Learn these common English mistakes so that you can avoid making them too!
The proper use of the apostrophe
The misuse of the apostrophe is a common mistake made by English learners.
You should only use the apostrophe in two situations:
- to replace one or more letters in certain words.
- to indicate possession
Sometimes we use an apostrophe to replace certain letters, for example:
- “They are” becomes “they’re”
- “I am” becomes “I’m”
- “Should not “ becomes “shouldn’t”.
We do this if we are talking fast and want to sound fluid.
To indicate possession we add “’s”.
For example, we would say, “The cat sat on the mat” but “The cat’s mat is red.”
However, if there is more than one cat then the apostrophe comes after the “s”, like this:
“The cats’ mats are red.”
Another occasion when the apostrophe comes after the “s” is if the noun ends in an “s”, eg “Jesus’ cross.”
Do not use the apostrophe for anything besides contraction or to denote possession.
To create a plural, more than one, you merely add an “s” to the end of the noun. For example there is one egg or two eggs.
However, there are exceptions to every rule.
Sometimes we add “es” to the end of a noun to form the plural. For example, the noun “church” would have the ending “es” added to make it “churches”.
Other examples of when “es” is added to the end of a noun include when the noun ends in “sh” or “x. For example, “wish” becomes “wishes” and “box” becomes “boxes”.
Subject / Verb Agreement
Remember that if the subject is he, she, or it, then we add an “s” to the end of the verb.
If the subject is I, you, we, or they, then we don’t add an “s” to the end of the verb.
For example, He eats his dinner and they eat their dinner.
- Noun and Adjective Separation
This refers to when a describing word (usually an adjective) is separated from the word it describes. It can be confusing and sound awkward. The technical term for this is “Dangling Modifier.”
Make sure your modifier always refers to the noun it describes, for example:
Incorrect: The red cats sat on the mat.
Correct: The cats sat on the red mat.
5. The use of two, to and too.
These three words are often confused because they sound the same. Take the time to learn their meaning and practise them.
Two is a number as in one, two, three…
For example, “she ate two pieces of cake” or “I have two bicycles.”
To has two functions:
- a preposition
- to indicate an infinitive of a verb.
A preposition, always precedes a noun, for example:
- She’s going to London.
- He went to the shops.
To indicates an infinitive when it precedes a verb, for example:
- The nurse wants to help him.
- They are going to eat dinner now.
- He needs to visit the doctor.
Too has two uses:
- Synonym for also eg Can she come too? He went to the shops too
- means excessively, eg He ate too much cake; She was too late to catch the train.
If the word is a number, use two.
If the word means “also” or “excessively” then use too.
Otherwise use to.
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If you can avoid making the above five common English mistakes then it will help you to become fluent in English.