Today we’re going to talk about common errors that students make when speaking English, but first I want to say one thing…
Please don’t let the fear of errors stop you from speaking English. Remember, it’s more important to communicate and practice your speaking, even if it’s not perfect.
However, one of the fastest ways to correct your errors in English is to focus on avoiding the most common mistakes. I’ll teach you 5 in this lesson.
If you’d like to learn more, check out my course on 200 Common Errors in English.
Common English Error #1 – haven’t / don’t have
- Incorrect: “I haven’t a car.”
- Correct: “I don’t have a car.”
When HAVE is the main verb (meaning possession) we use don’t have and doesn’t have, for example: I don’t have any sisters. Bob doesn’t have a dog.
When HAVE is the auxiliary verb (like in the present perfect), then we use haven’t and hasn’t, for example: I haven’t finished my work yet. Jane hasn’t taken the test.
Common English Error #2 – everybody like / likes
- Incorrect: “Everybody like the teacher.”
- Correct: “Everybody likes the teacher.”
The words everybody, anybody, somebody, and nobody all take the singular form of the verb. “Everybody” refers to many people, but it considers them as a group. Other words that refer to many people, but take the singular form of the verb include team, club, staff, family, and class.
- Everybody has a pencil.
(not “Everybody have”)
- Nobody wants to leave.
(not “Nobody want”)
Common English Error #3 – indirect and direct objects
- Incorrect: “Gary gave to Joan the keys.”
- Correct: “Gary gave the keys to Joan.”
- Correct: “Gary gave Joan the keys.”
Let’s look at the parts of this sentence:
- Gary is the subject
- gave is the verb
- the keys are the direct object
- Joan is the indirect object
In English, we can form the correct sentence in two ways.
- subject + verb + indirect object + direct object
Gary gave Joan the keys.
- subject + verb + direct object + to + indirect object
Gary gave the keys to Joan.
However, you can’t put the indirect object immediately after the verb AND use “to.”
Common English Error #4 – prepositions and verbs
- Incorrect: “They left without say goodbye.”
- Correct: “They left without saying goodbye.”
Verbs immediately following prepositions (like before, after, since, when, while, despite, without, and for) ALWAYS take the -ING form. Here are some examples:
- “After graduating from college, she started working full-time.”
- “This course is great for improving your English.”
Common English Error #5 – reported questions
- Incorrect: “He asked me where do I live.”
- Correct: “He asked me where I live.”
This sentence is an example of a reported question – we are talking about a question someone asked in the past. In reported questions, don’t use the auxiliary verbs do, does, or did.
Here’s another example:
- Incorrect: They asked me what did I think.
- Correct: They asked me what I thought.