One of the inevitable parts of learning a new language such as English is making mistake or errors. While you may feel a little embarrassed, that is okay – making a mistake and recognizing it means that you can learn from it to improve your skills. Every person that has ever learned another language has made some mistakes at some point during their learning journey and this is nothing to be ashamed of. The most common errors in English are often discovered during the learning process as the language can have some rather strange grammatical rules. Additionally, the English language does contain many words that have similar spelling and pronunciation but mean entirely different things.
Crucially, not only non-native English speakers make these common grammatical mistakes, as they are also often not used properly by people who speak English as their first language. To help you out, we have collated together a list of the 27 most common semantic errors in English, with tips on how to understand and steer clear of them. Learning English can take some time, so do not be put off if you do make some errors. Keep reading to find out about the most common ones and how to avoid them.
What Are Some of The Common Errors in The English Language
#1 It’s vs Its
It’s is the short form for it is and therefore requires an apostrophe. Its can also be used to describe someone’s property. If you can use it is in the sentence then use it’s. For example, “It’s the hottest day of the year”. Its on the other hand is a possessive pronoun and should be used to replace nouns without gender. For example, “Your dog is so vicious its paws tore my skin”.
#2. The Difference Between to and too
To can be used to describe an action, destination or person. For example, “I got a lift from a friend to go to work.”
If you want to show that you have a similar idea, then you can use too to mean also, or as well. For example, “Claire was given a lift too”.
#3. I.E. Vs E.G.
This is one English acronym that we always mix up and have to look up. Hopefully our explanation will help you!
If you are looking to clarify something that you have said then I.e., should be used. If you intend to add an example or more detail, then you should use e.g.
#4. Gone or Went
Gone and went are both past tense words to describe someone’s actions. The trick to knowing which one to use comes from the surrounding words.
If the sentence has an auxiliary verb in it, like has, have, had, is, are or was, then the word used should be gone. For example, “She had already gone to the gym by the time I returned.”
If there is no auxiliary verb, then the word went should be used. For example, “She went to the gym”.
#5. Literally or Figuratively
If something actually happens in real life then it can be described with the word literally. For example, “I literally just saw them”.
If, however you are exaggerating, then it is better to use the word figuratively to get across your point. For example, “Figuratively speaking, I’m dying of thirst”.
#6. “You’re” Vs. “Your”
For example, “You’re the one that showed us your favourite photo”.
#7. “Affect” Vs. “Effect”
These words are commonly mixed up in the English language. Affect is a verb which describes an impact – for example, “…the flood affected India”. Effect is a noun that describes the result of an impact, for example, “homelessness was an effect of the Indian floods.”
#8. “There” Vs. “Their” Vs. “They’re”
If you are a non-native English speaker then this may be one that you get stuck on. To aid your understanding, simple remember that:
They’re is short for they are and should only be used when you could use the two words. For example, “They’re a lovely couple”.
There is the word used to talk about a place. For example, “The book is over there”.
While their refers to something belonging to someone or to a group. For example, “The cat is their pet.”
#9. “Lose” Vs. “Loose”
Adding in an extra letter can change the entire meaning of a word so it is vital to pick the right one.
Loose describes how something is not secure and in a fixed place, for example, “The bottle cap was loose which caused it to leak.”
Lose means to have something and then be deprived of it, for example, “I always lose my keys.”
#10. Advice vs. Advise
With only a one letter difference, these two words are very similar and commonly mixed up. The main difference between them is that advise is a verb, while advice is a noun.
For example, “She took my advice” where the word advice is the naming word for the helpful information.
“I advised her” describes the process of giving the advice and is therefore a verb.
#11. Into vs. In To
The words in and to appear next to each other in a number of different sentences, for example “I just came in to see you”. If you are describing going inside somewhere, you will want to use the preposition ‘into’ instead, for example, “He went into the cave”.
#12. Less vs. Fewer
When describing the amount of something there are a few words that you can use in different situations. Fewer should be used when describing things that can be counted, for example, “I will buy fewer eggs at the shop this week”. Less should be used when describing things that cannot be counted, e.g. “I drank less water today.”
#13. Stationary vs. Stationery
#14. Who vs. Whom
This is a common mistake that is often make by native English speakers. The word who should be used when you are referring to the subject of a sentence, for example, “Who would like to sit next to me?”
Whom on the other hand is used for the preposition or the object of a verb within a sentence, for example, “Whom do you love more?”
#15. Who vs. That
One common mistake that is easy to fix is the usage of who or that in a sentence. Both of these words can be used to describe something however, there is one key difference. Who should refer to a person, for example, “Rachel is a teacher who enjoys reading”.
That on the other hand should be used when discussing objects. For example, “Her car is the one that has a broken headlight”.
#16. “Alot” vs. A lot vs. Allot
These words may all sound the same, however, they do have different meanings. Most people use the word ‘alot’ however it is not actually a word. In most cases, this can be replaced with the words ‘a lot’.
If however you are looking to set something aside, for example, some money, you may want to ‘allot’ the money to spend later.
#17. Between vs. Among
Among refers to a number of things that are not separated as they are part of a large group. Between is when there are two or more objects that are separated. If we are using these words in sentences, you may wish to say “The bees were flying among the flowers’ or ‘the bees were going between the daffodils and the tulips’.
#18. Possession Shared by Two Nouns
When describing something belonging to someone you should add an apostrophe and the letter s to their name, for example, ‘Kevin’s hat’. If something belongs to ore than one person however, you do not need to put two sets of apostrophes, you only have to use one at the end of both names. For example, ‘It was Kevin and Lily’s car.’
#19. Me and My Friends
Often many use the phrase ‘me and my friends’ however this is grammatically incorrect. Instead of using the word ‘me’ in the sentence, the word ‘I’ should be used, and the sentence should be reorganised. It should read ‘My friends and I’.
#20. Mixing Up the Tenses
Tenses can be challenging to grasp, and many people use them incorrectly in sentences. Anything that has already happened should be written or spoken in the past tense, while anything else is in the present tense. For example:
Instead of saying ‘I didn’t said he can come to the event’ try ‘I didn’t say he can come to the event’.
#21. Using A Double Negative
Many non-native English speakers include double negatives in their sentences that can end up being quite confusing and leading to miscommunications. See some examples below.
Instead of saying a phrase such as ‘I don’t know nothing’, rephrase to ‘I don’t know anything’.
Instead of saying ‘I can’t find my wallet nowhere’, rephrase to ‘I can’t find my wallet anywhere’.
#22. Does vs Do
These words are commonly mixed up by those who are learning English. To put it simply, does is the singular form of the word, while do is the plural version. Does is used when referring to a single person’s name (or she, he etc.), while do is used for a group.
For example, ‘They do not like the new teacher. He does like the teacher.’
#23. Compliment vs. Complement
When you are looking to admire or praise someone then you want to give a compliment – for example if you like their new haircut. Complement however refers to something that completes something else, making it whole – for example, ‘adding basil really complements the dish’. To try and remember which is which, the word complement has the same start as complete.
#24. May vs Might
May refers to something that you are considering doing, for example you ‘may go to the shops’ or you ‘may decide to go out for dinner’. Might is also about possibilities however it is generally used in situations where the decision is up to fate and are more remote for example, ‘you might win the lottery after buying a ticket’.
#25. Lay vs. Lie
Lie and Lay are two more words that are commonly mixed up. Lay means to put something down horizontally, while if you are tired you might want to lie down. What makes this a little more difficult is that the past tense of lie is lay, meaning that if you were lying down in the past tense you would say, ‘I lay down’.
The past tense of lay, is laid so you ‘laid a towel down at the beach’.
#26. Farther vs. Further
When using the word farther, you need to be describing a physical distance. For example, “How much farther do we need to walk?” as this is discussing an actual measureable difference.
Further should be used to describe a more metaphorical distance that cannot actually be measure as a distance. For example, “The class expanded my knowledge further than ever before”.
#27. Peek or Peak
“Matthew reached the peak of the mountain, walked over to the ledge and took a peek at the ground below.”
Learning a new language can be difficult, especially if, like English, it has lots of similar words and grammatical rules. What is important is resilience – you are going to make mistakes, what is more important is how you deal with them. We hope our list of the top 27 most common English mistakes will help educate you and help you improve on your journey toward English fluency. Want to challenge yourself a bit? Why not attempt these tongue twisters? You would get a good vocal workout.