurately and confidently.
Even though they are difficult, they are essential if you want to sound natural when speaking in English. Prepositions tell the listener the relationship between two things and without them, the listener has to guess what you are talking about.
If you use the incorrect preposition, a native speaker can probably guess what you are trying to say, so it is not the end of the world, but it does make you sound a bit strange, therefore it is better to use them correctly as much as possible.
Here is a quick rule of thumb that should make them easier to use,
[bctt tweet=”When you are talking about big things, use in, for small things, use at and for things in the middle, use on.”]
Check out this graphic for more details about how to use In, On and At:
As always, there is more to these little words than I can put in one image. If you want to learn more about these words, you can check out these lessons:
Using the wrong Adjective
(… which is better, ~ed or ~ing?)
In English, some adjectives end in ~ed or ~ing and even though they come from the same word, and have similar meanings, they are used differently.
This is important to understand the difference between these adjective endings because they are used to tell the listener what you are talking about. When talking to people, you want to try to avoid confusion as much as possible, especially if you want to speak confidently.
It is so important that you use the correct adjective ending when you are speaking in English. If you aren’t able to use these things accurately you could end up saying things like this…
- I didn’t do anything last weekend. I was so boring.
If you tell someone this, you are basically saying…
- I didn’t do anything last weekend. I am a boring person.
The good news is that adjective endings are easy to learn so you should be able to avoid it with this simple rule.
[bctt tweet=”To talk about feelings, use ~ed and to talk about things, use ~ing..”]
- The documentary was interesting, (so I was interested)
- (She was excited because) the baseball game was exciting
- His boss is really annoying, (so he was annoyed.)
If you want to learn more about this and see lots more examples of this grammar pattern, you can check out the full lesson below:
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