When learning English, it is possible that you will make these 5 common English grammar mistakes. Learn what you are doing wrong and how to break these habits!
The 5 common English grammar mistakes we will focus on are:
- Subject/verb agreement with he/she/it
- Singular and plural nouns
- Overusing modals
- Forgetting the simple future
- Misusing the simple future with an adverbial clause
5 Common English Grammar Mistakes
Subject/verb agreement with the third person (he/she/it)
What is wrong: In English, the verb changes only in the third person (he/she/it).
- I like
- You like
- We like
- They like
- He/she/it likes
English learners often forget to add an “s” to the end of verbs in the present tense.
Why this is a common mistake: It is easy to forget to add the “s” to verbs for the third person since this is the only time we do this in English.
How to avoid making this mistake: Use the third person more often when speaking. Make it a point to talk about your friends, your family, even your pets! The more you correctly use this form of the verb, the more comfortable you will become with its form and the fewer mistakes you will make.
Singular and plural nouns
What is wrong: English learners sometimes use incorrect subject/verb agreements with nouns.
- The people is excited. (incorrect)
- The people are excited. (correct)
Some nouns are clearly singular or plural:
- One house
- Two houses
- The car
- Those cars
However, sometimes it is not so easy to tell if a noun is plural or singular. Some have an “s” at the end but they are singular, while others are plural.
- The news is on at 7 pm. (singular)
- My glasses are broken. (plural)
Other nouns are irregular (do not have an “s”). It is difficult to tell if these are singular or plural.
Why this is a common mistake: When we do not know if a noun is singular or plural, it makes it difficult to have correct subject/verb agreements.
How to avoid making this mistake: Read! The more you read, the more often you will be in contact with these verbs. Native speakers do not have to think about subject/verb agreements for most nouns because they have seen them again and again while reading (or heard them while speaking).
For more information, read our article on Singular and Plural Nouns.
What is wrong: English learners often try to use two modals that are not used together.
- You must to drive safely. (incorrect)
- You must drive safely. (correct)
- You don’t can’t drive fast near a school. (incorrect)
- You can’t drive fast near a school. (correct)
Why this is a common mistake: Students often confuse modals, possibly because some of them (like ought to) have two parts.
How to avoid making this mistake: Be sure that you know how each modal works. Spend a few minutes learning each one individually so that you do not confuse them. For more information, read our article on Modals of Etiquette and our other article, Modals of Obligation.
Forgetting the simple future
What is wrong: English learners will often talk about future plans, but forget to use the simple future.
- I call you in five minutes. (incorrect)
- I will call you in five minutes. (correct)
Why this is a common mistake: Sometimes in English, we can use the simple present for future plans.
- My plane leaves at 10 am.
- We arrive tomorrow.
However, this is for a scheduled action, not for a promise or intention.
How to avoid making this mistake: Learn how to correctly use the simple present for future events. Read our article on the Simple Future for Plans to understand how to do this.
Misusing the simple future with adverbial clauses
What is wrong: The simple future uses “will” or “be going to.”
- I will call you tomorrow.
- We will see you later.
The simple future is often used with an adverbial clause. An adverbial clause modifies the verb: it tells us more about the verb of the sentence.
- When I get home, I will call you.
- After we arrive, we will unpack our bags.
We know more about the action of the sentence because of this adverbial clause.
Sometimes, English learners put “will” in the adverbial clause. This is incorrect.
- When I will get home, I will call you. (incorrect)
- After we will arrive, we will unpack our bags. (incorrect)
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