5 Common English Mistakes and How You Can Fix Them
Whether you’re learning English for work, travel or simply because you like the language, speaking comfortably can be a challenge sometimes.
From my experience learning a foreign language, I’d say that the most frustrating part is making the same mistake over and over again even though I’d been corrected and I know it’s wrong.
The thing is, when we’re in the middle of a conversation, we don’t have the time to think about grammar, sentence structure and word choices. So sometimes, we use structures or words we know are incorrect because we just want to communicate and connect with the people we’re talking to.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, allowing yourself to make mistakes will help you progress so much more than being overly critical with your skills. Mistakes are an essential part of any learning experience, and if you want to speak English more fluently, you need to introduce and practice new and more challenging things progressively.
This brings us to two important points:
Mistakes are impossible to avoid when you’re trying to master a skill.
Finding mistakes (and correcting them) are absolutely necessary for progress.
Then the real problem is not that you make mistakes, but how you react when you mess up. Do you doubt your abilities and consider giving up? Do you feel disappointed and discouraged? Do you limit yourself to what’s comfortable and easy to avoid feeling embarrassed?
Or do you see it as an opportunity to refine your skills and a chance to grow?
In the end, it’s your reaction that will keep you stuck at your level or move you closer to your goal.
In today’s post I’d like to share with you:
Five common mistakes you could be making when speaking English.
A powerful technique that will help you fix them.
Let’s get started!
1. People is…
In English, the word people is the plural form of person. So the verb that comes after people has to be plural too.
So we can say,
- "People are strange sometimes."
People is strange sometimes."
- "People don't like it here."
People doesn't like it here."
- "People have different opinions."
People has different opinions."
- "There were a lot of people dancing in the street."
There was a lot of people dancing in the street."
Person has another plural form: persons, but we only use it in legal writing and very formal contexts. For example, you might see this in a legal contract,
“We can only accommodate up to four persons in the hotel room.“
But we never use persons in spoken English, so we can’t say:
There were a lot of persons at the concert last night."
2. Using EVEN as a conjunction.
We use even when we want to express a surprising extreme or when we want to say that something is more than we expect. For example,
“She’s rude to everyone. She’s even rude to me.“
“He gets up early even on Sundays.“
But some English learners make the mistake of using even as a conjunction. A conjunction is a word we use to connect two sentences. To understand this better, let’s look at this example:
They continued walking even they felt tired."
This sentence is incorrect because even alone cannot be used as a conjunction. We need to use even though or even if to combine two clauses. So we’d need to say,
“They continued walking even though they felt tired.”
We use even though to express a fact, something that’s real or true:
“I’m still mad at him, even though he apologized yesterday.”
We use even if when something is hypothetical or imaginary:
“I wouldn’t forgive him, even if he apologized.”
Check out this post to learn more about even though, even if and even so.
3. Structures with Recommend and Suggest.
Using the wrong structure with recommend is a common problem even with advanced English learners. I often hear something like this:
“I recommend you to go to the new restaurant.”
We never use this structure with recommend. What needs to come after recommend is what you want the person to try or do.
So in this case the correction would be:
“I recommend going to the new restaurant.”
Let’s look at the most common structures used in spoken English:
Recommend + gerund (-ing)
“She recommends taking an earlier bus.”
“Do you recommend watching this movie?”
Recommend + noun
“He doesn’t recommend that hotel.”
“Can you recommend a good hairstylist?”
In more formal situations we can also use this structure:
Recommend + that + subject + base verb
“We recommend that they reserve early.”
“He recommends that you take a holiday.”
Suggest follows the exact same structure. For example, we can say,
“I suggest taking the train.”
“I suggest the train.”
“I suggest that we take the train.“
4. Using WILL after IF and WHEN.
Look at the following sentence. Do you notice anything wrong with it?
“I will see you when you will get home.”
The problem is the second will. Normally, we can’t use will in the same clause as when or if when talking about the future. So the correct way to say this would be:
“I will see you when you get home.”
That’s because we need to use a present tense with if and when to talk about the future. Here are some other examples,
- "I will call you when I
- “If I
willfinish work early, I will join you.”
There are some exceptions to this rule and you can learn more about them here.
5. FOR or TO to talk about intentions?
We don’t use for + ing to talk about a person’s intentions. Instead, we use it to talk about the function of a thing or how it’s used. For example,
“This knife is useful for cutting bread.”
“This is the best program for editing photos.”
We also use for + ing to talk about the reason for a feeling or behavior. So we can say,
“He was fired for stealing.”
“She’s angry at you for being late.”
When we want to talk about someone’s intentions we use to + verb. For example,
- "They came here to see you."
They came here for see you."
They came here for seeing you."
Keep in mind that we can use for to talk about intentions only when we use a noun after it. So we can say,
“We went to the bar for a drink.”
“She moved away for a better life.”
How to Improve Your Speaking
Now that we’ve uncovered some common mistakes you could be making, let’s look at how you can fix them.
From my experience, one of the most powerful techniques is to record yourself. Here is what you’ll need to do:
Choose a question to answer. It could be as simple as, “What did you do last week?” or something a bit more complicated like, “Do you think healthcare should be free?”
Record your answer. You could use your phone to record a video of yourself speaking or use a voice recorder app.
Speak for at least 30 seconds.
Listen to your recording and write down any mistakes you hear
Record your answer again and make sure that you correct the issues you noticed.
So, if you’re making any of the mistakes we covered in this post, try this exercise at least twice a week for a few weeks and let me know how it goes! Here are some questions you could practice answering:
Do you think people are born with natural talents and abilities? Why?
Would you work even if you didn’t have to? What’s a job you would do even if you were a millionaire?
What places do you recommend traveling to or living in?
What will you do this weekend if you have some free time?
Have you ever lived in another city? Why did you move there? If not, why do you think some people decide to live in different cities? (Practice using to + verb to talk about intentions.)
It’s such a simple technique, but if you do it regularly, it will definitely make you a more confident speaker. If you have any questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.