10 biggest mistakes that English learners make
Are you trying to learn English now?
If so, congratulations on taking the step to invest in your future!
Being fluent in English will open up many opportunities, such as opening the door for great scholarships and many professional advantages.
However, there are some mistakes that English learners often make! In this article, we’ll list 10 of those mistakes and how to avoid them.
Make sure to avoid these mistakes so you can communicate in English with clarity.
1. Its vs it’s
Many English learners confuse its and it’s. So, when do we use them?
Its is the possessive version of a pronoun.
Example: The bird builds its nest carefully.
In the above example, we use its because the nest refers to the bird’s nest.
It’s is simply a contraction of “it is” or “it has”.
Example: it’s a beautiful day to have a picnic.
In the above example, we use it’s because it stands for it is.
So, if you’re not sure whether to use its or it’s, try using it is or it has in the sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, then “its” is probably the correct one.
Using the above example, “the bird builds it is nest carefully” wouldn’t make sense.
2. Than vs then
To put it simply, than is used for comparison, whereas then is used to indicate time.
- Daniel is taller than his brother
- I brush my teeth and then I take a shower
So, how can we remember when to use which?
The best way to remember the correct use is to associate than with all forms of comparison and then with time and order.
It’s also helpful to note that than is a unique word which can’t be substituted, whereas then can be substituted with other words.
Using the example above, replacing then with before so the sentence becomes “I brush my teeth before I take a shower” still makes sense.
3. Me vs I
Most English learners probably already understand the difference between Me and I until it’s time to use it in a sentence.
Take a look at this sentence
When you’ve finished the report, can you send it to Marie and I?
Does that sentence sound correct?
If you guessed yes, unfortunately, you are wrong!
Try to remove Marie from the sentence. “When you’ve finished the report, can you send it to I?” That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Now, try to replace I with me. “When you’ve finished the report, can you send it to me?”
4. Lack of subject verb agreement
What do we mean by subject verb agreement?
It basically means that the sentence has to be consistent. That is, if a subject is singular, the verb must be singular, and vice versa.
Wrong: These recipes is easy to make
Correct: These recipes are easy to make
Simple enough, right? Just make sure to double check your sentences to make sure they are correct
5. Look vs see vs watch
Some learners use these words interchangeably, but did you know that these words have different meanings?
Look means to direct your eyes at a particular person or thing
- Example: Sarah looked at her watch.
See means to notice something by using your eyes
- Example: I was surprised to see he looked frightened
Watch means to look at something purposely and for an extended amount of time
- Example: I like to watch TV after I got home from work
So, don’t get these three mixed up, okay? :)
6. There vs their vs they’re
To put it simply, you use there to refer to something that is not here/something in the distance.
Example: “Look over there!”
Their expressess possessiveness – it shows that something belongs to particular people.
Example: “This is their home”
They’re is simply an abbreviation of they are.
Example: They’re visiting this town next week.
7. To vs too
To is usually a preposition used before a noun or a verb and describes a destination, recipient, or action.
- Andrew drove her to the airport (destination)
- I sent the package to my grandma (recipient)
- I am going to get a cup of tea (action)
On the other hand, too has two usages:
- To a higher degree or to an excessive amount
Example: He was driving too fast
- In addition (has the same meaning as “also” and “as well”)
Example: Like her brother, she too went to the University of Melbourne.
Note that if you replace “too” with “also”, the sentence still makes sense.
8. Who vs whom vs whose vs who’s
Whoa whoa whoa! These seem confusing!
Not to worry, it is actually quite simple to know when to use which!
Let’s start by who. Who is used to identify a living pronoun.
For example, if you ask, “who made a mess in the living room?” The answer could be a person, “the toddler did” or another being, “the dog did”.
Whom is used to describe someone who is receiving something, like a letter
For example: To whom is the letter addressed?
Or to describe someone who is on the receiving end of an action
For example: whom did we hire to join the marketing team?
Whose is used to ask ownership
For example: whose car is that?
Who’s is just an abbreviation for who is.
For example: who’s the lead actor in that movie?
Simple enough, right?
9. That vs who
It’s easy to remember this one.
That is used to refer to things, whereas who is used to refer to a person or people
So, you don’t say “The people that reach their sales target will get a reward.”
You say, “The people whoreach their sales target will get a reward.”
Here is an example of how to use that in a sentence:
She wore a yellow dress that she bought last month.
10. Affect vs Effect
Affect is a verb and it means to influence or to produce a change in something.
For example: The medicine affected my blood pressure.
On the other hand, effect is a noun and it means the result of a change.
For example: You’ll feel the effect of the medicine in the next half an hour.
Here’s how to easily remember when to use which:
Affect is a verb, verb is an action, therefore affect is to describe an action.
For effect, think of the common saying “cause and effect”. So effect is the result of a cause.
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