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5 common mistakes in English made by non-native speakers

4 min read
10 February 2021
students in the tube talking

English can sometimes be weird. If you get something wrong, it is likely that the person you are talking to will still understand you and probably won’t correct you which can make it difficult to improve. Watch out for these five common mistakes in English that are made by non-native speakers.


1. The Double Negative

Some languages need several negative words in a sentence in order for it to make sense, but in English, not only is this wrong, but it can reverse the meaning.

As an example, I don’t know nothing is actually implying that you know something. Instead, you should say I don’t know anything.

Double negatives are things that some native speakers get wrong too!


2. Leaving out 'the'

It is very easy to leave out a “the” in several sentences, because the rules can seem very inconsistent. Take the following two phrases:

  1. I study in UK
  2. I study in Ireland

Only the second one is correct. As “UK” is short for United Kingdom, it needs a ‘the’ in front of it because there is only one United Kingdom.

Ireland on the other hand is a name and although there is only one Ireland, it behaves differently. It behaves in the same way as your name or a friend’s name, and you would not put a ‘the’ in front of your friend’s name if you were talking about them. “I was going for a drink with the Steve” for example would be wrong.

In the UK and Ireland example above, Ireland is the same as Steve.


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3. Agreeing with negatives

If a friend says “I don’t like fish and chips” and for some bizarre reason you also don’t like fish and chips, it might feel right to reply “me too”.

While someone would understand what you mean by this, it is not right. The correct response here is “me neither” or “neither do I”.


4. Focusing too much on the grammar

This is a mistake that a lot of people make regardless of the language they are trying to learn. If you want to learn English, do not focus too much on the grammar. Listening to and understanding spoken English is far more important. The more you become familiar with it, all of the above and more will simply start to stand out as wrong.

Speaking with the locals will definitely help with this, but if you want to get better at listening to English, then you might also want to try learning English with movies or even by playing video games. This can get you used to hearing it before going to learn English abroad.


5. Not enough confidence

Finally, this is a problem that is easy to talk about but hard to fix. You should never feel so scared of making one of these common mistakes that it stops you from talking or trying to talk in English.


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