Common Language Mistakes Made by English Speakers and How to Avoid Them

01/04/2017by Tabula2

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Language is a dynamic and intricate tool of communication, but even native speakers can stumble upon pitfalls that lead to mistakes. English, being a versatile language, offers its fair share of tricky areas that can easily trip up its speakers. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common language mistakes made by English speakers and provide insights on how to steer clear of them.

1. Homophones: The Confusion of Sound-Alikes

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. English is teeming with them, and they frequently lead to misunderstandings. For instance, “their,” “there,” and “they’re” all sound identical, yet they hold distinct meanings. To avoid these mistakes, take a moment to ensure you’re using the right word in context.

2. Apostrophe Catastrophes: Possessives and Contractions

The misuse of apostrophes can turn a simple sentence into a confusing puzzle. Confusion arises when differentiating between possessives and contractions. For example, “it’s” is a contraction for “it is,” while “its” indicates possession. A simple rule of thumb: if you can replace the word with “it is,” use “it’s.”

3. Subject-Verb Agreement: Keeping It in Harmony

Ensuring that the subject and verb in a sentence agree is essential for maintaining clarity. Singular subjects require singular verbs, and plural subjects call for plural verbs. Mistakes often happen when dealing with collective nouns, such as “team” or “group,” where the context dictates the verb form.

4. Misplaced Modifiers: Shifting Descriptions

Misplaced modifiers can lead to unintended humor or confusion. These are words or phrases that are poorly positioned, creating ambiguity in the sentence. For example, “I saw a cat on the way to the store driving my car.” Was it the cat or you driving the car? To avoid this, ensure your modifiers are correctly placed next to the words they modify.

5. Double Negatives: Canceling Out Logic

In English, two negatives typically create a positive, but this rule can lead to miscommunication. Sentences like “I don’t need no help” can actually mean “I do need help.” To be clear, avoid using double negatives, and opt for straightforward statements.

6. Confusing Comparative and Superlative Forms

Comparative and superlative forms of adjectives often cause confusion. “Good, better, best” and “bad, worse, worst” are straightforward examples, but irregular adjectives like “far” can lead to mistakes (“farther” vs. “further”). Remembering the hierarchy of comparison will help you choose the correct form.


  • Tabula

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