Written by mb of www.EnglishCurrent.com . Updated April 5th, 2020.
Can you identify the common English mistakes below? If not, click on Explanation.
1. “Czech people are using the present continuous too often.”
Czech people use the present continuous too often.
There’s no need to use the present progressive (continuous) (BE verb + ~ing) to describe habitual or recurring actions. I hope you
aren’t using don’t use the present progressive when it’s not required! Review the differences between present simple and present progressive (continuous) here.
2. “I take care about my sick grandmother.”
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.”
I told her that I would be back in five minutes.
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.”
I studied at/in the University of Economics.
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.”
I taught him English.
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.”
One of my colleagues is from Canada.
Use a plural noun (e.g. colleagues, friends) after “one of ~”, followed by a verb conjugated in the third person singular (he/she/it). One of my colleagues smells like garlic.
7. Words that have a 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.”
I will give (a/my/the) presentation.
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.
Therefore, 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”.
It is comfortable there.
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?”
Can I ask a question?
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
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.”
I don’t know what his job is.
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.”
That side of town is dangerous.
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.”
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. See our lesson here on articles with locations.
16. “He is 22 years.”
He is 22. / He is 22 years old.
17. “He lives in so nice apartment.”
He lives in such a nice apartment.
“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. See our lesson on this topic.
18. “I’ll do everything what is necessary.”
I’ll do everything that is necessary.
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.”
There was no way to escape.
I believe this is another translation issue. The word “how” is not needed in this sentence.
20 . “Skiing in the mountains was really funny.”
Skiing in the mountains was really fun.
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:
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!
Need more help? Post a comment below.
If you’d like to try some more, you can visit these related pages:
- 34 Common English Mistakes (Version 1)
- Find the Common English Mistakes (Version 2)
- 23 Common English Mistakes (Version 3)
Matthew Barton 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 Prague.