Most Common Mistakes in English for Students

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Most Common Mistakes in English:

Most Common Mistakes in English Dr. Christine Coombe Emirates/Dubai Men’s College Toastmasters

Errors in English:

Errors in English The concept of error is based on My perspective Is based on American English Recognizes that the ‘native speaker’ is a misnomer There are many more non-native speakers of English in the world than native speakers Recognizes the importance of global English

My Top Ten:

My Top Ten Verb Forms Adjective Placement Prepositions Misc. Grammar Pronunciation Punctuation Spelling Meaning Ambiguity (2 types)

Verb Forms:

Verb Forms Oftentimes the degree to which you know the verb system in English indicates your level of language proficiency i.e. mastery of the past tense indicates an intermediate level English teachers cite the following as major problems with verbs: Overuse of the infinitive Indian usage of present continuous becoming a fossilized error in Arab students

Adjective Placement:

Adjective Placement Many languages place adjectives after the noun French: Une voiture bleue Order of adjectives is often challenging Opinion adjectives (nice, beautiful, delicious) Fact adjectives (long, young, hot, large) Opinion adjectives go before fact Adjectives of size and length go before adjectives of shape and width When there is more than one fact adj, use this order How big?—How old?– what color?—where from?—what is it made of? A small black plastic bag An old white cotton shirt Big blue eyes


Prepositions Little words in English cause the biggest problems! Phrasal verbs add to the confusion Run away Get by Look out Take off Fill in Cut down

Grammar Slammers:

Grammar Slammers There/their/they’re a/an before ‘h’ Its/it’s Your/you’re Who/which or that? Anyone vs. any one

There/their/they’re :

There/their/they’re “There” is used in two ways Can specify a place Can be used as an expletive or empty word to start a sentence “Their” is the possessive form of “they” “They’re” is the contracted form of “they are”

A/An before ‘h’ :

A/An before ‘h’ Before a pronounced ‘h,’ the indefinite article should be ‘a’ A history book Before a silent ‘h,’ use ‘an’ An hour

Its/it’s :

Its/it’s “Its” is the possessive form of the pronoun That is a good book. Its title is….. “It’s” is the contracted form of “it is” or “it has” It’s time to go. It’s been great.

Your/you’re :

Your/you’re “Your” is the possessive form of a personal pronoun I like your website. “You’re” is the contracted form of “you are” You’re a dedicated student.

Who/which or that? :

Who/which or that? “Who (or whom)” refers to persons “Which” refers to animals or things “That” can refer to either persons or things

Anyone vs. any one :

Anyone vs. any one “Anyone” means “any person” Not necessarily any specific person Can refer to multiple people simultaneously As two words, “any one” refers to a single person Examples: Anyone can download my software. But the software can only be used by any one user at a time.

Pronunciation :

Pronunciation Learners define good pronunciation as “sounding like a native speaker” Many factors effect pronunciation Stress two-syllable nouns and adjectives--stress on the first syllable (i.e. apple, hotel, lagoon, suspect) words which can be used as both nouns and verbs noun has stress on the first syllable "You are the sus pect!" verb has stress on the second syllable "I sus pect you.“ compound nouns are fairly equally balanced but with stronger stress on the first part (i.e. hair brush) Individual Sounds P/B for Arabic Speakers; L/R for Asians and F/V/W for Indian Speakers of English

Punctuation :

Punctuation Quotes before or after the period? Quotation marks go After a period or comma Before a colon After a question mark (unless the entire sentence is a question) End punctuation after URLs There isn’t any! Apostrophes When in doubt, leave them out!

Spelling :

Spelling Continues to be problematic even with Spellchecker! Spell check is good to check spelling It can’t determine meaning “They cannot determine weather the word is the one wanted.”


Meaning Literal and non-literal meanings (usually called idioms) must be considered Each of the following has two meanings. What are they? Bite your tongue Kick the bucket


Ambiguity A word, phrase or sentence having more than one meaning There are two types Structural French culinary professor Is the cooking French or is the professor French? Lexical I’ll meet you by the bank. Does “by the bank” refer to a place where you withdraw money or to a river bank?

Final Thoughts:

Final Thoughts I hope you enjoyed your brief foray into common mistakes in the English language. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes prevent you from communicating!

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