Common English Mistakes and How to Learn From Them
Mistakes help you grow! Discover the most common English mistakes and how to learn from them. From grammar to spelling – let’s grow together!
It’s easy to make a lot of common mistakes in English as you’re learning and practicing reading, writing and grammar skills. It’s okay to make odd grammatical errors along the way or spell things incorrectly here and there, the important thing is that you practice and learn from your mistakes.
Jump straight in to the English mistakes you’re struggling with:
- Why making mistakes in English is good for learning
- Common grammar mistakes
- Verb tenses
- Common writing mistakes
- Capital letters
- Possessive apostrophes
- Similar spellings
What are the most common mistakes in English?
There are a lot of very common mistakes in English reading and writing, with grammatical errors often being at the top of the list for most of us. Lots of people will struggle with spelling or get confused when it comes to words that sound the same as each other, or words that sound different to how they’re spelt.
- Some of the most frequent mistakes, and examples of them, in English involve:
- Tenses – mixing up past and present tense
- Subject-verb agreement – using the incorrect verbs for sentence subjects
- Conjunctions – using multiple conjunctions in one sentence
- Complex sentences – using commas incorrectly and incomplete sentences
Struggling with these complex English language concepts as you learn is to be expected, so don’t be discouraged as you make mistakes and learn from them.
Explore Learning are here with a lot of helpful online English resources if you ever need an extra helping hand.
Why making mistakes is good for learning and growth
The fear of making mistakes while learning is something lots of people have but not trying because you’re scared of being wrong won’t help you learn. It’s okay to learn through making mistakes!
Learning English is about learning to communicate at the end of the day. So long as you can communicate effectively then the accuracy of your spelling and grammar can be worked on with regular exercises and practice.
Rather than not writing something for fear of making grammatical mistakes or making other common English mistakes, write a piece from start to finish. Once you have a full piece of writing you can double-check it for spelling and for ways to improve your grammar throughout. Don’t be afraid to go over it with your teacher, parent or guardian1
Common grammar mistakes and how to improve them
A lot of grammar concepts can be tricky early on. However, a lot of common grammatical errors can be addressed by practising where you’re struggling. Here are a few exercises to improve your grammar.
You’re and Your
You’re and your are usually a struggle point when learning grammar. A big part of the problem is that they sound the same, and figuring out which one to use in a sentence can be difficult as a result.
- “You’re my best friend!”
- “Your hair looks really good!”
Despite the different spelling, in both of those sentences, the word sounds the same. With regular practice this should become second nature, but how do you figure out which is right?
Figure out what the word in the sentence represents. ‘You’re’ is usually a shortened version of ‘you are’ while ‘your’ is a possessive adjective, referring to something the person you’re talking about. So ask yourself if the sentence is trying to say ‘you are’ or referring to something someone else has.
Try this exercise, which is the correct word for each of these sentences:
- Your/You’re dog is so lovely!
- Can you show me your/you’re work, please?
- You can take a little break if your/you’re tired.
- I think your/you’re an amazing person!
- Your/You’re one step ahead of me.
Their, There and They’re
Another example that’s difficult because their, there and they’re all sound the same, but each represents something different.
Let’s look at some example sentences:
- “They’re going shopping.”
- “Take a look over there.”
- “Where is their party?”
Like your and you’re, you can figure one of these out easily by seeing what the word represents. ‘They’re’ is a contraction of ‘they are’ and often refers to a group of people (although it can be used in singular) doing something. ‘Their’ is another possessive adjective, like your, it refers to something the person or group of people you’re talking about owns. Finally, ‘there’ refers to a location or place, like in the example above.
So you’ll need to keep in mind what you’re talking about when choosing the right word. Are you shortening ‘they are’, referring to something that a group of people have possession of or are you referring to a location? Ask yourself those questions before writing the correct word and eventually you’ll be able to do it without thinking.
Try this exercise, which is the correct word for each of these sentences:
- They forgot their/there/they’re bag so went back to get it.
- She is waiting for you over their/there/they’re.
- Their/ThereThey’re learning how to use grammar properly.
- Take a look at their/there/they’re cute dog.
- Their/There/They’re car is red.
Now for some more complicated exercises, choose the correct words for these sentences:
- That’s their/there/they’re car over their/there/they’re and their/there/they’re taking me for a drive.
- Their/There/They’re not really into sharing but I didn’t know that paint stored over their/there/they’re was their/there/they’re paint.
Like an adjective, which describes a noun, adverbs are used to describe a verb. They describe a way in which an action is happening, and can be a bit tricky to identify and use correctly.
Look at these sentences with adverbs:
- “Tom ran across the road quickly.”
- “She moved really fast.”
- “He crept in quietly.”
Usually, you can spot an adverb in a sentence by seeing which words end in ‘ly’, as generally, adverbs do end that way. However, you’ll have noticed that ‘she moved really fast’ doesn’t have a word that ends in ‘ly’. This is where adverbs can get confusing because ‘fast’ can be both an adjective and adverb, what makes it an adverb in this case as it’s describing the verb ‘moved’.
Identifying an easy rule with adverbs is difficult. It’s good to keep the ‘ly’ ending rule in mind, but that doesn’t cover every adverb. Just keep in mind, is the word describing an action? If it is, it’s an adverb.
Take a look at these sentences and identify the adverbs:
- “Jane is great at swimming, she swims well.”
- “He didn’t want to wake the baby, so John spoke softly.”
- “The child ran happily towards his mother.”
- “The storm was so loud and the rain fell hard.”
Try writing your own sentences with adverbs, see how many you can come up with that use an adverb that doesn’t end in ‘ly’ to challenge yourself. Experiment with the placement of adverbs in the sentence too, adverbs often come after the verb but not always. Double-check your sentence and read it aloud to see if it makes sense with the placement of the adverb.
We’ve all struggled with verb tenses in writing! There are three tenses to work with in writing, past, present and future tense. The subject you’re writing about will determine which tense you use:
- Past tense: I run
- Present tense: I ran
- Future tense: I will run
Notice how the verb changes for past tense but stays the same for future tense, which instead adds another word to indicate this is something that will happen in the future. Things get more complicated when you look at simple tense, continuous tense and perfect tense.
Take a look at this chart below:
Continuous tense refers to an action that’ll take place or will be over a period of time, and future tense refers to an action that has already been completed or will already have been completed at a specified time in the future. It can be tricky to get your head around these concepts. So, try making your own chart to show the present, past and future tense in simple, continuous and perfect tense for the following verbs:
- I walk
- I swim
- She runs
- He cycles
Be sure to ask for some help from your parent or teacher if this one gets tricky. If you’re feeling confident, try writing some full sentences in different tenses and ask your parent or teacher to check them for you. Do these exercises regularly and you’ll master tenses in no time.
What are some common writing mistakes and corrections?
While it’s important to work on your grammar skills, there are a lot of simple writing mistakes that can be avoided with regular practice. Whether it’s apostrophe placement in complex sentences or using punctuation correctly, these exercises will help boost confidence in English writing.
What are the most common sentence errors?
When writing complex and long sentences it can be easy to make mistakes. You could use punctuation incorrectly, make simple spelling mistakes or use too many capital letters. Here are examples and how to avoid them:
Too many capital letters
Remember to only use capital letters for starting a sentence and for proper nouns, like someone’s name. It can be tempting to sometimes use a capital letter for a regular noun, but that’s wrong.
“The Lion roared loudly.”
In that sentence “Lion” shouldn’t have a capital letter, because lion is a noun, not a proper noun (it’s not the lion’s name).
See if you can spot the mistakes in these sentences, where there should be capital letters and where capital letters have been used where they shouldn’t:
- “he drove his Car recklessly”
- “What are you doing, jane?”
- “we’re going to the Cinema tonight, do you want to come?”
- “what time is tom getting here?”
Apostrophes for possession
You can use apostrophes to show who owns or possesses something. For example:
“That is John’s car.”
The apostrophe shows that John owns the car. There’s only one of John so the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’ in this case.
For plural possession, the position of the apostrophe might change if the noun ends in ‘s’ already. For example:
“The kittens’ mum.”
Here there are multiple kittens, all with the same mum, and because “kittens” ends with ‘s’ you write the apostrophe after ‘s’.
If someone’s name ends in ‘s’ and you want to show they have possession of something, you write the apostrophe after the ‘s’ in their name. For example:
“James’ dog was being very naughty.”
We know that James is one person, so we can tell that this isn’t a plural even though the apostrophe is placed after the ‘s’ in his name.
Try placing the apostrophes in these sentences.
- “The cats whiskers were very long.”
- “This is Charles book.”
- “The brothers shoes were very muddy.”
- “The lions mane looked so fluffy.”
It’s and its
This one gets a lot of us, mixing up it’s and its is very common. There are some easy to remember how to get the right one for the sentence you’re writing there. Here’s an example of both:
“It’s early in the morning.”
“The cat is playing with its toy.”
So, the easiest way to remember if you need to use ‘its’ or ‘it’s’ is to ask yourself, are you saying ‘it is’ in the sentence you’re trying to write? If so, write ‘it’s’ because that is a contraction of ‘it is’. If you’re talking about something possessed by the subject in your sentence, like the toy that belongs to the cat, you’ll write ‘its’.
Take a look at these sentences and see which ones need an apostrophe and which ones are right:
- “The dog ate its food.”
- “Its really sunny today.”
- “Don’t do that its really dangerous!”
- “The cat doesn’t like it when you pull on its tail.”
Contraction Apostrophe Placements
Apostrophes really are tricky, aren’t they?
Putting apostrophes in the right place in contracted words (words made by mixing two words together) can be difficult at first. Here’s an example of a conjunction with the correct apostrophe placement:
Do not = don’t
See how the placement of the letters stays the same, but the “o” in “not” is dropped and so is the space, so you now have one contracted word: don’t. Here’s another example that some people struggle to spell.
Does not = doesn’t
Again, the placement of the letters stays the same, but sometimes the way “doesn’t” is pronounced makes people switch the “s” and the “e” around, which is wrong. Just remember that when contracting words with apostrophes like this, the order of the letters should stay the same in most cases. There are some exceptions, like:
Will not = won’t
With enough practice, you’ll quickly get your head around spelling these words and putting the apostrophes in the correct place.
Try putting the apostrophe in the right places in these contracted words:
- Does not = doesnt
- Can not = cant
- Are not = arent
- Shall note = shant
- We are = were
- You are = youre
There are a lot of words with similar spellings but have different meanings out there. Here are some examples:
All of these words, despite being similar in spelling and sounding similar are very different in their meaning. Look up some of them in the dictionary, and see what each one means.
Test yourself by seeing if you can memorise what each word means and then link the meaning to the spelling. To start with, use flashcards of the words and then separate flashcards of the meaning, mix them up and put the right ones together. Then, when you’re really ready to challenge yourself, try just having the flashcards with the meanings and see if you can spell the word correctly.
Try this every time you come across new words that have similar spelling and you’ll soon be a reading and spelling pro.
Improving confidence in English reading and writing
We’ve all struggled with different concepts in reading and writing English, grammar can be really tricky! It’s okay, though, if you need a helping hand we’re here to help. With an expert English tutor at your side, you’ll be confident in your English reading and writing in no time.
If you need extra English tuition to help boost your confidence in English we’re here to help!