As an English language learner, you may have experienced the frustration of saying something that you think is correct only to have someone give you a strange look or correct your mistake. It can sometimes feel awkward (especially when the correction isn’t done constructively) but don’t worry, as we’ve all been there. In fact, many native speakers make these mistakes too.
In this article, we’ll highlight four of these mistakes and offer tips on how to avoid them. So, whatever your learning goal or proficiency level is, this article is for you.
1. Words that sound similar but have different meanings
Words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings are called homophones. One widespread example of this is “their” and “there.” If you’ve encountered this a couple of times, especially in digital (typed) conversations, here is a brief explanation of the two words. “Their” is a possessive pronoun that shows possession or ownership, while “there” is used to indicate a place or location. To avoid this mistake, it can be helpful to try to think about the context in which the word is being used and to pay attention to the spelling of the word.
2. Using incorrect verb tenses
English has multiple complex principles guiding the use of verb tenses, and it is common for learners to get confused about which tense to use in a given situation. To avoid this mistake, it can be helpful to review the rules for verb tenses and to pay attention to the tense of the verb when reading or listening to English. Signing up with a tutor is the easiest way to get a simplified lesson about the use of verbs by helping you navigate through the complex system of English grammar.
3. Making use of incorrect word order in sentences
By principle, the usual word order is subject-verb-object. However, there are many exceptions to this rule (as there are with other rules), and it can be confusing for learners to know which word goes where. To avoid this mistake, it can be helpful to focus on learning common English phrases and sentence structures and to pay attention to the word order in the sentences you encounter.
4. Confusing idioms or expressions with their literal meanings
This happens when we make a direct interpretation of idioms by the meaning of their individual words. These idioms and expressions do not make sense when taken literally. For example, “he kicked the bucket” doesn’t literally mean that the person kicked a bucket with their feet; it simply means that the person “has passed,” which also means that the person died. To avoid this mistake, it can be helpful to understand common English idioms and expressions in context.
By being aware of these common mistakes and avoiding them, you can improve your English language skills and become more confident in your ability to communicate in the language. Keep practicing, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow. Remember, we have all been there. As pointed out earlier, working with a tutor may be the most effective way for you to avoid these errors.