Do you ever make common English mistakes when you speak English?
If so, keep in mind that it’s absolutely normal to make mistakes when you’re learning another language, so don’t feel bad about it.
The types of mistakes you make often depend on your first language. If you speak Italian, for example, you might make certain types of mistakes that may be different from those of Japanese speakers.
Some errors, however, are common among most learners of English.
Let’s see ten of these common English mistakes together so you can avoid them!
1. Using The Present Perfect With Expressions Of Finished Time
|I have watched a movie yesterday.||I watched a movie yesterday.|
|I have been to Spain in 2015.||I went to Spain in 2015.|
|I have seen the Pyramids when I went to Egypt.||I saw the Pyramids when I went to Egypt.|
As you may have already learned in this post about the present perfect, you can't use the present perfect to talk about actions or events that were completed in the past and are disconnected from the present moment.
If you use expressions that specify exactly when the action or event happened (e.g. when I was little, in 2009, last night, 20 years ago, etc.) you need to use the past simple.
Note that you can use expressions of finished time with the present perfect only if you use the word “since”.
- I haven’t slept since yesterday.
- I have been in this country since 2018.
- I have known him since I was little.
In these sentences the action is not completed or finished. It started in the past and it’s still connected to the present because it’s still true or happening in the present moment.
2. Using A Singular Verb After “People”
|People is very friendly in Italy.||People are very friendly in Italy.|
This mistake is especially common for Italian and Spanish speakers because the noun “people” is considered singular as it represents one single group of individuals.
So remember that when the subject is plural, such as “people,” the correct form of the verb is “are,” not “is.”
3. Watch, Look And See
|Turn on the light. I can't look anything.||Turn on the light. I can't see anything.|
|I want to see TV.||I want to watch TV.|
|Watch the screen and tell me what you can see.||Look at the screen and tell me what you can see.|
“Watch,” “look,” and “see” all mean to turn your eyes in a particular direction. They are often confused so let’s clarify what they mean exaclty:
- “Look” is a verb that means to turn your eyes in a particular direction. For example,
- “I looked at the beautiful sunset.”
- “She looked at me and smile”
- “Look at those mountains! They’re beautiful”
- “See” is a verb that means to notice something with your eyes.
- “I saw a shooting star in the sky.”
- “I looked out of the window but saw nothing.”
- “Look at this picture. What can you see?”
- “Watch” is a verb that means to look at something for a time, paying attention to what happens.
- “First watch me, then you’ll try.”
- “I like to watch movies at night”
- “Would you like to play?’ ‘No thanks—I'll just watch.”
4. Use “To” After “Must,” “Can,” “Could,” “Will” And “Would”
|I must to do it.||I must do it.|
|I can’t to speak French.||I can’t speak French.|
|I could to tell you but I don’t want to.||I could tell you but I don’t want to.|
|I would/will to buy a new car.||I would/will buy a new car.|
The rule here is simple: never use “to” after “must,” “can,” “could,” “will” and “would”. Do this and you’ll avoid this English mistake.
5. Using A Comma Before The Word “Because”
|I'm tired, because I stayed up late last night.||I'm tired because I stayed up late last night.|
|I ate breakfast early, because I had to catch the bus.||I ate breakfast early because I had to catch the bus.|
|I brought an umbrella, because it's supposed to rain today.||I brought an umbrella because it's supposed to rain today.|
This is a common mistakes but, again, it’s very simple to correct.
6. Adjectives Ending In ED And ING
|This lesson makes me feel so boring.||This lesson makes me feel so bored.|
|I’m very interesting in football and cooking.||I’m very interested in football and cooking.|
|My job is very tired.||My job is very tiring.|
This might be tricky, so let’s clarify the rule.
Adjectives that end in “ed” describe how someone or something feels. For example, “I am bored” means I feel bored.
Adjectives that end in “ing”, however, describe something that causes a feeling or emotion. For example, “The movie was boring” means the movie caused me to feel bored, and “The news was exciting” means the news caused me to feel excited.
- “ed” adjectives = how someone or something feels
- “ing” adjectives = what causes the feeling
7. Adverbs Of Manner vs. Adjectives
|I can read very quick||I can read very quickly|
|My computer is too slowly||My computer is too slow|
|This is not very clearly||This is not very clear|
Also this is a grammar point you might find confusing, so let’s have a look at the difference between adverbs of manner and adjectives.
Adverbs of manner (slowly, carefully, beautifully, etc.) describe how an action is performed or how something happens. They give more information about a verb.
- She sings beautifully (= in a beautiful way)
- He drives carefully (= in a careful way)
- I cook very badly (= in a bad way)
Adjectives, on the other hand, give information about a noun or pronoun. They tell us what something or someone is like.
- She is beautiful.
- Dave’s a careful driver.
- I’m a bad cook.
As you can see “beautiful,” “careful” and “bad” are not used to describe actions, while “beautifully,” “carefully” and “badly” are used to describe the action of singing, driving, and cooking.
8. Using Capital Letters
|She’s angry with me because i didn’t invite her to the party.||She’s angry with me because I didn’t invite her to the party.|
|I went to rome in july.||I went to Rome in July.|
|I like learning english.||I like learning English.|
|She’s french.||She’s French.|
Let’s quickly review some simple rules for capitalisation.
In English, we use a capital letter for:
- the first word of a sentence or a direct quotation (=something someone else said)
Example: She said, “Hello.”
- names of people, nationalities, places, or things.
Example: Mary, Italian, New York, Eiffel Tower.
- the first word in a title of a book, movie, song, or other artistic work.
Example: “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jurassic Park”, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
- the pronoun “I.”
Example: I went to the store.
- days of the week, months, and holidays.
Example: Monday, December, Thanksgiving.
9. Since vs For
|He has been in the hospital since many years.||He has been in the hospital for many years.|
|We have been friends since a long time.||We have been friends for a long time.|
|She has been practicing yoga since two months.||She has been practicing yoga for two months..|
Here’s a quick explanation of the difference between “since” and “for”.
Both “since” and “for” are used to talk about the duration of an action. However, you use “since” when you talk about a specific point in time when an action began.
This is why “since” is often used with a specific time expression, such as “since 10 am” or “since last week.”
You use “for” to talk about a period of time, so you often use it with a duration of time, such as “for three hours” or “for a week.”
- Since = point in time
- For = period of time
10. Do vs Make
|I always make my homework||I always do my homework|
|Your dog does too much noise||Your dog makes too much noise|
|I need to do a plan for tomorrow||I need to make a plan for tomorrow|
“Do” and “make” are two common verbs in English that are often confused.
In general, you use “do” when you talk about actions or tasks that don’t involve creating a physical object. For example:
- Do your homework
- Do the dishes
- Do some exercise
- Do business
- Do the housework
You use “make” when you’re talking about creating or something. For example:
- Make a cake
- Make a painting
- Make a plan
- Make a coffee
- Make noise
There are some exceptions to these rules and there are fixed expressions in English with both of these verbs. So the best way to avoid making this mistake is to notice how these expressions are used in context.
Common English Mistakes
Did you find any common English mistakes you typically make in this list?
Don’t feel discouraged if you did. Believe it or not, native speakers of English make mistakes too, so you really have nothing to worry about.
But try to take action and work on them, so you can eliminate them and express yourself with more precision.
One way to take action is to try the StoryLearning method, and read books in English. As you read, you'll be exposed to a lot of correct language.
This will help you notice how grammar, vocabulary and punctuation are used in context so you too can use them correctly.
Before you know it, you'll stop making these common English mistakes!