Common Mistakes In English
Common Mistakes In English
The success of English rests partly on its great facility. The grammar of this language is relatively simple and one can very quickly manage to form quite rich sentences. However, this apparent simplicity conceals a number of pitfalls, in which even English speakers tend to fall. Here is a list of errors and difficulties that often come up among francophones, along with tips to avoid them.
Mistakes in English that you will soon not do
You’re / Your
This error is very common even among anglophones. Like many others that you will see in this article, it is based on the homonymy between you’re and yours, which are pronounced in the same way.
Yet, their meaning is not the same. You’re in the contraction of you are (“you are”, “you are”), while your is a possessive adjective (“your”, “your”).
It’s / Its
The principle is the same as for the previous point. It’s is the contraction of it is (“it”), while it is the possessive adjective meaning “sound”.
It should, therefore, be written:
It’s a wonderful world.
and surely not:
It’s a wonderful world.
Note that to translate the possessive adjective “son”, we will use his rather if the possessor is masculine and her if the possessor is feminine. It is to be reserved in cases where the owner is not a human being.
They’re / Their / There
Let’s not stop here, there is still a possessive adjective to deal with. This time, there are not two but three homonyms, which complicates us even more!
They’re the contraction of they are (“they are”) and there is the possessive adjective that means “there”.
It will then be necessary to write:
They’re coming tomorrow.
They are coming tomorrow. There is a special case and is used to designate a distant place (“there,” “there”) or to give an indication of the type “there is”. Some examples, both fair:
There is a cake on the table (there is a cake on the table)
I’m going there (I go there)
One last warning: do not confuse there’s ( there is, “there is”) and theirs, which is the possessive pronoun associated with their (their: “their,” theirs: “theirs”). You will understand, these two terms are pronounced in the same way, but they have nothing to do!
To / Too / Two
Still homonyms! Two should not be a problem because it is a “two” number. On the other hand, the duo to / too is more treacherous.
To serve to accompany an infinitive verb ( to do, to have …) or to indicate a direction ( I’m going to town ).
Too used to translate “also” ( me too ) or “too” ( I’m too hot ).
You will understand why I write:
I’m too tired to work, so I’m going to rest for two hours.
A remark that does not have much to do with the words of this paragraph, but I found it wise to place it here. Be careful not to confuse to lose and loose. Their pronunciation is also slightly different: the S is more marked for loose. So be sure to write loser to translate “loser” and not looser, which means “more relaxed”, “more flexible”. This is an error very frequently made by the French.
Than / Then
It seems that these two words have a distant common origin. Nevertheless, despite their similarities, they do not write or pronounce in the same way and do not mean the same thing.
Then makes it possible to make comparisons, like bigger than or smaller than.
Then serves as a temporal marker and serves to give an idea of succession. For example: We’re going to the cinema, then to a restaurant.
The shape I’m bigger than you, often used by English speakers, is therefore wrong, so you should write I’m bigger than you.
Other common mistakes
Do / Make
English has the particularity to have two verbs of equal importance meaning “to do”. For us francophones, it is not always easy to know which verb should be used. There is, unfortunately, no absolute rule to know which verb to use, but here is still a trick.
The verb to do usually concerns an action leading to an abstract result and the verb to make a concrete result.
For example, I did something wrong and I made some food.
Know in any case that “I made a mistake” means I made a mistake and not I did not mistake. Anglophones, therefore, consider error as a concrete result!
Who / Whom
These two words, which mean “who”, is of course parents, but they are not used in exactly the same way. Who is the subject, while who is the subject.
Who is there? →
Whom topic have you seen? → object
Whom is often preceded by a preposition: from whom, with whom, against whom …
The confusion between the two terms stems from the fact that in spoken language, who is often replaced by who. However, if you want to write a correct English, it is best not to mix them!
Me, Myself and I
These three forms mean “I” or “me”, but it is important to differentiate them. I is the form of the subject, the form of the object. So we’ll say,
I am here. → subject
This is for me. → object
So far, nothing complicated! On the other hand, things get complicated when there are several subjects. For example:
John and I went to the zoo.
To know whether to put I or me , just remove John from the sentence. That gives so well:
I went to the zoo.
It would not occur to you to tell me went to the zoo !
The same thing applies when there are two objects:
This is for John and me .
If you remove John from the sentence, it gives:
This is for me .
The form for I can not be used, because like all prepositions, for is followed by an object and the shape of the object is me , not I !