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Common Mistakes in English

 

Below is a list of words connected with common mistakes made by students of English. Where the problem is one of using the wrong word, it is the wrong word that is listed. It acts best in this way as a danger signal, which is what all the words in the list are. Whenever you find yourself using one of these words, stop and think.

Every teacher would of course produce a slightly different list, but at least three-quarters of almost any such list would probably be the same. This is my personal one, based on my experience over the years.

The list is printed again, with an explanation of why each word is on the list. Please note that this is not intended as a complete grammar or vocabulary explanation of each point. It is simply to explain what each problem is. Do not try to learn all the explanations. Just use them for reference. But if you are preparing for an examination you should look at the list quite often, and ask yourself if you are using the words correctly. Then, just before the examination, read through the list (of single words) several times, and try to imprint a picture of it on your memory.

Some people don't agree with the idea of a list of "mistakes". They say one should never draw students' attention to mistakes in this way, because that will confuse them and make them make mistakes they would not have made otherwise. This is simply not true. People who think it is have clearly very little practical experience of teaching English as a foreign language. The truth is that most students will make and continue to make these classic mistakes until they are warned about them.

(Observant readers will notice a bias in favour of British English where there are options in spelling or stress.)

 

accept

accident

accommodation

according to

accuse

actually

address

advantage

advertise

advice

after

age

ago

agree

all

allow

already

also

altogether

always

amount

answer

any

appear

arrive

as (1)

as (2)

as (3)

as well as

ask

She asked what

assist

at first

avoid

before

besides

better

between

boring

born

both

bring

built

by

capable

car

chose

circulation

clothes

cloths

colour

come

concerns

consider

consist

contrary

control

cooker

could

crash

critic

cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

damage

day

dead

Dear Sir/Madam

depend

difficulties

direction

discuss

divide(d)

do you...? (1)

do you...? (2)

dress

during

 

 

 

 

 

early

economical

end

English

enjoy

enough

enter

equipment

event

eventually

every

everyday

examination

except

exercise

experience

experiment

explain

fall down

far; distant

feel

fell

felt

find

first

fish

floor

for

friend

fruit

fun

furniture

 

good / bad

go out

great / good deal

 

hairs

hardly

have to

help

holiday

home

hope

how

hundred

 

 

 

 

idea

if (1)

if (2)

ignore

in

in / on

in case

in those days

increase

information

insist

interesting (1)

interesting (2)

is

it's

kind, sort

know

last (1)

last (2)

last (3)

latest

learn

least

left, right

lend

let

lie / lay

life

listen

longer

look forward

loose

loud

luck

make

marry

mathematics

mean, meaning

means (1)

means (2)

memoirs

mind

mistake

moment

Monday

more

most

must

 

 

 

 

nature

near

nearly

neck

never

news

newspaper

next

-nger

no

no doubt

noise

none

notes

occasion

once

one

one of

opinion

opposite

other

others

page

painted

pant

party

people (1)

people (2)

permission

photograph

pick up

place

point of view

politic

possibility

prefer

presently

prevent

prize

profit

progress

promise

provide

pyjama

quiet

 

 

 

 

raise / rise

reach

reason

regret

remark

remember

responsibility

risk

room

run

said

scenery

sensible

sick

since

sleeping

smoking

so

sometimes

sorry

souvenirs

specialised

speed

spend

steal

still

stop

study

succeed

suggest

sure

surely

 

take

talk

technique

tell

thankful

than

that (1)

that (2)

the one

think

thunder/lightning

time (1)

time (2)

too (1)

too (2)

town

travel

troubles

truth

try

turn

 

 

until

U.S.A. etc

use

used to

usually

 

very well

 

way

weather

when

whole

win

wish (1)

wish (2)

work

worth

would (1)

would (2)

 

years

 

 

 

accept something, an invitation etc. NOT "accept to do". BUT agree to do

accident: have an accident; be involved in an accident. AVOID other verbs.

accommodation. UNCOUNTABLE. NOT "accommodations, an accommodation".

according to him, the newspaper, the postman etc. NOT "according to somebody's opinion".

accuse somebody of doing something

actually is NOT a time word. He actually built his house with his own hands: nobody helped him.

address. Notice the spelling.

advantage. Things have advantages- they do NOT "present advantages" etc.

advertise. Notice the stress in this group of words: advertise, advertising, BUT advertisement.

advice. UNCOUNTABLE. NOT "an advice, advices".

after is NOT an adverb. NOT "She had a bath. After she went to bed."(This would make the bed very wet!) This should be: She had a bath. Then (or possibly Afterwards) she went to bed.

age. at the age of ten; at an age when etc. NOT "in/with the age. . .". NOT "have the age of. . .".

ago is used with the past tense ONLY. NOT "I had read the book three years ago." etc. This should be: I had read the book three years before.

agree. Spanish speakers note especially. agree with somebody; we agree to do; I agree. NOT "I am agree( d)" etc.

all. All (that) you say is true. All we ask for is politeness, etc. NOT "All what you say is true. All what we ask. . ." etc. "all people" is almost always not English. Say everybody. BUT if you qualify or define the all, then: All the people in the room; all the people who were there etc.

allow. Are we allowed to smoke? etc. NOT "Is it allowed to smoke?" "It" here could only be the cat or the dog, or the baby whose sex we do not know.

already is often a difficult word to use correctly. Be careful.

also must NOT normally be used at the beginning of sentences.

altogether. We sat all together at the back. NOT "sat altogether".

always must NOT be used at the beginning of sentences. NOT "always when" but "whenever"

amount can only be used with UNCOUNTABLES. a large amount of sugar. NOT "a large amount of books".

answer a person; answer a question. NOT "answer to a person; answer to a question" etc.

any. We had no money. NOT "We had not any money."

appear. He looks ill. NOT "He appears ill." What does he look like? NOT "How does he appear?" or "How does he look?" (But note that "How does he look?" would be a reasonable thing to say if you were asking about somebody's health.)

arrive at a place or arrive in a place. NOT "arrive to a place". I

as (1). He talks like his father. NOT ''as his father".

as (2). Latin language speakers note especially. Do not confuse as with than or that. than must be used with comparative adjectives and adverbs (slower than etc.), NOT as. that has nothing at all to do with any sort of comparison.

as (3). Some cities, such as Tokyo and New York. . . NOT "Some cities, as Tokyo and New York. . ."

as well as. She plays the cello as well as the piano. could mean two quite different things. Make your meaning clear by saying either:

        (a) She plays the piano, and the cello as well. or:
(b) She plays the cello as well as she plays the piano.
Notice She plays the cello well, as well as being a fine pianist etc.

ask somebody a question. NOT "ask a question to somebody. (i.e. there is no "to".)
She asked what the time was. (Indirect question.) NOT "She asked what was the time."

assist. attend a meeting, a lecture etc. NOT "assist (at) a meeting, a lecture" etc.

at first. First she washed up; then she went to bed. NOT "At first she washed up; then. . ."

avoid doing. NOT "avoid to do".

before. She parked her car in front of the post office. NOT "before the post office".

besides. The cat lay down beside me. NOT "besides me".

better. We had better go. NOT "would better" or any other verb: only had.

between. Don't confuse between with among.

boring (active) is different from bored (passive); interesting is different from interested, etc!

born. I was born. . . NOT "I am born. . ."

both, all. Make sure you know their correct position in a sentence.

bring is different from take. You bring here and take there. NOT "bring there" or "take here". ("Here" is where the speaker, or the person spoken to, is. Anywhere else is "there". So: "Shall I bring my guitar to your party?" but "Shall I take my guitar to Bill's party?")

built is the past tense of the infinitive build.

by. by car; by train; by air, etc. BUT in the car; on my bicycle; on that flight etc. Remember how prepositions are used with means of transport.

 

capable of doing, NOT "capable to do".

car. You get into or out of cars. NOT "go into" or "go out of' cars.

chose is the past tense of the infinitive and present choose.

circulation of the blood, or of a newspaper, BUT NOT of "the traffic".

clothes. You put clothes on and take them off. NOT "take clothes on". And clothes are NOT the same as

cloths, which you wipe things with, etc.

colour. It is green. NOT "It has a green colour."

come is different from go. You come here and go there. NOT "come there" or "go here". More precisely, you come to where the speaker or the person spoken to is, and you go to everywhere else.

concerns. It's all right as far as I'm concerned, etc. NOT "It's all right as far as concerns me." etc.

consider. I consider him a genius. NOT "I consider him as a genius." BUT I regard him as a genius.

consist. It consists of three parts. NOT "It consists in three parts."

contrary. She was not pretty; on the other hand she was highly intelligent. NOT "She was not pretty; on the contrary she was highly intelligent." BUT She is not pretty; on the contrary, she's as ugly as sin.

control. The customs check your baggage. They do NOT "control your baggage".

cooker. PEOPLE are good (or bad) cooks, NOT "cookers", which are the instruments that cooks use.

could. The firemen were able to rescue the child yesterday. NOT "The firemen could rescue the child yesterday."

crash is NOT the same as crush. Cars crash, they crash into each other or into trees etc. People have crashes. There may be a crush at a football match.

critic is a PERSON. Critics write reviews or articles. They do NOT "write critics".

cry. When you want to attract somebody's attention on the other side of the street, you shout, NOT "cry". crying is usually with tears.

damage is UNCOUNTABLE. You may cause or do a lot of damage. NOT "do a lot of damages". BUT damages are money you pay in compensation.

day often causes difficulties. Note One day. . .; Early one day. . .; On a fine spring day. . .; During the day. . . (BUT At night. . .); He was there the whole day; . . . worked all day.

dead. He is dead. He was dead. BUT He has died. He died.

Dear Sir/Madam. A letter begun like this ends Yours faithfully, A letter begun with the surname (Dear Mrs Smith etc.) is usually ended Yours sincerely,

depend on, NOT "depend of" etc.

difficulties. have difficulty - NOT "difficulties" - (in) doing - NOT "to do".

direction. He went in that direction. NOT "to that direction".

discuss something. NOT "discuss about something". BUT have a discussion about something.

divide(d) into three parts etc. NOT "divide(d) in".

do you. . .? (1). Are you having lunch in town today? NOT "Do you have lunch in town today?" BUT Do you have lunch in town on Mondays?

do you. . .? (2). What do you do? What did you do? NOT "What do you? What did you?"

dress. Women, NOT men, wear dresses or a dress. BUT both men and women can wear evening dress (uncountable).

during. for ten weeks (how long). NOT "during ten weeks". BUT during the war (when).

 

early one day, morning etc.; early in the morning etc.; early on Tuesday etc.; early on Tuesday morning etc.

economical. The economic situation is improving. NOT "economical situation". BUT Try to be economical with the electricity.

end. In the end he gave up waiting and went home. BUT At the end of an hour he gave up waiting. . . Always At the end of something.

English. She speaks good English. NOT "a good English".

enjoy doing. NOT "enjoy to do". I enjoyed myself. NOT "I enjoyed me." And I enjoyed it very much. NOT "I enjoyed very much".

enough. enough water (NOUN). hot (ADJECTIVE) enough.

enter a room etc. NOT "enter in a room" etc.

equipment. UNCOUNTABLE. NOT "an equipment, equipments".

event. An event takes place. NOT "an event happens".

eventually is about TIME, NOT "chance". Eventually he gave up waiting and went home.

every, everybody, everything + SINGULAR. Every animal has its own character. Is everybody here?

everyday (one word) is an ADJECTIVE. everyday life. NOT "everyday's life".

examination. When one takes an examination one hopes to pass it, not fail it. Don't say pass if you really mean take.

except. There are ten cats in the house apart from mine. NOT "except mine". (BUT There are no cats here   except / apart from   mine.)

exercise. One takes exercise (uncountable) BUT one does exercises (countable).

experience. In the laboratory one makes experiments, NOT "experiences". experience (uncountable) means something different from an experience (countable). One has an experience.

experiment. make the experiment of doing something. NOT "do the experiment of doing something". .

explain something to somebody. NOT "explain somebody something".

fall down. Snow, rain, leaves etc. fall, NOT "fall down". BUT He fell down (accident) on the icy pavement.

far; distant. Expressions of distance are rather complicated. Make sure you know them before you use them. Here are some of them. It's a long way to Tokyo. It's a long way away. Is it far to Tokyo? I could hear distant voices. It's a considerable, vast, unimaginable, short distance; the great distances in Australia. I personally [ed.] don't like "It's a long distance," but in fact many native speakers say this. (BUT again, a long-distance telephone call; a long-distance runner etc.)

feel. I feel ill. NOT "I feel me ill."

fell is the past tense of fall, NOT of "feel". felt is the past tense of feel, NOT of "fall".

find does NOT have the sense "think", "have the opinion that". It refers to fact, not opinion. I have always found him very helpful. (That is what has always HAPPENED.) I think the novel is very well written. NOT "I find the novel is very well written." French speakers note especially.

first. This is the first time I have seen a giraffe. NOT "This is the first time I see a giraffe."

fish. We caught six fish. NOT "six fishes".

floor. on the second floor, NOT "in/at the second floor".

for. We went to the mountains to ski. NOT "for skiing". (Purpose of an action = infinitive. BUT purpose of a THING: This form is for applying for a visa.)

friend. a friend of mine, NOT "a friend to me".

fruit. UNCOUNTABLE. I bought six bananas and four oranges. NOT "ten fruits".

fun. UNCOUNTABLE. We have great fun, a lot of fun. It was great fun. NOT "have very fun", "It was very fun." And It was funny means it made you laugh.

furniture. UNCOUNTABLE. There is a lot of furniture. . . NOT "There are many furnitures . . ." all the furniture, NOT "all the furnitures".

good/bad at languages. NOT "good etc. in languages".

go out. get  out of / into  a car etc. NOT "go out of/into a car" etc.

great/good deal. many, lots of, a great many, a lot of books. BUT NOT "a great deal of books". great/good deal can only be used with UNCOUNTABLE nouns.

hairs. People have dark or fair hair (uncountable), NOT "hairs".

hardly. He works hard. NOT "He works hardly".

have to. If you want to come with us you will have to get up early. NOT "you have to get up early." have to is not like must. If you mean the future you must use the future.

help. I could not help laughing. NOT "I could not help to laugh."

holiday. Isn't Mr Smith here? No, I'm afraid not. He's (away) on holiday. BUT We're going to Scotland for a holiday.

home. go home, walk home, drive home, rush home, arrive home etc. NOT "go to home" etc. BUT be at home. '

hope. I hope so. NOT "I hope it." I hope not. NOT "I do not hope so."

how. What is her husband like? Very nice. NOT "How is her husband?" The answer to the "How" question might be He's much better today. His temperature is almost normal.

hundred. a/one hundred things. NEVER "hundred things" without a or one.

idea of doing something. NOT "idea to do".

if. (1). German speakers note especially. If I did that he would be very upset. NOT "If I would do that he would be . . ."

if. (2). I would like it if you came with me. NOT "I would like if you came with me."

ignore. I don't know the answer. NOT "I ignore the answer."

in. I am going to Italy. We went to a restaurant. NOT "going in Italy", "went in a restaurant".

in/on. Spanish speakers note especially. There is wine in the bottle. The bottle is on the table.

in case. Ring the fire brigade if there is a fire. NOT "in case there is a fire." BUT Take some food in case you get hungry. This is a good example of how disastrous dictionary translations can be.

In those days they did that, but these days they don't. (No in with these days. )

increase. an increase, rise, decrease, fall, drop, decline in temperature, population, rainfall, the birthrate etc. NOT "an increase etc. of'.

information. UNCOUNTABLE. some information; a lot of information. NOT "informations".

insist on doing or insist that he etc. should do something. NOT "insist to do".

interesting (1). It is interesting to me. NOT "for me". See also boring.

interesting (2). The stress is on in-, not on -res-.

is. Especially for Spanish and Italian speakers. Do you know Salamanca? Yes. It is a fine town. NOT "Yes, is a fine town."

it's. The cat was chasing its own tail. NOT "it's own tail". it's = it is. ~

kind, sort. kinds (or sorts) of thing; kinds (or sorts) of things, BUT normally NOT "kind (or sort) of things".

know. Travelling is good for getting to know new people. NOT "for knowing".

last (1) This is the last time I shall (will) come here. NOT "the last time I come here."

last (2). at last is a TIME expression. at least is NOT. He is ready at last.

last (3). The last bus goes at 11.45, NOT "The latest bus goes at 11.45." See latest.

latest. The latest bus (i.e. the most modern) has television for the passengers. See last.

learn. A teacher teaches you, NOT "learns you".

least. at least has nothing to do with time. At least ten thousand people were killed. See last.

left, right. turn left, turn right; turn to the left, to the right. NOT "turn on the/your left, right side". (Unless the doctor or physical training instructor is giving you instructions.)

lend. She borrowed my bicycle. NOT "She lent my bicycle." You lend what you have to the person who hasn't got it; they borrow it from you.

let. They let us smoke. NOT "They let us to smoke." let cannot be used in the passive.

lie-lay-lain: intransitive (no object); it is used in lie down. lay (which can be confusing, as it is the same as the past tense of lie): transitive (with an object) and regular: lay-laid-laid. See also raise.

life has both countable and uncountable senses. Life is hard. NOT "The life is hard." Also notice They lost their lives. NOT "They lost their life."

listen to something, somebody. NOT "listen something".

longer. She no longer lives here. or She does not live here any longer. NOT "She does not longer live here."

look forward to doing. NOT "look forward to do".

loose. Don't lose (ONE 0) your pen. NOT "Don't loose your pen."

loud. She read the letter aloud. NOT "loud".

luck. We were lucky to catch the train. NOT "We had luck to catch. . ."

make somebody do something (without to). NOT "make somebody to do". BUT I was made to stop.

marry somebody; be married to somebody. NOT "marry with somebody; be married with somebody".

mathematics, NOT "mathematic".

mean, meaning. German and Scandinavian language speakers note especially. mean never means "have the opinion that". What do you think about this? NOT "What do you mean about this?" What is your opinion? NOT "What is your meaning?"

means (1). a, one means of transport etc.; one, a means of doing something. many etc. means of transport, 'of doing something etc. Singular and plural are the same.

means (2). What does that mean? NOT "What means that?"

memoirs are only what a person WRITES. They are NOT the same as memories.

mind. Do you mind doing. . .? NOT "Do you mind to do . . . ?"

mistake. make a mistake. NOT "do a mistake".

moment. at that, the, one etc. moment. NOT "in that etc. moment".

Monday. Days of the week, and months, begin with a CAPITAL letter.

more. better, bigger, slower etc. NOT "more better" etc.

most. most (adjective) people; most (noun) of nature etc. NOT "most of people; most of the nature" etc. and NOT "most of the people" unless you mean particular people: most of the people there, in the room, that I know etc.

must. You can't be very warm with only that thin shirt on. NOT "You must not be very warm with. . ."

nature. I love nature. NOT "I love the nature."

near. She lives nearby. NOT "She lives in the near." We ate at a nearby pub. NOT" . . . at a near pub." BUT They live near the pub.

nearly. If in doubt between nearly and almost, use almost. You will almost certainly be right.

neck. I hurt my neck. NOT "the neck". And the same for all other parts of one's body, and one's clothes.

never. That is the best meal I have ever had. NOT "That is the best meal I have never had".

news. SINGULAR. The news is etc. NOT "The news are etc." a lot of, much, a great deal of news. NOT "many news".

newspaper. It says in the newspaper that. . . NOT "It is written/It stands in the newspaper that. . ."

next. Where is the nearest telephone? NOT "Where is the next telephone?" BUT This telephone box is out of order. How far is it to the next one?

-ng… It is a problem to know whether to pronounce a ‘hard’ g following the –ng sound, as in anger   

no. This is especially for Spanish speakers, who often use no when they should use not, and vice versa! Can you pass me the wine? Not that bottle. That one. NOT "No that bottle." BUT We have no wine. NOT "We have not wine."

no doubt expresses some degree of uncertainty. So does doubtless. Certainty is expressed by undoubtedly, without doubt, or there is no doubt that.

noise. One makes a noise or, with a different meaning, a lot of noise. NOT "makes noise".

none. neither of the two women. NOT "none of the two women".

notes. Musicians read music, NOT "notes". They may not be able to play if they have left their music behind.

 

occasion. on an occasion, NOT "in/at an occasion".

once. I want to go to Mexico one day. NOT "once" - unless you mean just one time, but not two times.

one of. It is strange how many European language speakers say "one of my book" instead of one of my books. Strange, because the grammar is the same, I believe, in all languages with a plural.

opinion. in my opinion. NOT "according to my opinion".

opposite. I live opposite the station. NOT "opposite to the station"

other. another, one word. NOT "an other".

others. French speakers note especially. He is very considerate towards others. NOT "towards the others".

page. on page twelve. NOT "in page twelve, at page twelve".

painted. The walls are green. NOT "The walls are painted in a green colour". The walls were painted green. NOT "The walls were painted in a green colour".

pant. Remind yourselves of an important general pronunciation point: the difference between æ (a)  and /\ (u). punting is quite different from panting, although the former may cause the latter. Japanese, Greek and Spanish speakers have particular difficulty with this distinction.

party. If you have gone to a party, you are now at a party. NOT "in a party". If you are in a party you are a member of a political party.

pay. I bought Bill a drink. NOT "I paid a drink for Bill", which means you bought Bill and the price of Bill was a drink!

people (1). are, were, have, go, etc. NOT "people is, was, has, goes" etc.

people (2). People are strange sometimes. NOT "The people are strange". BUT The people in the room sat down.

permission. get or have permission to do something. NOT "get a permission, the permission to do something".

photograph. A photograph is taken by a photographer. NOT by another "photograph".

pick up. pick flowers. NOT "pick up flowers", unless they have fallen on the ground.

place. There was no room for anyone else in the compartment. NOT "There was no place...."

point of view is NOT "opinion". My view is that nuclear power stations should all be closed. NOT "My point of view is that. . ."

politic. The adjective from politics is political, NOT "politic".

possibility of doing, NOT "possibility to do". Very often opportunity (which has both constructions) is a much better word to use.

prefer coffee to tea; prefer walking to driving. NOT "prefer coffee than tea" etc. BUT I would prefer to go today rather than tomorrow.

presently refers to the FUTURE, NOT the present. He'll be here presently.

prevent somebody (from) doing something. NOT "prevent somebody to do".

prize is quite different from price. One wins a prize; one pays a price.

profit. make a profit (on a business deal, on a car etc.). NOT "do, win a profit" etc.

progress. UNCOUNTABLE. We have made a lot of progress. NOT "done a big progress".

promise somebody that …. NOT "promise to somebody that …".

provide somebody with something. NOT "provide something to some- body".

pyjama. She put on her pyjamas. NOT "her pyjama". As a noun the word is always PLURAL. But as an adjective: She put on her pyjama top.

quiet. Do not confuse quiet and quite.

raise-raised-raised is transitive (with an object) and regular. rise-rose- risen is intransitive (without an object) and irregular. He raised his hand. The sun rises. It may help to remember that lie and rise - the i verbs - are intransitive and irregular. lay and raise - the a verbs - are transitive and regular.

reach, achieve an aim; achieve an ambition; achieve a purpose. NOT "reach an aim, ambition, purpose". BUT reach a goal and reach one's destination.

reason for something, for doing something. NOT "reason of'. But notice: I do not understand the reasons of the government (i.e. the government's reasons) for taking these measures.

regret doing. NOT "regret to have done".

remark. She noticed a man in the corner. NOT "She remarked a man in the corner." BUT She remarked (i.e. said) that he looked very nice.

remember. Remind me to take the key. NOT "Remember me to take. . ."

responsibility. Notice the spelling. There is no a!

risk doing. NOT "risk to do".

room. Have you a room for one night? NOT "Have you room for one night?" BUT There is room for two more books on this shelf.

run-ran-run. i. e. the past tense is NOT "run".

 

said. He told me. Or possibly He said to me that... . .BUT NOT "He said me that..."

scenery. UNCOUNTABLE. It was wonderful scenery. NOT "It was a wonderful scenery."

sensible does NOT mean sensitive. He has very sensitive skin. BUT That is a very sensible suggestion.

sick. He was sick. means he VOMITED.

since. Make absolutely sure you know how to use since (tenses!), and when to use for or ago instead. And note with the past tense: We waited from 10 a.m. NOT "We waited since 10 a.m. And I shall be working there from next Monday. NOT since next Monday"

sleeping. It is usually rather un-English to say things like "She is sleeping." Say She is asleep.

smoking. Men's evening dress is a dinner jacket, NOT "a smoking", which does not exist.

so. such a big problem (noun). NOT "so a big problem" or "a so big problem". BUT The problem is so big (adjective). And notice so big a problem.

sometimes. Come and see me sometime next week. NOT "sometimes".

sorry. I'm sorry about that. NOT "sorry for that". BUT notice: I felt sorry for the dog. I'm sorry (that) I'm late. He apologised for being late.

souvenirs are THINGS, OBJECTS - NOT memories.

specialised. She specialises in labour law. NOT "is specialised in".

speed. at great speed; at a speed of 100 m.p.h. NOT "in a speed".

spend two hours etc. doing. NOT "spend two hours to do".

steal. rob a person, a bank. NOT "steal a person, a bank". BUT steal (something)from somebody.

still. They still live there. NOT "Still they live there."

stop doing. NOT "stop to do". (Unless you mean to stop walking, working etc. in order to do something else.)

study. She has finished her studies. NOT "She has finished her study." That would mean she has been building or painting her study, and has finished now.

succeed in doing. NOT "succeed to do".

suggest that somebody should do something. NOT "suggest to somebody to do something".

sure. We'll probably hear today, but it is not certain. NOT "it is not sure." It is not sure, means the cat, or the dog, or the baby, is not sure.

surely expresses some DOUBT. NOT certainty. Surely you aren't going out in this weather? It would be mad.

 

take there, NOT "take here". See bring.

talk to somebody. NOT "talk with somebody".

technique. We live in an age of technology, NOT of "technique", and technology, NOT "technique", is being developed.

tell must have a PERSONAL OBJECT. She told us (me, the waiter, etc.) that she was a vegetarian. NOT "She told that she was. . ." And it concerns information. "Good evening," she said. NOT "'Good evening,' she told me".

thankful. People are grateful to others who help them or give them things, NOT "thankful". BUT I was very thankful that at least it was not raining.

than. I prefer cats to dogs. NOT "I prefer cats than dogs." I prefer working for myself to being an employee. NOT ". . . working for myself than being. . ." See also as.

that (1). Latin language speakers be careful! You have the same word for three different English words! See as.

that (2). I have been in England for four weeks. NOT "It is four weeks that I am in England."

the one; this. The behaviour of animals like dolphins, whales, or wolves is far more pleasant than that of man. NOT ". . . more pleasant than the one/this of man." The plural is those: Animals' activities are far less dangerous than those of human beings.

think. I do not think that is true. NOT "I think that is not true."

thunder/lightning are UNCOUNTABLE. There was a lot of thunder and lightning. NOT "thunders and lightnings".

time (1). At that time we lived in Wales. NOT "In that time. . ."

time (2). It is time we went. NOT "It is time we go."

too (1). I don't like ice-cream. I don't either. NOT "I don't too."

too (2). If somebody asks you if you are hungry, the most English negative answer is Not very. NOT "Not too much." Learn to use this very English word: very.

town. The opposite of living in the town is living in the country. NOT "in the countryside".

travel. UNCOUNTABLE. It was a tiring journey. NOT "a tiring travel".

troubles. We had terrible trouble (uncountable) getting permission to stay in Britain. NOT "We had terrible troubles/a terrible trouble. . ." troubles are psychological, emotional troubles.

truth. Is it true? NOT "Is it truth?"

try. Remember the difference between try to do and try doing.

turn left, right. NOT "turn on the left" etc. See left.

 

until. You can go as far as the river. or I can pay up to £100. NOT "until the river", "until £100".

U.K., U.S.A., etc. They live in the U.S.A. He went to the U.K. NOT "in USA", "to U.K."

use. He does not smoke. NOT "He does not use to smoke." He smokes, (NOT "He uses to smoke") is the present of He used to smoke.

used to. Make absolutely sure you understand the two DIFFERENT sorts of used to before you use either. These two words probably cause more trouble to students of English than any other single point. See USED TO in Questions and Answers on English

usually. He's late as usual. NOT "He's late as usually."

 

very well. She speaks English very well. or She speaks very good English. NOT "She speaks very well English." Remember this as an example of the danger of putting an adverb between verb and object. "

way. I did it the wrong way. NOT "I did it a wrong way".

weather. UNCOUNTABLE. What weather! NOT "What a weather!" We had wonderful weather. NOT "a wonderful weather".

when. German speakers note especially. when does NOT mean if.

who is for persons, NOT things. This is the painting which/that I found in the dustbin. NOT "the painting who".

whole. Note its use with UNCOUNTABLE meanings: the whole (noun) of nature; the whole (noun) of industry; the whole (noun) of life. NOT "the whole nature; the whole life" etc. BUT, for example, with industry in a countable sense: The whole (adjective) textile industry is declining.

win. One team or player beats another team or player. NOT "wins". BUT a team or player wins a match.

wish (1). Make sure you know how to use wish, and remember that if only is used in the same way.

wish (2). I hope there are baked potatoes for supper! NOT "I wish there are baked potatoes for supper!"

work. UNCOUNTABLE. She can't get a job. NOT "She can't get a work." It was very hard work. NOT "It was a very hard work." She has two jobs. NOT "two works".

worth doing. NOT "worth to do".

would (1). had better do something. You'd better take an umbrella. NOT "would better".

would (2). German-speakers note especially. See if!

 

years. a ten-year-old girl. NOT "a ten-years-old girl". And She is ten years old. NOT "She is ten years" or "has ten years".

 

Amorey Gethin

 

 

 

Revised layout 20 April 2010

 

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