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Mistakes in your English speaking which make your teacher cry

Learning is about making mistakes. You only can learn something by experimenting, making mistakes, and trying; after correction, you will remember it better. And being a teacher means: I don’t feel bad about your errors – they help me direct and adapt my teaching.  

But sometimes I lose patience when I hear the same mistakes from all the different students I work with again and again.  They happen so often I wanna cry. Really. So, I am grouping them here for you to be sure to avoid them in your own speaking.

 

It’s somehow ironic I have to start with this one 😉

Incorrect

I often do mistakes.

Correct

I often make mistakes.

My pre-course test shows that more than 50% of those who completed it make this mistake. It means many people. Please remember: expressions with ‘make’ and ‘do’ are not always logical and we have to learn the most important of them at some stage.

Examples:

1) I think I made a mistake.

2) It’s hard to accept that you’ve made a mistake.

3) I think you are making a mistake leaving this job.

And 😉 ‘make’ and ‘do’ again

Incorrect

I make my homework every day.

Correct

I do my homework every day.

‘Make’ means ‘create’ something. ‘Do’ shows following some instructions or execute standardised operations. You can create/make an article etc., but ‘homework’ is a complex of exercises made by somebody else, e.g. your teacher or your textbook author.

Examples:

1) I do my morning exercises before breakfast.

2) She has made a cake (she has created a new product from different ingredients)

3) I like to make something with my hands (e.g. crafting)

This one is my personal anti-favourite ;(

Incorrect

I have a couple of questions

pronounced as

I have a couple of question

Correct

Please pronounce -s endings in nouns and verbs!!!

I mostly have experience with Slavic language speakers learning English, and for them, this is a chronic-super-chronic disease. Ending -s plays a very important role for both nouns (plural form – one ball – many balls) and verbs (third person singular – I like, he likes). No matter how complex your other grammar constructions are, this little pronunciation inaccuracy will make a bad reputation for you and might cause quite a misunderstanding.

Now pronounce these aloud several times to make sure you will be careful next time you speak:

1) He thinks she speaks good English.

2) I will only give you two examples.

3) I don’t have any problems with speaking English.

Next, ways to talk about someone’s age.

Incorrect

She is 25 years

Correct

She is 25 years old. She is 25.

A combination of ‘number + years’ means a period and answers the question: ‘How long?’ When we talk about the age, we want to answer another question: ‘How old?’. You can add ‘years old’ or ‘of age’ to show this meaning, or simply use a number without anything.

1) He is very smart for a 5-year-old.

2) How old is your daughter? – 5.

3) To be 40 years old means some responsibility, don’t you think?

One more grey zone: verbs of speaking

Incorrect

I said him

Correct

I said to him, or better: I told him

The verb ‘say’ is more concentrated on a message, and ‘tell’ on the addressant of one (who you are speaking to). That’s why the construction is ‘to say something to somebody’ so this ‘to’ cannot be skipped. Or if you pay attention to WHO you are speaking to, it’s better to use ‘to tell somebody’.

And please don’t forget to pay attention to examples:

1) I said that I couldn’t do it any more.

2) I told him everything I wanted to say for so long.

3) Do you know about it? – Yes, he told me.

If there are other typical mistakes you make or hear a lot, please write about them in the comments below. Stay in touch!

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