The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by Learners of English – Part 1

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Are you studying hard but still feel like you’re making tonnes of mistakes? Take a look at the most common mistakes and my tips to get rid of them!

Welcome to my first proper inspired-english-teaching post! This was inspired by my students and requested by Michele (thank you! 🙂 )

We all make mistakes, especially in speaking, even native speakers and teachers…  Nobody’s perfect and that shouldn’t stop you from speaking. Instead, if you know the kind of mistakes you make and are more vigilant, your speaking will become more accurate and you’ll become more confident!

This will be a long post, so I’ve split it into two parts. Check also Part 2, especially if you want my “inspired” tips to get rid of these mistakes. Stay tuned!

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by Learners of English

1. Subject-Verb agreement in present simple – he/she/it

Unfortunately, even some advanced level students make this mistake… maybe because nobody has mentioned it to them or because they think it isn’t important, as long as people understand them. As a teacher and speaker of English, I think it’s important. We should do everything the best we can 😉

She comes from the south of France. (come+s)

She studies marketing. (studyi+es)               Be aware of the spelling rules here!

She does the housework every Saturday.

2. Prepositions in/ on/ at/ to

The prepositions are the topic English learners struggle most with, this is from my personal experience as a teacher. It’s such a wide topic that I can write a whole blog post about it, so here I will just refer to a few of them. Write to me in the comments below if you’re interested in a whole post about this.

She lives at in Cannes. She likes reading at in the afternoon. Let’s go to home now!

I like listening to music the at night.

3. Watch – look – see

Students confuse these three verbs because they don’t know exactly what they mean. All three verbs refer to our capacity of seeing, but there is a slight difference between them.

  • If you check any English dictionary, to watch means “to look at somebody/something for a time, paying attention to what happens”.

I’m watching TV/a football match.

He watched the kids playing in the yeard.

  • “To look” means “to turn your eyes in a particular direction”. In this case, look is used with the prepositions at.

Don’t look now! He’s staring at us!

She looked at me and smiled.

– Do we have post? – Don’t know, let’s look and see.

  • To see” means “to become aware of somebody/something by using your eyes”.

She looked for him but couldn’t see him in the crowd.

I looked out of the window but saw nothing.

I hope the difference between them is clear now and that you’ll be able to use them correctly from now on.

4. Say vs Tell

I always tell my students that “say” focuses on the words said, while “tell” focuses on someone’s message and the message always has a clear recipient (the person who gets the message).

It’s more common to say: “He said, ‘I’m leaving!’ while “He told me he was leaving”. So say is used more in direct speech, while tell in indirect speech.

If you want to say who the recipient of the message is, you should say: He said to me, ‘I’m leaving!’ and use the preposition to+pronoun.

Examples:

They’ve told us (that) they’re not coming.

Tell me where you live.

I didn’t believe a word she said.

People say that the house is haunted.

5. Actually vs. Currently

This is an error both my Italian and French students make, due to the false friends “actually” and “attualmente (it)/actuallement (fr)”.

Actually is used in speaking to emphasize a comment or something that is really true (1) or a contrast between what is true and what somebody believes (2)

What did she actually say? (1)   It was actually quite fun after all. (2)

Currently refers to something happening at the present time:

I am currently working as an accountant.

Check out Part 2 the 10 Most common mistakes made by learners of English – you find my “inspired” tips to get rid of them there!

Write to me if you found this useful or if you want more posts on other topics. I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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