Every language learner understands the headaches of English grammar firsthand. From subject/verb agreement to there, their, and they’re, the complicated rules of the English language make heads spin.
Quite frankly, nobody wants to spend hours on end studying conjugations and sentence structures, plain and simple. And yet, without a fair bit of grammar work under your belt, you’ll likely continue making elementary mistakes when speaking English.
Fortunately, perfecting your mastery of grammatical rules doesn’t have to feel like an impossible mission. Armed with the right tools and learning strategies, you can avoid the common grammar mistakes that plague many students and have a bit of fun in the process.
In this helpful overview, we’ll be exploring some of the most common grammar problems English learners face and how you can avoid them when you speak with others.
Exploring Common ESL Grammar Mistakes
There is no shortage of pitfalls an English student must avoid when working to gain fluency. Of course, any and all English grammar mistakes are problematic in their own right. Some complicated concepts, however, seem to repeatedly get students all tied up in knots.
We’ve compiled a list of five of the most common English grammar mistakes foreign learners make. Are you guilty of any of these grammar sins?
1. Verbs: Misusing the 13 Tenses
Did you know English has 13 different tenses for its verbs, all of which dictate different instances of the past, present, or future? If you still grapple with the difference between the simple past and the past perfect or you can’t seem to get your verbs to agree, you’re not alone. Examples of English verb mistakes include:
- Yesterday, I talk with my friend on the phone. (Incorrect tense; talked)
- I will graduate from university and found a fulfilling job. (Inconsistent verb tenses; will find)
Of course, these are but two common verb tense issues. With 13 different options, there are bound to be countless more.
2. Subject and Object Pronoun Confusion
Pronouns take the place of a noun: Tim saw Sarah at the mall and he said hello to her.
In the sentence above, he and her are pronouns used to replace Tim and Sarah, respectively. The most common pronouns include the following: I, me, he, she, him, her, it and they.
Many English learners struggle with the difference between he and him, I and me, and she and her. If you find yourself in this camp, don’t despair; in fact, many native speakers make these English grammar mistakes, too. Of course, that shouldn’t deter you from working your hardest to better understand this challenging rule.
3. Wrong Word Order
Word order varies from language to language and many students find it hard to shake the linguistic patterns in their heads.
In the Romance languages, adjectives generally follow the noun they modify. Of course, in English, adjectives generally precede the noun. For example, you might feel tempted to say: I saw the car black speed down the road. Naturally, the word black should come before car, however.
Overcoming this common challenge often requires students to stop thinking in their native language, a challenge would may prove easier said than done.
Adjectives aren’t the words that learners mix up in sentence structures, but they’re among the most common.
4. Subject and Verb Disagreements
Children play in the park and the sun rises every morning. This sentence demonstrates proper agreement between the subject(s) and the verb.
Singular subjects take the singular verb form and plural subjects take the plural verb form. It’s a simple rule, but it’s quite easy to find yourself committing this grammar no-no.
5. Misusing or Skipping Articles
It comes as no surprise that missing articles are one of the most common English grammar mistakes. The rules revolving around English articles are admittedly tricky. For example, you generally omit the article when using a plural noun as a direct object: I love cars. I like to eat apples. Prepositional phrases also impact article use, with many phrases requiring you to eliminate the article outright.
In most other cases, you need an article (the and a/an). Yesterday, I rode bus might get the point across, but native speakers will quickly notice your mistake and peg you for an English amateur. (Yesterday, I rode the bus is the correct sentence.)
Of course, the English grammar mistakes we’ve covered above are but a few of the potential errors students mistake. There are countless others out there, but ultimately, speaking English correctly requires learners to get familiar with the rules of the language, no two ways around it.
How to Improve Your Grammar
So, you need some grammar help. No problem!
If you’re wondering how to get your English into tip top shape, you can use the steps below to improve your grammar in no time. With a bit of luck, you may even find you enjoy working through the finer points of English grammar.
First Things First: Study the Rules
It may not be fun and it may not be easy, but studying the grammatical rules of the English language easily serves as the best course of action for improving your grasp on proper English structure. Many teachers ask their students to first focus on speaking a bit of English, rather than focusing on grammar.
Of course, this approach only works in the short term. If you plan to speak English like a native speaker one day, you’ll need to change your approach to better fit your goals.
Fortunately, grammar work doesn’t have to be mean spending hours with a thick rulebook in your hands. If you prefer the dynamic nature of English lessons, why not try to dedicate a few hours each week to watching grammar lessons online? We even feature a number of ESL channels within the Woodpecker app, if you’re looking to get started immediately.
Consume the Right Materials
Native speakers aren’t immune to making English grammar mistakes. You don’t want to pick up on the bad habits of others, however. Browsing through Facebook or laughing at silly videos provides you with great exposure to the language, but it won’t help you develop picture perfect grammar.
To do that, you’ll want to focus on reading and listening to high-level English. For example, why not start your morning reading the English news or watching a newscast from a respected channel, such as the BBC? Naturally, there are plenty of great novels and magazines out there that might also pique your interest.
The important thing to focus on isn’t the subject matter itself, but instead, finding grammatically correct English examples in the real world. As you make a habit of incorporating such materials into your studies, you should naturally see your grammar skills improve.
Don’t Ignore Writing in English
Many students focus all of their attention on learning to speak English; while the spoken language may play a more important role in your interpersonal interactions, this approach often leads to English grammar mistakes. Writing in English will force you to think about the different words that make up the language and become intentional with your sentence structure.
If you’re not currently in a classroom environment, find an English penpal to exchange messages with online or better yet, friend some connections on a social media site. Of course, it’s easiest to get help with your grammar if you specifically ask for it. Consider making friends online with people who are currently studying your native language; then, you can help each other to get better.
Finally, Pinpoint Your Weaknesses
The only way to truly get better at grammar is to figure out where you’re going wrong. Regardless of whether you’re able to self-identify your unique challenges or you need help from a native speaker, once you’ve got a clear understanding of the English grammar mistakes you’re making, you’ll be better equipped to build a strategy for improvement.
You can certainly create your own games and tests to continually monitor your improvement, but there are also a wealth of resources available online for whipping your grammar into shape. Many students find it helpful to incorporate online quizzes and free English lessons into their self-guided studies. These instructional tools provide real-time feedback and can give you a clearer overview of where your grammar skills currently lie.
Now It’s Your Turn
Grammar is often one of those subjects that English learners choose to ignore unless forced to think about it. Delving into the finer points of English grammatical rules may not be your idea of fun and games, but it will help you to become a better English speaker. Ultimately, that alone should motivate you to make grammar work part of your ongoing routine.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. There is no point in overwhelming yourself with complicated concepts too early on. Instead, try to continually build on your existing knowledge and you’ll be wiping out your remaining English grammar mistakes in no time.
Go even further in your grammar pursuits; learn how to use the Woodpecker app to master new English concepts.