The top nine mistakes that nearly every native English speaker makes
Most language learners have a steadfast belief that native English speakers never make mistakes. Well, they do, and in fact, they make plenty of mistakes every day! If you need a little confidence boost, check out the nine most common mistakes native speakers make.
Me and I
A glance at a picture on Facebook might reveal the first most common mistake native speakers make, and it has to do with ‘me’ and ‘I’. “Look at my wonderful family and I” reads a common caption. A careful language learner may see that this is incorrect. Here are some examples to shed light on the difference between ‘me’ and ‘I’.
“Our teacher told Kevin and I we needed to practice our grammar more.”
This is incorrect, and an easy way to find out why is to remove the other subject. Does the sentence, “Our teacher told I to practice our grammar more” make sense? Absolutely not! This is because you need an object pronoun to fix the sentence. It now reads, “Our teacher told Kevin and I to practice our grammar more.”
If we were to switch the sentence, the grammar rules would change. “Kevin and I need to practice our grammar” is correct because they are the subjects of the sentence.
There, their, and they’re
These are the famous homonyms of the English language: words that sound the same but are spelled differently. There are a mountain of homonyms in English, and they can be so confusing that even native speakers get them wrong.
‘There’ refers to a place; ‘their’ is a possessive adjective, and ‘they’re’ is a contraction for the word, ‘they are’.
“Their teacher is sitting in the desk over there, wondering if they’re all doomed on their next exam.”
Less and Fewer
This grammar faux pas is visible in grocery stores all over the world, but especially in the US and UK fast checkout lanes. The rules read, “10 items or less,” but fewer is the grammatically correct word. The hard and fast rule is that ‘fewer’ is used with countable nouns and ‘less’ is used with uncountable nouns. For example, “I eat less salt than him, so I have fewer health problems.”
For more information about countable and uncountable nouns check our blog post.
Affect and effect
‘Affect’ is a verb meaning to influence something, and ‘effect’ is a noun meaning a consequence. Knowing the definitions, ‘The limited sun in the winter affects my mood,” is grammatically correct. ‘What was the effect of the limited sun on your mood?’ is also grammatically correct.
Lay and lie
This is a very common mistake native speakers make. You may have heard someone say before, “I need to lay down.” You should have asked them, “Lay down what?” ‘Lay’ is a word that needs a direct object, whereas ‘lie’ does not. The correct version of the sentence above is “I need to lie down.” What makes this duo so confusing is the past tense form of ‘lie’ is ‘lay’, so the sentence, “I lay on the floor and screamed about this insane rule,” is correct.
Well and good
“I’m speak English very good.” If you’re not cringing, you should be. Native speakers often confuse the adjective ‘good’ with the adverb ‘well’. ‘Good’ describes a noun, so you can say, “I speak good English,’ and that would be grammatically correct because you are describing your English. On the other hand, when you say, “I did good on that test,” you’re making a mistake that hurts the ears of any elite grammarian. The correct sentence would be “I did well on that test.”
Lose and loose
Sometimes, all it takes is one letter to affect the grammar abilities of entire generations of native speakers. ‘Lose’ means to be unsure of where something is. ‘Loose’ is something that is not tight. A neat trick to remember the difference is by counting the number of O’s. In ‘lose’ you can’t find the one thing you’re looking for. In ‘loose,’ the extra ‘O’ implies that there’s too many O’s, and it’s not tight.
“I might lose the football game if I keep my shoe laces loose.”
Could of and could have
The difference between these phrases among native speakers is generally unknown, and the words may be merged entirely soon. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “I shoulda waited for a better price before buying that television,” ‘shoulda’ means ‘should have’ not ‘should of’. Next time you hear a native speaker say, “I could of had that extra drink,” kindly let them that they should have said, “You could have had that extra drink.”
Literally is a word that has permeated the vocabulary of millions of English speakers. By definition, it means something happened, but lately it’s been used to dramatize and exaggerate conversations. “I died when I saw Beyoncé in concert,” does not mean your friend in fact passed on, but connotes an enhancement of what was spoken. Annoyed? You and literally everyone else feels the same way.
Unsure of whether your English matches the level of native speakers, errors and all? LoroTalk can help you learn more about the English language and specifically how these terms are used in business English. Contact us today!