There are tons of little nuances that can reveal your actual English proficiency. For instance, if you say “I feel myself great” instead of simply “I feel great.” But hey, no need to dive back into textbooks to study from scratch! It’s way easier than that. Just keep reading and working on your English skills.
Mistakes in tenses
Mistake 1. Using the wrong verb form
Just imagine: after an office party at an American company, your boss tells you in the morning that you agreed to work overtime, no weekends off, and without a salary raise. What would your reaction be like?
❌ No way! I didn’t said that.
✔️ No way! I didn’t say that.
Remember that in negative sentences, after auxiliary verbs (didn’t, doesn’t, won’t, etc.), the verb should be in the infinitive form.
Mistake 2. Confusing Past Simple and Present Perfect
Picture this. You can’t find your keys and you ask your buddy if he’s seen them. If it doesn’t matter when exactly your buddy saw the keys, use the Present Perfect. This tense helps to talk about an action that went down in the past, regardless of when exactly, but it’s relevant right now. Use the Past Simple only for completed actions that happened at a specific moment in the past.
❌ You: Did you see my keys?
✔️ You: Have you seen my keys?
Your friends: Yes, I have. I think they are on the coffee table.
Mistake 3. Not using Present Continuous to express irritation
Scenario: Your neighbor is doing some crazy renovations. They’re drilling every evening, and it’s driving you up the wall.
❌ This guy drills holes every night!
✔️ This guy is drilling holes every night!
If you use the Present Simple, you’re just emphasizing the fact that it happens regularly. The Present Continuous, on the other hand, helps to express annoyance or irritation.
Mistake 4. Confusing state and action verbs
❌ Wow! These flowers are smelling so good!
✔️ Wow! These flowers smell so good!
Most verbs (eat, run, write, etc.) show that the subject is doing some physical action. But there are stative verbs (love, hate, remember, smell, believe, feel, etc.) that convey states, feelings, relationships, mental processes, and other characteristics of the subject. You can’t use them in the continuous form.
Mistake 5. Using future tense after If
❌ If I will get a job abroad, I will be the happiest person ever.
✔️ If I get a job abroad, I will be the happiest person ever.
In English, conditional sentences start with “if.” They’re used to talk about what’s happening, could happen, or might have happened. There are 5 types of conditional sentences, each with different conditions and their relationship to reality. They’re formed using different grammatical rules. So, the first conditional sentence expresses a real or possible condition and its likely result in the future. It is formed using the following structure: If + present simple, future simple.
Mistakes in pronouns
Mistake 1. Using the wrong word order
❌ After classes, I and my friends went to the movies.
✔️ After classes, my friends and I went to the movies.
In English, nailing the word order is key, especially in set expressions. Native speakers like to sound down-to-earth, so they usually put “I” in the second spot: my friends and I, my family and I, Mary and I.
Mistake 2. Confusing I and me
❌ My colleague invited my friend and I to dinner.
✔️ My colleague invited my friend and me to dinner.
“I” and “me” are personal pronouns. Sometimes it’s tricky to determine which one to use. Use”I” when it acts as the subject or part of the subject: I [subject] invited my colleague to dinner. My friend and I [subject] invited my colleague to dinner.
“Me” is an object pronoun and can only be used as part of the object:
My colleague [subject] invited my friend and me [object] to dinner.
Mistake 3. Incorrect use of reflexive pronouns
❌ I’m feeling myself not well today!
✔️ I’m not feeling well today!
In English, you only need the possessive pronoun after “feel.” Drop the word “myself.” When we say “feel myself,” it actually means “to touch, or sense yourself.”
Mistake 4. Confusing nobody/nothing and anybody/anything
❌ I don’t need nobody’s money.
✔️ I don’t need anybody’s money.
In English, we don’t do double negatives. Only one word should have a negative meaning in a sentence. This applies not only to verbs with “not” (doesn’t, didn’t, etc.), but also to words with negative prefixes, adverbs, and even some prepositions and verbs like disagree, dislike, dissatisfy, hardly, barely, and without.
Mistake 5. Failing to agree the subject and the verb
❌ Each of these girls sing well.
✔️ Each of these girls sings well.
In casual conversation, we often use inclusive pronouns like all, both, each, every, other, either, etc. When using each and every, the verb should be in the singular form. This rule also applies to the construction “each of + plural noun.”
Mistakes in prepositions and adverbs
Mistake 1. Not using a preposition when necessary
❌ I’m waiting the results of the exam.
✔️ I’m waiting for the results of the exam.
A lot of English verbs go together with specific prepositions. Learn those verb-preposition combos.
Mistake 2. Using’ the wrong preposition
❌ It depends from the plan you choose.
✔️ It depends on the plan you choose.
So, you already know about prepositional verbs and how important it is to learn them with the right preposition. But don’t forget to double-check them in the dictionary, even if they seem straightforward and you think you can just use the equivalent from your native language.
Mistake 3. Messing up similar words
Picture this, you joined a Speaking Club and found yourself in a tight-knit community of like-minded folks. You made some cool buddies who help you loosen up your tongue, and in return, you wanna help them out with their language learning’. Here’s what you say:
❌ As your mentor, I’ll help you as much as I can.
✔️ Like your mentor, I’ll help you as much as I can.
“As” and “like” have slightly different meanings. Use “as + noun” when you want to say someone’s acting in the role of someone else: As your mentor [speaker is the listener’s mentor], I’ll help you as much as I can.
“Like + noun” means “similar to, same as”: Like your mentor [speaker isn’t the listener’s mentor but wants to act in a similar way], I’ll help you as much as I can.
Mistake 4. Mixing up where to put “enough” and “too” in a sentence
❌ I can’t get in the car, there’s not too room.
✔️ I can’t get in the car, there’s not enough room.
Did you notice you keep using”very” and “a lot”? Well, it’s time to step up your game with “enough” and “too.” They mean different things but fit in similar grammar patterns.
“Too” means “too much,” “excessively,” and goes before adjectives or adverbs: There’s too much room here.
“Enough” means “sufficient” and goes before nouns, after adjectives, and adverbs: This room is big enough.
Mistake 5. Messing up adverb placement
❌ She was loudly singing all night.
✔️ She was singing loudly all night.
In a day, we use anywhere from 50 to 200 adverbs. Now all you need to do is remember where to stick them in a sentence. If the adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, it goes before it: I’m terribly sorry.
Adverbs of manner (answering’ “how?” or “in what way?”) go after the verb they modify: She was singing loudly all night.
Word choice mistakes
Mistake 1. Using the wrong question word
❌ How do you call it?
✔️ What do you call it?
Use “how” for questions about manner or method, like “how slowly” or “how quietly.” When you want to find out the name or identification of something, go with “what.”
Mistake 2. Making uncountable nouns plural
❌ The professor gave us several useful advices for our research.
✔️ The professor gave us several useful words of advice for our research.
English has a ton of uncountable nouns. So, to begin with, study these ones: advice, research, knowledge, accommodation, baggage, equipment, furniture, hair, success, information, luggage, money, news, pasta, progress, travel, work. If you wanna talk about multiple portions of these uncountable things, toss in some helper words like “piece,” “sheet,” or “glass” to keep count.
Mistake 3. Repeating the subject
❌ My handwriting it is improving.
✔️ My handwriting is improving.
Once you’ve dropped the subject, there’s no need to double up with the corresponding pronoun. You’d just be saying the same thing twice, and that’s a no-go.
Mistake 4. Trusting the translator’s false friends
Your friend: How are you?
❌ You: I’m normal.
✔️ You: I’m doing fine.
Now, here’s a heads up: “Normal” is more like “ordinary” or “usual.” False friends in translation can really throw you off. So, always double-check word meanings in the dictionary.
Mistake 5. Confusing “too” and “neither”
Your friend: I didn’t like this movie.
❌ You: Me too.
✔️ You: Me neither.
When it comes to agreeing with positive statements, the simplest way is to say, “Me too.” But when it comes to negative sentences, swap out “too” for “neither.”
If you’ve been studying English for a while, you probably have your own set of “favorite” mistakes you keep making. Write them in the comments section!