English Corner – Five English Mistakes That Can Be Easily Fixed

New students of the English language are destined to make mistakes when practicing their skills and abilities in building up their proficiency. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes but I’d like to share the five most common mistakes that are easily fixable given my experience in teaching English as a Second Language. Instead of letting these mistakes continue unabated, it’s important for teachers such as myself to correct our students right away so as to not let these small mistakes become bad habits. When you have a small error, usually grammatical in nature, it’s necessary for the teacher to use his or her expertise to correct the student right away and show them the difference between the right approach and the wrong approach to the mistake.

You should always be correcting the student politely and then showing them where exactly did they go wrong, and how they can avoid the same mistake again. Hopefully, English as a foreign language student will be able to avoid some of these five mistakes but I would say that it is quite likely that they will commit one or two of these five errors. Luckily, these mistakes are easy to fix and once you do, the student can move on to more intermediate and advanced challenges.

            1.) Neglecting both indefinite and definite articles: Some non-native speakers of English have a bad habit of leaving out the ‘a’, ‘the’, or ‘an’ at the beginning of their sentences. They may state their sentence as being “Economy performed very well.” While it’s easy to understand the sentiment of the sentence and the meaning will come across to the native speaker, it won’t be grammatically correct. It’s always necessary to put a definite article like ‘the’ before the word ‘economy’ in order for it to sound like a sentence that a native speaker would put together. “The economy performed very well,” should be the sentence that the foreign learner of English must use to be grammatically correct and fully understood.

This is an easy mistake to correct but if left unchecked, the non-native speaker will forget many times to add ‘a’, ‘an’, or ‘the’ at the beginning of their spoken or written sentences. For ESL teachers, this is a key mistake that students will make especially from language backgrounds where ‘definite and indefinite articles’ are not used. Another example of an indefinite article not being used is a sentence like “I have cat.” While we know that person has a cat, there is the key ‘a’ word missing to make it grammatically correct. The student should then be correct for the sentence to be “I have a cat.” While these are not major mistakes, by showing your students the correct structure, you will be doing them a big favor and helping them to become better English learners.

            2.) Mixing up singular and plural noun usage: Another slight mistake that ESL students make as beginners is to mix up singular and plural nouns. Knowing when and when not to use the ‘s’ at the end of nouns is key to having a grammatically correct sentence. It should be made clear that the letter ‘s’ should only be added to the end of a noun when there are more than one item, place, or thing being referenced. The key difference from one example would be ‘You eat one cookie’ and then ‘You eat two cookies’, with ‘s’ only being added to the noun ‘cookie’ when there is more than one being referenced.

You can also use ‘many, a few, a lot of’ before the noun ‘cookies.’ Countable and uncountable nouns go hand in hand with singular and plural nouns as grammatical concepts. ‘Countable’ nouns are usually plural meaning referencing more than one in number while ‘Uncountable’ nouns are usually singular in nature and can’t reference multiple persons, places, and things. Being able to use singular and plural nouns in written and/or spoken sentences is key because it will come up very often. If you make a small mistake with this concept of mixing up their usage, it should be corrected as soon as possible in order to not become another bad habit.

            3.) Forgetting to use prepositions and conjunctions: Before you can speak and write with some authority, you will need to study, use, and memorize the correct prepositions and conjunctions. Oftentimes, ESL students can forget the need for prepositions, conjunctions in a regular sentence but that will mean your sentence won’t be grammatically correct. A sentence like this one as an example would not work without prepositions or conjunctions. “He left me didn’t return I was not afraid I knew he would be back.” There are four prepositions and conjunctions missing from that example sentence and it can still work as a sentence, but it is fundamentally incomplete and would raise some eyebrows from native English speakers.

These are small errors but would hurt your ability to be understood or seen as an intermediate or advanced English learner. In order to change this example for the better, we need to make the sentence have both prepositions and conjunctions. “He left me and didn’t return but I was not afraid because I knew he would be back.” These two grammatical functions add a lot of substance to your sentence and makes it flow that much better. If you leave these conjunctions and prepositions out of your sentences, it will hurt your proficiency and you won’t be able to correct these particular mistakes.

            4.) Changing the order of the sentence from (Subject – Verb – Object): Spoken and written sentences in English have a strict order in terms of formation like any other language. While other languages could be ‘subject – object – verb’ or ‘verb – subject – object’ in official syntax, English, as a language, follows the strict format of ‘subject – verb – object’ at all times especially if you’re looking to form a complete sentence. You can form sentences in English in another order and you may be understood by a native speaker, but it won’t be grammatically correct, and you will be creating yet another bad habit that can be easily corrected. Every language has a basic structure and it needs to be observed at all times. You can’t cut around the edges in terms of the sentence structure or it will stand out as a huge error.

Basic sentence order should be memorized when you are first studying a foreign language and that includes English. A wrong sentence in terms of basic order would look like this as an example: “Store goes to the he.” You have the ‘object’ at the beginning which is wrong, the verb in the middle which is correct, yet the subject is at the end of this example sentence when it should be at the beginning. The sentence order is completely wrong here, but it is easily fixable in the following manner: “He goes to the store.” SVO or ‘Subject – Verb – Order’ is a clear and concise grammar rule that is fundamental in order to master the basic sentence structure instrumental in creating good sentences. A basic mistake like changing the order of a sentence form unnecessarily can be fixed quite easily. subject (he), verb (goes to), and object (the store). You just have to switch the order around a bit if it is incorrect and then you’ll be ready to move on to the next sentence while keeping the right order.

            5.) Capitalizing the wrong words in a sentence: Let’s remember that correct capitalization can be quite easy to do but it remains as a difficulty for many English as a second language students to master due to how, when, and where to capitalize words. It’s not a huge mistake so students may commit the error thinking that it’s not a big deal, yet correct capitalization can set you apart in terms of your writing proficiency from other learners. To neglect the basic rules of capitalization sets you up for bigger and more costly grammar mistakes. If you are able to take care of the basics and capitalize words throughout the sentence, then you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great English learner. An example of poor capitalization in a sentence would be as follows: “i Went to the grand canyon and it was Fun.” There are a few errors here that should stand out to you and are easily fixable, but a few students may choose to not revise the errors and leave the sentence wrongly capitalized. The key fixes are easy to implement for this sentence and would like the following revised sentence: “I went to the Grand Canyon, and it was fun.”

The changes I made include ‘I’ as capitalized, ‘went’ as not being capitalized, ‘Grand Canyon’ as being capitalized, and ‘fun’ as not being capitalized. In keeping with the basic rules of capitalization, proper nouns (Grand Canyon) should be capitalized, as well as the first word in any sentence, ‘I’ in this case, and to recall that ‘went’ as a verb should not be capitalized along with an adjective such as ‘fun’ when it comes at the end of the sentence. Conjunctions, or a preposition such as ‘and’ should also never be capitalized in a regular sentence.

Taking the time to take care of capitalization errors will put you ahead and establish your English language proficiency as improving by fixing your mistakes. If you have the time to write, speak, and use the English language, you should also use that time to revise, fix, and correct your errors to become a better student and a better learner.

———————————————————

If you are interested in taking a private English lesson, check out my teachers page here where you can learn with me in a one-on-one hour session: Learn English with Ben

Lastly, please check out my Udemy courses on ‘Beginner Grammar’, ‘Intermediate Grammar’, and ‘Advanced Grammar’ here: My Udemy Courses

Advertisements

English Corner – Introduction to Basic Parts of Speech

When you’re first starting out with the English language, it is necessary to have an overview of the basic parts of speech. Each of these basic parts of speech play a critical role in developing your understanding of English vocabulary and grammar. In previous blog posts, I have already covered some of these parts of speech in-depth but I thought that it would be prudent to give an overview of each one and how they relate to one another.

There are eight basic parts of speech in total: Noun, Pronoun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Prepositions, Conjunction, and Interjection. I would argue that the noun is the most commonly used part of speech while the interjection is the least commonly used one. Pronouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs are going to come up a lot in English with Prepositions and Conjunctions being less common but still important to know about.

1.) Noun: A word that describes a person, place, or thing. You can also name those things that can be seen or touched as well as those things that cannot be seen or touched. Nouns are present in 99% of sentences in the English language with very few exceptions which is why I have it as the #1 important part of speech to know. 

Examples
People: girls, boys, father
Places: library, garden, park
Things: trees, flowers, rocks
Ideas and actions: justice, liberty, democracy
Conditions and qualities: joy, illness, happiness

2.) Pronoun: A word that stands for nouns or for words that take the place of nouns. When it comes to pronouns, you’re referring to somebody or something indirectly whether it is he, she, or it. If you are referring to more than one person or thing, you would have to use the plural they, we, you in order to get your point across. Personal pronouns are also apart of this part of speech as they are also used regularly with him, her, etc. being very useful.

Examples:

Jonathan said he lost his bike yesterday.

Cynthia said that it is a very hot day today. 

Please let her know that we send our deepest thanks. 

3.) Verb: A word that expresses time while showing an action, a condition, or the fact that something exists. Any complete sentence will display or showcase a relevant action that will draw the reader’s attention to your writing. There are thousands of verbs in the English language but the most common are eat, drink, go, have, do, be, etc. 

Examples:

Writers write fictional stories in order to entertain their audience. 

Baseball players play the sport because they are passionate about it.

While millionaires have a lot of money to spend, they are not always happy about that.

4.) Adjective: A word that is used to describe a noun or give a noun or pronoun a specific meaning. The process of an adjective describing a word is modifying it to become more descriptive. Descriptive words help to give life to your sentence and make it stand out to the reader. Adjectives answer important questions about the details of a sentence such as:

-What kind?
– Which one?
– How many?
– How much?

Examples:

The newlywed couple lives in a beautiful house.

Thomas is a kind and caring teenager.

Martin’s family is very generous to the community.

5.) Adverb: A word that adds meaning to a sentence or modifies three different parts of speech such as a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. While not as common as the other parts of speech, adverbs are really useful when it comes to giving directions and providing needed details. One of the purposes of an adverb is to modify a verb and answer the question:

– Where? Fall below, Move aside, Step down
– When? Arrived today, Left early, Came late
– In what way? Happily ran, Will run abruptly
– To what extent? Partly understands, Dry completely, Fully accomplish

6.) Preposition: A word that relates to a noun or pronoun, which appears in relation to another part of speech in the sentence. These are usually small words but that carry a big impact in terms of forming the complete meaning of a sentence. It is vital to understand when and where different prepositions are used in order to not get confused about them. There are dozens of prepositions but I have listed below some of the most commonly used ones. Prepositions are one of the most important aspects of mastering English grammar.

While not its own part of speech, Compound Prepositions which are made up of more than one word are also important to memorize. Some examples include: According to, ahead of, because of, in place of, in regard to, prior to, out of. 

7.) Conjunction: A word that is used to connect other words or groups of words in a sentence. Conjunctions are essentially the glue that hold the sentences together with two related ideas being joined by words like and, because, for, or when, if, etc. Conjunctions usually come in the middle of a sentence but it is possible that they can come near the beginning of the sentence or towards the end as well. However, conjunction words rarely ever start the sentence or come at the very end of one. 

Examples

He is the chief of police and also is a part-time National Guardsman. 

This would be a good time for you to pull the lever. 

I would like that idea better if you backed up your claim with facts.

There are three main kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, and subordinating conjunctions.

8.) Interjection: A word that expresses feeling or emotion; it functions independently of a sentence. Interjections are probably the most fun you can have in writing a sentence. You get to use fun, short words such as ah, ha, bravo, goodness, great, hurray, oh, oops, well, ugh, or whew which are all examples of words that express different feelings or emotions in the English language.

When it comes to where to place interjections within a sentence, there is a lot of flexibility about that. Usually, they come at the beginning or end of a sentence but it is up to the author entirely. Interjections are very important to use when writing dialogue for characters in a story or fictional novel. Interjections are the best part of speech to use in order to spice up your writing and make the reader engaged in the content. 

Examples:

Phew, I thought Mr. Jones was going to collect our Science homework today.”

Bravo! That performance by your orchestra was incredible tonight.”

Ugh…why did you go and lie to your parents? That was not a good idea.”

Overall, this is a good introduction to the eight parts of speech used in the English language. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see further posts that go more in depth about certain parts of speech that haven’t been covered yet such as adjectives and verbs. Until then, please be sure to use this blog post to improve your basic understanding of what parts of speech are and in which situations they are to be spoken or written. If you need to study the examples, please do so and I highly encourage readers to print out these notes to use in the future. Keep up the good work! 

English Corner – Conjunctions

This ‘English Corner’ on the subject of conjunctions is a continuation of an ongoing blog post series with a new post every month to help English language learners to better understand the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in order to better develop their own proficiency. I have over two years of experience of teaching the English language to non-native speakers, both online and in person.

I hope to use these posts to help you, the reader, improve your understanding of English, and also develop your fluency. If you have any questions about this ‘English Corner’ post, please leave a comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Any constructive feedback is appreciated and I hope that this will become a popular series of posts within my website. If you enjoy my ‘English Corner’ series, you can also request private English lessons with me through the WordPress message system.

Second only to ‘Prepositions’ in terms of grammatical importance, ‘Conjunctions’ play a vital role in the formation of sentences in the English language. Conjunctions do the important job of connecting words and phrases together to form a complete sentence. Examples of conjunctions include although, and, because, but, etc. Instead of forming simple sentences such as: “I like to play sports”, we can then add on to this sentence by adding the word ‘and’ to create a complete sentence which could be “I like to play sports and hang out with my friends on the weekends.”

Having a good grasp on conjunctions can make writing complete sentences a lot easier and give you the ability to form paragraphs and even entire essays by adhering to the sentence structure by adding a conjunction or two. When it comes to grammar topics like conjunctions, it’s important to be able to remember the correct words that fit into the category and to know when to apply them in your sentence.

The word ‘And’ is the most popular conjunction because it can be used for three different functions. Not only can it connect words but clauses as well as phrases. ‘And’ is also used to describe more than one person in a sentence by grouping them together such as “Tim and Tina went to the movies together last time. In addition to the word ‘and’, other popular conjunctions that are commonly used to connect sentences are ‘although, since, but, unless, or, yet, so, etc.’

Contrary to popular belief, conjunctions can be used in the beginning of a sentence rather than just in the heart of a sentence. For example: “Although he was tired from working late, James still decided to go out for a drink with his friends.” A conjunction is a part of speech that can also be more than one word. Examples of conjunctions that make up more than one word include ‘so that, in order to, as long as, etc.’ By clearing up the confusion and misleading information regarding conjunctions, beginner students of English will better be able to handle this important grammar subject.

part-speech-nounb
Conjunctions: Successfully joining words and phrases together in order to form complete sentences.”

Learners of the English language often forget that conjunctions can be divided into two categories: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions are known for connecting two parts of a sentence or phrase together to form a complete sentence. This first type of conjunctions is usually used in the middle of a sentence and is supposed to connect words and clauses together along with two parts of a sentence.

An example of a sentence where a coordinating conjunction would be used could be “John picked up Tim after his soccer practice in the park and then they went to the movies together.” There are many different coordinating conjunctions but the most popular ones are ‘and, but, for, or, so, yet.’

Subordinating conjunctions have a more specific purpose than their coordinating counterparts. The main purpose of subordinating conjunctions is to join the dependent clause of a sentence to its’ independent clause to form a complete sentence. The main clause is also known as the independent clause and the conjunction is placed in between the two clauses in order to create the grammatical structure of the sentence.

For example, a sentence with a subordinating conjunction would look like “I had to study hard last night because we have an important English test today. Some examples of subordinating conjunctions include ‘although, because, since, unless.’ It’s important to remember that a subordinating conjunction will always come at the beginning of the subordinate clause, which could either be before or after the main clause. This means that there is some flexibility when it comes to inserting your subordinate conjunction in that it can come in either the beginning or middle of a sentence.

Lastly, in addition to conjunctions that are subordinate or coordinate and are one word usually, there are other types of conjunctions that can be a few words in all when forming a sentence. These two other types of conjunctions are known as compound or correlative.

Compound conjunctions often end in the words ‘that’ or ‘as’ and some examples of these conjunctions include: ‘as long as’, ‘provided that’, ‘because of that’, ‘in order to.’ Remember that a compound conjunction does not always end in ‘as’ or ‘that’ but it’s usually true in most instances. For example, a sentence with a compound conjunction would be like; “You can eat ice cream later as long as you eat your vegetables first.”

Correlative conjunctions are often made up of pairs of two corresponding words such as ‘neither…nor’, ‘either…or’, ‘both…and’, which serve to balance the sentence and the two clauses. For example, you could write a sentence like “We could either go to Spain or Italy for vacation this summer.” When using correlative conjunctions, remember that there needs to be two words that relate to each other in the overall meaning.

Like our previous topic of ‘Prepositions’, learning about ‘Conjunctions’ will help a beginner in English to gain confidence in developing both grammar and vocabulary. Both of these topics are important to review and go over with a student in order for them to correctly form a sentence by adhering to the necessary structure.

By knowing about the different types of conjunctions, some key examples, and their varied uses, students of English reading this post will gain a better understanding of this vital grammar topic. If you have any questions or comments about this ‘English Corner’ post, please feel free to write me a message. In the mean time, good luck with your continuing studies of the English language! I promise that there will be a new post next month focusing on another key topic.