100 Speaking Mistakes You’re Most Likely Making as an English as a Second Language Speaker

Everyone has their own ways of expression. I believe we all have a lot to say, but finding ways to say it is more than half the battle. - Author Criss Jami, Salomé: In Every Inch In Every Mile

Anyone learning English as a Second Language will make mistakes along the way.  It is inevitable. Don’t worry. I’ve made more than my share of speaking mistakes while studying foreign languages. The important thing is to learn from these mistakes so you become a more capable, confident speaker. This blog describes many of these common speaking mistakes for ESL speakers. Here’s hoping that some of these suggestions can be helpful to you:

1.    Much, more, less (some nouns occur only in the singular form)

Incorrect: There is much dusts.  There is more courages. He had less funs

.Correct: There is much dust.  There is more courage.  He had less fun.

2.    Less, fewer (countable nouns

)Incorrect: There were less people.

Correct:  There were fewer people.

3.    Possession shared by two noun

sIncorrect:  It was John’s and Peter’s car.

Correct:  It was John and Peter’s car.

4.    His/hers/its (If you don’t know an animal’s gender, you use “it”.)

Incorrect:  The dog lost his bone.  (You don’t know the gender.)

Correct:  The dog lost its bone

.5.    That/who

Incorrect:  I have written to my sister that lives in France.

Correct:  I have written to my sister who lives in France.

6.    Me/I

Incorrect:  Give it to I. Jason and me took the class.  He read as well as me.

Correct:  Give it to me.  Jason and I took the class. He read as well as I.

7.    This/that/those/these

Incorrect: These/those is my child. That/this are my children.Correct:  This/that is my child. Those/these are my children.

8.    Happy (well/good)

Incorrect:  She feels well.

Correct:  She feels good.

9.    Quality (well/good)

Incorrect:  She sings good.

Correct:  She sings well.

10.  Adverbs with “ly”

Incorrect:  She spoke to him quiet.  He shouted not as loud as the rest of the group.

Correct:  She spoke to him quietly.  He shouted not as loudly as the rest of the group.

11.   Linking verbs take the adjective form (bad/badly)

Incorrect:  The meat smells badly.  I feel badly.

Correct:  The meat smells bad. I feel bad.

12.  Answering when there is an either/or question

Incorrect:  “Either you go home or stay here.” “Yes.”

Correct:  “Either you go home or stay here.” (Select one choice)

13.  Subject/verb agreement

Incorrect:  One of the planes are late. Each of the cars are fast.

Correct:  One of the planes is late. Each of the cars is fast.

14.  Plurals and Their Correct Verbs

Incorrect:  The wages is little. The scissors are broken. The police is coming.

Correct:  The wages are little.  The scissors is broken. The police are coming.

15.  Misplaced verb as modifier (If you put the modifier in a different place in the sentence, it means something different.)

Incorrect:  Josh threatened to divorce her often. (This is not what you intend to say.)

Correct:  Josh often threatened to divorce her.

16.  Misplaced noun as modifier

Incorrect:  We gave the flowers to the customer in the refrigerator.

Correct:  We gave the flowers in the refrigerator to the customer.

17.  Misplaced adverbs (Be careful where the adverb is placed in the sentence as it has a different meaning.)

Incorrect:  She almost washed all of the dishes. He offered to paint the fence last night. (This is not what you intend to say.)

Correct:  She washed almost all of the dishes. Last night, he offered to paint the fence.

18.   Omission of second part of comparison

Incorrect:  Carla ranks Mary higher than Betty.

Correct:  Carla ranks Mary higher than she ranks Betty.

19.   Any other

Incorrect:  Alaska is bigger than any state in the United States.

Correct:  Alaska is bigger than any other state in the United States.

20.  Parallel verb phrases

Incorrect:  She was late for work and fired by her boss.

Correct:  She was late for work and was fired by her boss.

21.  Old friend/long time

Incorrect:  She was my old friend.  (You may have known her for a long time, but she might be offended if you use the word “old” as it implies age.)

Correct:  She was a friend who I have known for a long time.

22.  Parallelism and verb agreement

Incorrect:  He learned to play tennis, to swim and sail.

Correct:  He learned to play tennis, to swim and to sail.

23.  Avoid lengthy sentence beginnings that offer nothing to the sentence

Incorrect:  It goes without saying it is a nice day … With reference to your question I don’t really know … At this point in time I would like to work for the bank …

Correct: It is a nice day … I don’t really know … I would like to work for the bank …

24.  Redundant phrases

Incorrect:  advanced planning, close proximity, end results, grateful thanks. Habitual customs, local residents, mutual cooperation, old adage, past history, self-confessed, successful achievements, true facts, usual customary, young teenager, absolute truth, redo again

Correct:  Use one word or the other not two words that mean nearly the same thing

25.  Circumlocution/talking around the subject

Incorrect/correct: ahead of schedule/early, am in possession/have, at an early date/soon, at this point in time/now, best of health/well, caused injuries to/injured, draw attention to/point out, during the time that/while, give rise to/cause, in advance of/before, in the event that/if, in this day and age/today, made a statement saying/stated or said, made an escape/escaped, owing to the fact that/because, put in an appearance/appeared, render assistance to/help, succumbed to injuries/died, take action on the issue/acted, the reason why is that/because, this is a topic that/topic, was of the opinion that/thought, was witness to/saw

26.  An/a

Incorrect:  It is a old television set, but it still works. It is an costly purchase.

Correct:  It is an old television set, but it still works. It is a costly purchase.

27.  Alternative/alternate

Incorrect:  We will alternative playing the video games. The salad is a healthier alternate.

Correct:  We will alternate playing the video games. The salad is a healthier alternative.

28.  Amicable (used to describe arrangements or settlements agreed peacefully by parties)/Amiable (used to describe people who are kind, gentle and friendly

)Incorrect:  The soccer teams were amicable

Correct:  The soccer teams were amiable

29.  Among/between

Incorrect:  She could not decide among the two guys

Correct:  She could not decide between the two guys

.30.  Beside (means “next to”)/besides (means “in addition to”)

Incorrect:  Ask him to sit besides me

.Correct:  Ask him to sit beside me

.31.  Bimonthly (every 2 months)/Semi-monthly (2 times a month)

Incorrect: I get paid bimonthly (every 2 months when you want to say every 2 months).

Correct:  I get paid semi-monthly (every 2 months).

32.  Bring (action towards)/take (action away)

Incorrect:  He will take the book to his friend’s.

Correct:  He will bring the book to this friend’s.

33.  Can (applies ability)/may (asks permission)

Incorrect: I may drive because I passed the driving test.

Correct:  I can drive because I passed the driving test.

34.  Deadly (if can cause death)/deathly (like the silence of death but does not kill)

Incorrect:  A bee sting can be deathly.

Correct:  A bee sting can be deadly.

35.  Farther (refers to physical distance)/further (refers to degree or extent)

Incorrect:  We will drive no further tonight.

Correct:  We will drive no farther tonight.

36.  Had ought/ought (ought is not used with helping verb)

Incorrect:  They had ought to call the pizza delivery.

Correct:  They ought to call the pizza delivery.

37.  Hardly/barely/scarcely

Incorrect:  He was not hardly/barely/scarcely finished with the paper.

Correct:  He was hardly/barely/scarcely finished with the paper

38.  Kind of/sort of/type of/variety of (never use “a” or “an” after these expressions)

Incorrect: It was kind of a hot day.

Correct:  It was kind of hot today.

39.  Last (that what comes at the end)/latest (last in time, but not necessarily the final occurrence)

Incorrect: It is the latest game of the season.

Correct:  It is the last game of the season.

40.  Lay/lie/laid (to put down) – lie/lay/lain (to recline or repose)

Incorrect: I will lie the paper on the table.

Correct:  I will lay the paper on the table.

41.  Learn (acquire information)/teach (impart knowledge

)Incorrect:  I will learn the English to him.

Correct:  I will teach the English to him.

42.  Presently (soon or shortly)/at present (now, currently, at this time)

Incorrect:  Presently, the boss is in his office.

Correct:  At present, the boss is in his office.

43.  Regardless (despite)/irregardless (a nonstandard word)

Incorrect:  Irregardless of what you want, the restaurant does not have it.

Correct:  Regardless of what you want, the restaurant does not have it.

44.  Rare (implies value)/scarce (applied to ordinary things that are no longer in abundant)

Incorrect: The painting was very scarce.

Correct:  The painting was very rare.

45.  Future tense

Incorrect:  Tomorrow we go shopping.

Correct:  Tomorrow we will go shopping.

46.  Since/for

Incorrect:  I’ve been in America since 3 months.

Correct:  I’ve been in America for 3 months.

47.  Adjectives in right order

Incorrect:  Have you bought the blue china antique vase? I like ice cream vanilla the most.

Correct:  Have you bought the antique blue china vase? I like vanilla ice cream the most.

48.  Work/job

Incorrect:  My boyfriend has a new work

Correct:  My boyfriend has a new job.

49.   Misused Irony

Incorrect:  It’s a free ride if you pay.

Correct:  You need to pay.

50.  Couldn’t care less (not care at all)/could care less (care a little but not much)

Incorrect: I couldn’t care less that it is raining (to mean not to care at all when you care a little).

Correct:  I could care less that it is raining.

51.  Literally (event must happen)/figuratively (event could not happen)

Incorrect:  He literally flew out the door.

Correct:  He figuratively flew out the door.

52.  Repeating subject

Incorrect:  My English it is improving. My friend Mary she is going out with me.

Correct:  My English is improving. My friend Mary is going out with me.

53.  Incorrect preposition

Incorrect: In January 13th, I will be twenty.

Correct: On January 13th, I will be twenty.

54.  Nobody/anybody

Incorrect: At the party, I didn’t meet nobody.

Correct:  At the party, I didn’t meet anybody.

55.   Possessive

Incorrect:  She lives with she’s father.

Correct:  She lives with her father.

56.  Of come/have come

Incorrect:  I would of come if I had a car.

Correct:  I would have come if I had a car.

57.  Loan/borrow

Incorrect:  I loaned the book from the library.

Correct:  I borrowed the book from the library.

58.  Grade/year

Incorrect:  I am in the third grade of college. My little brother is in the third year of school.

Correct:  I am in the third year of college. My little brother is in the third grade of school.

59.  Irregular plurals

Incorrect:  I saw two deers in the woods.  My foots hurt.

Correct:  I saw two deer in the woods.  My feet hurt.

60.   Confusion over wording of idiom

Incorrect:  The boss told me to dot my t’s and cross my i’s.

Correct:  The boss told me to dot my i’s and cross my t’s.

61.  Was/were after “if” and “wish”

Incorrect:  If I was going to the movies … I wish I was seeing an action thriller.

Correct:  If I were going to the movies … I wish I were seeing an action thriller.

62.  Answering a common expression with a question

Incorrect:  “See you later!” “When?”

Correct:  “See you later!” “Sure, good bye!”

63.  Confusion over gender

Incorrect:  My mother will be coming to America. He is excited.

Correct:  My mother will be coming to America. She is excited.

64.   Themself/themselves

Incorrect:  They cooked dinner by themself.

Correct:  They cooked dinner by themselves.

65.  Comfortable/convenient

Incorrect:  Is that chair convenient for you? Is it comfortable that I come over to your apartment?

Correct:  Is that chair comfortable for you?  Is it convenient that I come over to your apartment?

66.  Expressing that you are sorry

Incorrect: I am sorry to her.

Correct:  I apologized to her.

67.  Look/see/watch verbs

Incorrect:  I will see for you. I will look the movie.

Correct:  I will look/watch for you.  I will see/watch the movie.

68.  Differences between want/hope/expect

Incorrect:  I want that the store has a funny video.

Correct:  I hope/expect that the store has a funny video.

69.  Very/really

Incorrect:  I felt very fantastic.

Correct:  I felt really fantastic.

70.  “Played” as in having fun

Incorrect: (If in reference to adults, and if not in a sport or a game) I played with my friends Friday night.

Correct:  I hung out/went out/had fun with my friends Friday night.

71.  Superlatives

Incorrect:  It is more hot now.

Correct:  It is hotter now.

72.  Most/all/some

Incorrect:  Most of Koreans like kimchi.

Correct:  Most Koreans like kimchi or Most of the Koreans I know like kimchi.

73.  Do you? Would you? (asking at the present time

)Incorrect:  Do you like a glass of wine?

Correct:  Would you like a glass of wine?

74.  Missing word(s)

Incorrect:  My cousin is having 4 cats. Although I wasn’t born, I feel like a real American. I’m from Italy, but I’ve been living for 4 years. I tried eating American food at restaurants, but now I cook myself as much as I can.

Correct: My cousin’s cat is having 4 kittens.  Although I wasn’t born here, I feel like a real American.  I’m from Italy, but I’ve been living her for 4 years.  I tried eating American food at restaurants, but now I cook it myself as much as I can.

75.  Misuse of plural

Incorrect:  Someday, I’ll find the men to marry.

Correct:  Someday, I’ll find the man to marry.

76.  All/over

Incorrect:  I want to travel all/over the world.

Correct:  I want to travel all over the world (use both words together).

77.  Incorrect use of word form

Incorrect:  Her father paid for her fly to Canada.  He has been eaten at expensive restaurants.

Correct:  Her father paid for her flight to Canada. He has been eating at expensive restaurants.

78.  By my own - on my own/by myself

Incorrect:  I got the new job by my own.

Correct:  I got the new job on my own/by myself.

79.  In my point of view – From …/In my view …

Incorrect:  In my point of view, the language learning program really helps.

Correct:  From my point of view, the language learning program really helps or In my view, the language program really helps.

80.  Do/make

Incorrect:  I need to do my bed.  I need to make my makeup. Can you make me a favor?

Correct:  I need to make my bed.  I need to do my makeup. Can you do me a favor?

81.  I suggested them to/I suggest that they

Incorrect:  I suggested them to go swimming

Correct:  I suggested that they go swimming.
82.  The/my/his

Incorrect:  I go to the house (the house is yours). He drove the car (the car is his).

Correct:  I am going to my house. He drove his car.

83.  On/in

Incorrect:  I was born on 1988.Correct:  I was born in 1988.

84.  Day/date answer to a question

Incorrect:  “What day were you born?” “1990”

Correct:  “What day were you born?” “The 27th.”

85.  Then (reference to time)/than (reference to comparison)

Incorrect:  I can speak much better then before.

Correct:  I can speak much better than before.

86.  In/at

Incorrect:  My flight departs in 5:00 p.m. It is at 15 minutes from now.

Correct:  My flight departs at 5:00 p.m. It is in 15 minutes from now.

87.  During/for

Incorrect:  My sister studied during five hours. She studied for the football game.

Correct:  My sister studied for five hours. She studied during the football game.

88.  Always go/go always

Incorrect:  I go always to school by bus.

Correct:  I always go to school by bus.

89.  Using a thesaurus so the words are more formal and don’t fit

Incorrect:  I was crusading/locomoting home from work.

Correct:  I was coming home from work.

90.  Late/lately

Incorrect:  I always sleep lately. Late, I have been going to the movies.

Correct:  I always sleep late. Lately, I have been going to the movies.

91.  Who/whom

Incorrect:  His boss was the one whom gave him the raise. Who were they talking about? Please help whomever needs it.

Correct: His boss was the one who gave him a raise. Whom were they talking about? Please help whoever needs it.

92.  Possessive case

Incorrect:  I would like the amount of gas to be $40.00.

Correct:  I would like $40 worth of gas.

93.   Making one syllable words that end in “ed” into two syllable words

Incorrect:  I chang - ged my mind.

Correct:  I changed my mind.

94.  Having difficulty pronouncing certain vowel sounds and letter sounds (th, ch, j, ld, rd) and leaving off endings completely

Incorrect:  I would like to go to the batroom (bathroom). It is a hard wod (word) to say. The weather is very cod (cold). I see the ba (bear).

Correct:  bathroom, word, cold, bear

95.  Saying impolite expression(s)

Incorrect:  Can I have more (when eating at someone’s house and the person is not your very closest friend)? You sure goofed up or that’s not very organized (to your boss). I have to go to the bathroom (have to use the restroom).

Correct:  Wait to be asked for seconds and then say Yes, I really like … or Yes, please.To your boss say, Do you need any help or Perhaps it could be organized this way … Say, I have to use the restroom or where is the restroom?

96.  Ending sentences with the word “but”

Incorrect:  I would like to go, but.

Correct:  I would like to go, but (finish the sentence or don’t use the connecting word). I would like to go, but I can’t.

97.  Accurate word choice

Incorrect:  She was boring in class (the teacher or the student?).

Correct: Mrs. Jones (the teacher) was boring in class.  I was bored with the class (student).

98.  Could be better than that/Couldn’t be better than that

Incorrect:  It could be better than that (when it is the best)! It couldn’t be better than that (when there is need for improvement)!

Correct:  It couldn’t be better than that (when it is the best)! It could be better than that (when there is room for improvement)!

99.  Using double negatives

Incorrect:  I don’t need not to be upset. I don’t want no coffee.

Correct:  I don’t need to be upset. I don’t want any coffee.

100. Stumbling for word choice

Incorrect:  I am all wet (hot).  I can’t read (implying you don’t know how to read as in a menu but you really can’t see to read the menu).

Correct:  I am all sweaty.  I can’t see to read the menu.Whew!  There you have it.  Write to me using the comments below and share an example of a common mistake you have heard or one you have overcome in learning English. I am sure someone could benefit from what you have learned. Can you? May you?  I better look that one up.

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