34 Common English Mistakes Made by ESL/EFL Students
Here is a list of common English mistakes my intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced ESL students make. Generally, these are grammar mistakes.
> Students, take a look at the sentences (each has a common English mistake) and try to correct the errors.
> Teachers, download the common English mistakes file here for use in class: Common-English-Mistakes-ESL.doc
I have added explanations to most of the mistakes. If you have any questions, leave a comment below. Good luck!
1. There is very cold in the summer.
It’s very cold there in the summer.
Explanation: In the above sentence, ‘there’ is an adverb (a place). An adverb cannot be the subject of a sentence.
2. According to me, that’s true.
Answer[In my opinion, / I think] that’s true.
3. If I will be late, I’ll call you.
If I am late, I’ll call you.
Explanation: This is the first conditional (Future Real).
4. I am used to wake up early on weekdays.
I am used to waking up early on weekdays.
Explanation: the phrasal verb be used to is followed by a gerund (verb in ~ing form).
5. She sat in the end of the table.
She sat at the end of the table.
6. I stopped to smoke cigarettes because it was unhealthy.
I stopped smoking cigarettes because it was unhealthy.
Explanation: stop + gerund describes the activity you no longer do. stop + infinitive describes the reason why you stopped.
7. It is very good weather.
The weather is very good.
Explanation: It = the weather.
8. I need to concentrate myself on my homework.
I need to concentrate on my homework.
Explanation: You cannot use a reflexive pronoun after concentrate.
9. Did you ever read the book “Moby Dick?”
Have you ever read the book “Moby Dick?”
Explanation: When talking about a non-specific time in the past, use the present perfect tense (have + past participle).
10. Brian is so stupid man.
Brian is such a stupid man.
Explanation: so changes to such when it is describing a noun. See lesson plan here.
11. In Spain are many nice beaches.
There are many nice beaches in Spain. / Spain has many nice beaches.
Explanation: The above sentence needs a subject.
12. I told that I will come back later.
I said that I would come back later.
Explanation: The object of the verb tell is a person. The object of the verb say are the words/message you say.
13. In my city, bars are closing at 10 p.m. on weeknights.
In my city, bars close at 10 p.m. on weeknights.
Explanation: Use the present simple here to describe a regular action.
14. Let’s have a dinner together sometime.
Let’s have dinner together sometime.
15. Do you know where is the nearest police station?
Do you know where the nearest police station is?
16. I often do mistakes when I speak English.
I often make mistakes when I speak English.
Explanation: make is an act of creation. There was no mistake until you created it (made it).
17. I can’t find nothing in my neighborhood.
I can’t find anything in my neighborhood.
18. I’ve seen that movie last Thursday.
I saw that movie last Thursday.
Explanation: last Thursday is a definite time in the past. Therefore, you should use the past simple tense.
19. How does your new painting look like?
What does your new painting look like? / How does your new painting look?
20. I look forward to see you next month.
I look forward to seeing you next month.
Explanation: The phrasal verb look forward to is followed by a gerund (verb in ~ing form).
21. Can I have a question?
Can I ask a question?
Explanation: Why do you want a question?
22. The news on TV are always sad.
The news on TV is always sad.
23. What means this word?
What does this word mean?
24. The capital of the United Kingdom is the London.
The capital of the United Kingdom is London.
Explanation: Countries that are groups of states (republics, unions, kingdoms, emirates, or states) have the definite article the before them. Secondly, never use the before a city name.
25. Doctor is a hard job.
Being a doctor is hard. / Being a doctor is a hard job.
Explanation: A doctor is a person, not a job. A job is something you do (a verb, an action). What is hard? Not the doctor (the person) — it’s the action (= being a doctor).
26. Surprising is that no one was hurt.
It’s surprising that no one was hurt. / The surprising thing is that no one was hurt.
Explanation: an adjective cannot be the subject of a sentence.
27. I suggested to buy a new car.
I suggested buying a new car.
Explanation: We use a gerund (verb in ~ing form) after the verb suggest
28. My teacher is a 34-years old woman.
My teacher is a 34-year old woman.
Explanation: ’34-year old’ is an adjective in this sentence which describes woman. We don’t pluralize (add ‘s’ to) adjectives.
29. If I would be taller, I’d play basketball.
If I were taller, I’d play basketball.
Explanation: This is the second conditional (a present unreal situation).
30. That’s not that bad idea.
That’s not that bad (of) an idea.
Explanation: ideas are countable, so you need an article (an). ‘Of’ becomes a preposition of the noun ‘idea’.
31. One of my roommate is from Brazil.
One of my roommates is from Brazil.
32. It depends on countries.
It depends on the country.
Explanation: Always use the definite article (the) and then (usually) a singular noun after depends on
33. Even I was tired, I went to the party.
Even though I was tired, I went to the party.
34. I explained her the problem twice.
I explained the problem twice to her.
Explanation: The object of the verb explain is what you explain, not whom you explain the problem to.
How can you improve your English? The best way is to practice speaking and writing with a teacher who can give you feedback on your mistakes. If you don’t have a teacher, there is also free software such as Grammarly that can give you grammar feedback while you type.
If you’d like to try some more common mistakes, please visit these related pages:
- Find the Common English Mistakes (Version 2)
- 23 Common English Mistakes (Version 3)
- 10 Common Writing Mistakes
- 20 Common Mistakes made by Czechs
– Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com (copyright)