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Common speaking mistakes ESL students make

July 20, 2013

A day at San Diego’s Comic-Con

San Diego’s Comic-Con, a four-day event that draws roughly 150,000 people each year, is currently underway! If you are currently studying English at CISL San Diego, make sure to run downtown and check out the awesome costumes. You just might run into a celebrity or two while walking around the Gaslamp!

To help you talk about your experience at Comic-Con, we have some common ESL errors that students make when speaking. Do  you make any of these errors? Making these small adjustments to your daily speech will greatly improve your English communication skills!

 

Common Speaking Mistakes ESL Students Make

1. I have been to Comic-Con yesterday.

Correct: I went to Comic-Con yesterday.

Explanation: The original sentence uses the Present Perfect (has/have + past participle). This tense is used to express an action that started in the past and continues to the present time. However, in this sentence, we are talking about the past: the word “yesterday” changes the sentence so that there is not a connection to present time. Therefore, we should use the Simple Past. The action is over and was completed in the past.

Correct: I have been to Comic-Con.

Explanation: In this sentence, we removed the word “yesterday.” Now, the sentence expresses an experience. This is the other way that the Present Perfect is commonly used. Other examples include, “I have met many celebrities,” “I have been to Comic-Con many times,” “I have never been to Comic-Con,” and “I have seen so many crazy costumes during my trips to Comic-Con.”

 

2. I saw the guy he was in the movie The Hulk.

Correct: I saw the guy that was in the movie The Hulk.

Correct: I saw the guy who was in the movie The Hulk.

Explanation: This sentence has two parts: “I saw the guy” and “He was in the movie The Hulk.” The second part of the sentence tells us more about the object in the second part of the sentence: without it, we wouldn’t know which guy the speaker is talking about. Therefore, we need to use “that” or “who” to combine these sentences.

 

3. My friend he saw many celebrities.

Correct: My friend saw many celebrities.

Explanation: This sentence has two subjects: “My friend” and “he.” We only need one subject in a sentence, so choose one.

 

4. I look forward to go again.

Correct: I look forward to going again.

Explanation: In English, some words must always be followed by an “-ing” verb. For example, “can’t stand” is always followed by an “-ing” verb: “I can’t stand waiting in line for Comic-Con tickets!” and “I can’t stand walking in the rain” are two examples. Many grammar books have complete lists of English verbs that are followed by “-ing” verbs (called gerunds).

 

5. When I can go again?

Correct: When can I go again?

Explanation: This is a question. In a question in English, the subject and verb are switched. Therefore, you must switch the “I” and the “can.”

This sentence actually has two verbs: “can” and “go.” “Can” is the helping verb, and it is the first verb in the sentence, so this is the one that we switch. “Go” does not change its place in the sentence.

 

Are you ready to practice what you just learned? Check out these sentences and choose which one is correct!

 

 

Quick Quiz on Common Speaking Mistakes ESL Students Make

1. a) I have met the actress from The Hunger Games when I went to Comic-Con.

b) I met the actress from The Hunger Games when I went to Comic-Con.

 

2. a) I saw the guy who starred in the Green Lantern.

b) I saw the guy who he starred in the Green Lantern.

 

3. a) My classmate also met the cast of True Blood.

b) My classmate she also met the cast of True Blood.

 

4. a) I am looking forward to see the pictures from Comic-Con.

b) I am looking forward to seeing the pictures from Comic-Con.

 

5. a) Where should I meet you?

b) Where I should meet you?

 

Answers:

1. b

2. a

3. a

4. b

5. a

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