20 Common English Mistakes Made by Czech People


Written by mb of www.EnglishCurrent.com . Updated March 9th, 2012.

Can you identify the common English mistakes below? If not, click on Explanation.

1 “Czech people are using the present continuous too often.” X

Explanation
There’s no need to use the present continuous (BE verb + ~ing) to describe habitual or recurring actions. I hope you aren’t using don’t use the present continuous when it’s not required!

2 “I take care about my sick grandmother.” X

Explanation
You take care of/look after/care for your grandmother (all three phrasal verbs have the same meaning). To care about something/someone is to think it/she/he is important and worth worrying about. I care about the rain forests in Brazil, but I can’t take care of them because I don’t live there. I just think they are important.

3 “I told I will be back in five minutes.” X

Explanation
Note the difference between tell vs. say. The object of the verb “tell” is a <person>, e.g. “I told <Brenda> that I’ll be back”. The object of the verb “say” is a <message> that is said, e.g. “I said <I’ll be back> (to Brenda).”

4 “I studied the University of Economics.” X

Explanation
In English, the direct object of the verb study is the subject of study. If you want to mention where you studied, you should use a preposition (such as at/in/from/by). E.g., “I studied mathematics at Charles University.”

5 “I learned him English.” X

Explanation
You can’t learn a person (e.g. him). You learn a thing/subject, e.g. English, which follows the verb. When my students make this mistake, they really mean “I taught him English.” The verb teach can be followed by a person -or- a thing (e.g. I taught Sarah English / I taught English to Sarah).

6 “One of my colleague is from Canada.” X

Explanation
Use a plural noun (e.g. colleagues, friends) after “one of ~”, followed by a verb conjugated in third person singular (he/she/it). One of my colleagues smells like garlic.

7 Words that have different meaning from their equivalents in Czech:

  • Teenagers attend high school between the ages of 15-18. Young adults attend college or university after high school.
  • To be punctual is to be on time. The word meticulous or precise describes the equivalent of the Czech word for puntičkářský.
  • Dresses are worn by girls. A dress is not a sports uniform or track suit.
  • A nurse is not a sister, generally.
  • To control is to operate or manage (something), for example, a kite. It does not mean to check something.
  • One billion in English means 1,000,000,000. (The UK had a different definition of “billion” but have now changed to the 1,000,000,000 standard).

8 Pronunciation of hard /g/ (e.g. go ) and soft /dʒ/ (e.g. age):

As a general rule, when the letter g is followed by e/i/y it usually has a soft sound. This is true of words like gesture and register. However there are exceptions, such as target, that require a hard g. Beware of exceptions.

9 “I will give some presentation.” X

Explanation
The above sentence isn’t wrong. But there is a slight difference between using some or a(n) before a singular noun (e.g. project). You can use some with a singular noun when you are referring to something that is not known or identified. For example, “I read in some newspaper that the company was in trouble.” The word some in front of newspaper means that you do not know or remember what newspaper it was. The name of the newspaper is not important in the sentence. It is not natural to say “I will give some presentation” if you know what kind of presentation it will be and you don’t want it to sound unimportant. Instead, use the normal “I will give a presentation.” “Some”, when put in front of singular nouns, is often used when telling stories. For example, “Some guy spilled my drink at the bar last night.” This implies that “Some (unknown) (unimportant) guy spilled my drink.” The emphasis is not on the guy but the fact that your drink was spilled.

10  “There is comfortable”. X

Explanation
Beware of sentences with no subjects. “There” is an adverb, “is” is a verb, and “comfortable” is an adjective. The above sentence is impossible because there is no noun or pronoun that can act as a subject. To correct the sentence, English speakers use the pronoun “It” as the subject of the sentence (i.e. It is comfortable there).

11  “Can I have a question?” X

Explanation
The proper question is “Can I *ask* a question?” We use “Can I have…?” to ask for something, e.g. “Can I have next Friday off work?” We don’t use “Can I have a question” because you are not asking for a question. You already have one; you just want to ask it.

12 Pronunciation of V

Explanation
Village, virtual, volleyball, videos. All these words have a V sound that is distinct from the W sound. V and W sounds are not the same in English.

13 “I don’t know what is his job.” X

Explanation
Remember that the verb (is) needs to be moved to the end of the sentence. I don’t know what his job is.

14 “That side of town is danger.” X

Explanation
Many of my students still struggle with the use of the nouns danger/safety and their adjective forms dangerous/safe. That side of the town is dangerous. If you go there, you will be in danger.

15 “I live in the Prague in Czech Republic.” X

Explanation
Articles are confusing. “The” is not used before location names that are proper nouns, such as original words like “Boston” or “Canada” with no other English meanings. “The” is used before the names of countries that are unions, republics, or groups of states. Currently, I live in Prague in the Czech Republic.

16 “He is 22 years.” X

Explanation
You can say either “He is 22.” – or – “He is 22 years old”. The above sentence is incorrect.

17 “He lives in so nice apartment.” X

Explanation
“So” comes before an adjective that is not followed by a noun. When a noun follows the adjective, “so” becomes “such”. Therefore, you should say “such a nice apartment.” The article “a” is required here since the noun apartment is countable.

18 “I’ll do everything what is necessary.” X

Explanation
My students occasionally mistake “that” and “what”. I’ve never heard this mistake from non-Czech students so I assume it’s a Czech-to-English translation problem. You can either say  “I’ll do everything that is necessary.” or “I’ll do what is necessary.” You can’t put “everything” and “what” together after do. In this sentence they both function as pronouns. You can only use one.

19 “There was no way how to escape.” X

Explanation
I believe this is another translation issue. The word “how” is not needed in this sentence.

20 “Skiing in the mountains was really funny.” X

Explanation
Fun and funny have different meanings. A joke is supposed to be funny and Disneyland is supposed to be fun. Something that makes you laugh is funny while something that makes you yell “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” in enjoyment is fun. Skiing in the mountains should be fun, but not really funny unless you have smoked something.

Was this helpful? Yes? You’d never make these common English mistakes, right? Really? Prove it! Complete the below exercise:

 

Imy dad that I want to studybecause one of my closeplans to study there. However, my dad doesn’tmy education. He wants me to get married so I can make a family. That doesn’t sound liketo me. I don’t want to just marryguy to make babies. I’m onlynow and I only want to get married if I fall in love. I’ll finishthis year. This summer, I want to travel toin. I’ve heardand. I think traveling is. In the future, I’d like toEnglish. I’ve been studying English for 10 years but Imany mistakes. Oh well. I believe that studying hard is the best wayimprove!
Answers

I told my dad that I want to study at Charles University because one of my close friends plans to study there. However, my dad doesn’t care about my education. He wants me to get married so I can make a family. That doesn’t sound like such a good idea to me. I don’t want to just marry some guy to make babies. I’m only 18 years old now and I only want to get married if I fall in love. I’ll finish high school this year. This summer, I want to travel to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. I’ve heard it is very beautiful and safe there. I think traveling is fun. In the future, I’d like to teach English. I’ve been studying English for 10 years but I still make many mistakes. Oh well. I believe that studying hard is the best way to improve! !

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mb is a writer for EnglishCurrent.com, a free ESL news lesson site for intermediate to advance students of English. He has taught English in Canada, Japan, Belgium, and now Prague.

 

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19 comments on “20 Common English Mistakes Made by Czech People

  1. Kendrick (Posted on 4-1-2011 at 23:43) Reply

    I truly learned about a majority of this, but with that said, I still assumed it turned out practical. Sweet post!

  2. cardaddy (Posted on 7-8-2011 at 11:48) Reply

    Hey! I’ve just stopped by to say thanks for this great article. Take care!

  3. Levitra (Posted on 1-11-2012 at 21:50) Reply

    Aloha there! Do you know where I can get additional information on this topic?

  4. narg (Posted on 5-16-2012 at 18:34) Reply

    all this mistakes come from one simple thing and that is they still think in Czech! When they answering the question (or simply talk to someone), they translate all from eng into czech and then back to eng, so they use sentence composition from czech rules what do not make sense in eng, point 18 is nice example of this acting (I use this right now :), I think this come from elementary school, where is used this system (I dont want say tolerated), but if you dont use english teacher or study english in england/usa you never get rid of this acting (I mean if you want think and talk in english completly).

    On the other side, with this style have a lot of people learn English and even if they pretend that dont use English, they understand you quite well…

    finally, if I dont need use english at a high level (top bussines etc) I am pretty fine with my skills.

    btw all this pointsnmyou mentioned here I can apply for English as well

  5. admin (Posted on 5-16-2012 at 20:14) Reply

    Hello narg. Yes, translation is a problem, but it’s also a natural way to approach a second language. In time, hopefully, these errors can be corrected. By the way, instead of using the word “acting” in your message, it would be better to use “behavior”. “Behavior” a real noun (‘acting’ is a verb) and it fits both sentences better.

    Keep studying and thank you for the comment! You’re right — I could understand everything you wrote.

  6. narg (Posted on 5-17-2012 at 07:32) Reply

    yes I know, in czech language does not metter if you use acting or behavior, both means the same, so I use acting and for me it is not wrong, bcz in translation its correct..

    But how I can see, you understand my message, including my mistakes :D

  7. Yasmin (Posted on 11-3-2012 at 21:46) Reply

    BUT I DON’T improve my skllis. IT IS REALLY FRUSTRATING that I want to improve but for some REASON I AM STUCK and the only thing you can do is STUDY HARD.By the way change IN topic, I don’t know what’s the average AMOUNT MOST FOREIGN PEOPLE LEARN, MAYBE YOU CAN SAY STATISTICS about that or can give ME some link to search information about it.Thanks for readING this argument please be rude and just write about my general grammar or my ideas, I know that I change topicS QUICKLY,but IT is just a test to SHOW YOU my skllis. Thanks a lot to everybody.

  8. ... (Posted on 8-23-2013 at 03:34) Reply

    Most native english speakers cannot speak correctly, let alone write correctly. Minor mistakes such as these by someone with an accent (everyone has accent, even within America,) will not be a terrible thing.

  9. Jerry (Posted on 8-31-2014 at 08:40) Reply

    One of my colleague is from Canada.

    In Czech it is also in plural, so there is not reason for this mistake, probably only forgotten -s.

    In the Czech this sentce is LITERALLY the same!

  10. Martin (Posted on 11-29-2014 at 18:50) Reply

    Every little bit helps, there are no miraculous methods. You have to learn gradually, improvements come by slowly. However, you will never have the same feeling for a second language as for your native one and you will always retain some accent no matter how much you try. At least one should try to avoid gross mistakes and make sure his way of speaking doesn’t jar on English ears. Studying another language actually improves your own language. It makes you think more about Czech language. I suppose it would be more difficult for an English speaking person to learn Czech than the other way around.
    I found the above 20 examples very useful.

    Thanks, Mr. mb!

  11. Lucas (Australia) (Posted on 10-22-2015 at 07:26) Reply

    I’ve been teaching English here in Prague for nine months and I can totally relate to most of these mistakes. I find that a lot of these are unique for Czech students.

  12. Hanka (Posted on 4-4-2016 at 03:29) Reply

    Very helpful! I chuckled at a few of these, they reflect the mistakes my students make ALL the time. Being Czech myself, I see where my students are coming from most of the time, but the danger/dangerous thing is baffling. In Czech you also use different words for the noun (danger- nebezbečí) and adjective(dangerous – nebezpečný). I wonder why it poses a problem…

  13. Hanka (Posted on 4-4-2016 at 03:35) Reply

    Also, I would add a few mispronunciations to the list. Pretty much all my students struggle with pronouncing hotel, event, fruit, vegetable, problem, project and salmon. Somehow, event and hotel seem to be a problem even for advanced students…

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 4-4-2016 at 08:41) Reply

      Hotel! aka ‘hodal’ Yes. You could always count on that one =)

  14. Jula Abdella (Posted on 6-25-2016 at 12:26) Reply

    Yes it’s helpful!..Thanks a lot!!

  15. Anonymous (Posted on 5-6-2017 at 17:24) Reply

    1,A junior high that was a bad experiene.
    2,with each group,awide range of features to choose from

  16. Paul (Posted on 5-30-2017 at 13:21) Reply

    Nice. I’ve noticed most of these mistakes in my student’s work. Although, many Czech students say ” I have 22 years.”

  17. Manish agrawal (Posted on 11-2-2017 at 00:01) Reply

    Is ‘poetry’ a singular or plural ????

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 11-4-2017 at 22:29) Reply

      poetry is a singular non-countable noun. ‘Poetry is good’ <--- we use 'is' because the noun is singular.

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