Hello everyone! And we are here again for a new episode of the ‘Figure Out English’ podcast for English learners. Please go to our Youtube channel to watch the videos of the episodes with the full transcript and subscribe to the podcast updates.
After spending years learning grammar and vocabulary, we still say some little things in a wrong way, and this makes us feel like losers in English.
Let’s correct some of the common mistakes in English speaking even Advanced learners occasionally make.
Learn your prepositions
It’s very important to know the verb tenses, yes, it’s very important to know the verb patterns and all other serious stuff.
But at the end of the day, it is always the small things. And the most typical mistake of non-native English speakers which I hear is usually the prepositions of time. Elementary? Yes. Making us confused? Still yes.
- I will see you at Monday.
- Well, let’s meet on five o’clock.
- Let’s talk in Tuesday.
How it should be
AT with the points: the clock time, moments, names of events (at 10.00am, at half past 3, at the moment, at the beginning of/at the end of, at Christmas, at Easter).
ON with days: days of weeks*, dates, phrases with ‘day’ (on Monday, on Friday night, on the 4th of July, on Christmas day)
*By the way, in spoken English these days, they often skip the proposition before days of the week. So, if you are not sure what you should say: ‘at Friday’ or ‘on Friday’, just say ‘Friday’: ‘See you Friday’ is perfectly acceptable in spoken English grammar.
IN with periods: months, years, centuries, seasons + parts of the day (in June, in 1998, in summer, in the morning BUT on Monday morning – see above)
Important exceptions to remember:
at night, at the weekend (British English)
No preposition before THIS, LAST, NEXT: this week, last month, next summer etc.
- I will see you on Friday.
- I will see you at five o’clock.
- Let’s meet at half past 3.
- I am busy at the moment.
- Let’s catch up next week.
- Are you free next weekend?
- She goes swimming on Saturdays.
- We have a meeting on Friday.
- He is coming back in June. BUT He is coming back on June 22nd.
Just practise until you can make it right without thinking. And don’t forget: prepositions are very difficult to guess.
And we are going on to other problems which don’t make a good impression for us as English speakers.
Been in or been to?
- Have you been in France?
- Have you been in London?
Why it is wrong
‘To have been in’ means the lasting action which is still true. For example, I have been in this studio for three hours. – I am still INSIDE the studio.
The preposition IN shows location but not the movement.
We use TO to show any type of movement (after go, drive, move, walk and so on).
‘To have been to’ will mean to visit some place and to come back home. We use it talking about our travelling experiences.
- Have you been to France?
- Have you ever been to London?
- I have never been to Africa. One day, I want to go to Africa’.
- Will you come to my house tonight?
- She has moved to India.
- I have been in this town for a month, and I don’t know when I am leaving.
Prepositions that ‘hang’
Non-native English speakers are often terribly afraid of so-called stranded prepositions (the ones you finish your sentence with ;)). Some people call them ‘hanging’ prepositions.
Native speakers of English, though, use them more and more:
- What are you talking about?
- Who does it belong to?
- What are you laughing at?
- Where is he at?
- I will come with.
They leave the preposition right after the verb at the very end of the sentence. And this is what non-natives feel very strange about because in many languages they don’t do it.
Practise set expressions
Be good at…
When we are talking about our skills, we often use this phrase: ‘to be good at…’
Unfortunately, many people try to say ‘to be good in’, and native speakers never do that. It is ‘be good AT’.
I know it happens uncontrollably. That’s why we are working with that, right? Because we often work with something complex and we just tend to forget about small things. I’m trying to help you here.
For some reason
English learners often say ‘by some reason’. It’s a literal translation from some native languages of those speakers. If you are willing to say you don’t know why something is happening, you will use the preposition FOR: for some reason.
- For some reason, he hasn’t called yet.
- I don’t understand. For some reason, this thing isn’t working’.
We are preparing a big course about set expressions, please stay in touch if you are interested!
I hope that I have caught some important common mistakes in English speaking. They sometimes can confuse the person who is listening to you. Let’s speak good English!
And if you have any questions about any confusing phrases or structures, please ask your questions in the comments.