Top 10 common errors by English learners

Learning a second language is not easy and everyone makes mistakes. But some mistakes are more common than others. The following lists some of the popular errors made by English learners, highlighting the ones to keep an eye out for, whether you’re a learner or a teacher.

1.     Pluralising nouns

There are many nouns in English that appear to be singular, i.e. do not have a ´s´ on the end, but actually do refer to more than one thing. For example a “family” or “group” refers to more than one person. Also other nouns such as; advice, news and rubbish all appear to be singular but actually refer to more than one thing. A common mistake by English learners is to say ´advices´, for example, when referring to more than one piece of advice.

2.     Prepositions

Prepositions are difficult for anyone learning any language, as in each language they are used differently and rarely directly translate. It is common for English learners to confuse “in” and “on”. For example saying “when I was on Spain,” when the correct preposition is “in”.

3.     3rd person “S”

In all English language centres it is one of the first things taught when the present tense is introduced, however, mistakes are often made.  When using the 3rd person singular an “s” must always be added to the end of the verb. However English learners commonly miss off the “s” saying for example, “he play football” instead of “he plays football”.

“Since” & “For” when explaining duration of time

A common mistake made, due to the direct translation from many other languages, is to say “I have been waiting here since two hours” or “I have lived in Spain since two years” when the correct way is to use “for”: “I have waiting here for two hours”. “Since” is used when expressing a specific point in time “I have been here since 4pm.”

5.     The use of object pronouns

The use of the English object pronouns; me, you, him… can often be misused. The most common mistake is this: “I will write you tomorrow” or “why didn´t you write me?” When actually the speaker wants to say “I will write to you tomorrow”. The first sentence actually means that the speaker will literally write down the word “you” tomorrow. Native English speakers also commonly make this mistake.

6.     The use of “that”

Especially for native Spanish speaking English learners the word “that” is difficult to use correctly. Commonly used in this way: “My mother wants that we meet at home.” The correct sentence however does not use the word “that”: “My mother’s wants us to meet at home”.

7.     Use of Infinitives and Gerunds

Often English learners mix up the use of infinitives and gerunds (words end in –ing) in sentences. For example “We enjoy to watch the TV on an evening” when the verb “to watch” should actually be a gerund, signifying an action that happens over a period of time: “we enjoy watching the TV on an evening”.

8.     The use of “A” and “An”

The standard rule is that singular nouns starting with a consonant must be used with “A” and singular nouns starting with a vowel must be used with “An”: “A pencil” or “An apple”. However there are expectations where English learners usually make mistakes. If a noun starts with a vowel but has a consonant sound then “A” must be used: “A unicorn”. Also when a noun begins with a silent “h”, “An” should be used: “An hour” but “A house.”

9.     “More” and the use of “-er”

English learners often make the mistake of using the word “more” instead of adding “-er” to the end of the word. For example “today is more hot than yesterday” instead of “today is hotter than yesterday”.

10.  The use of negative question tags

The use of don´t/wasn´t/aren´t in positive sentences can be difficult for English learners. In English you must add “do not” to convey a negative meaning. For example “I am the fastest, aren´t I?” or “you work in an office, don´t you?” are positive sentences despite having negative question tags. English learners will often say “you work in an office, do you?”