Common ESL Grammar Mistakes + How to Fix Them
It isn’t easy to fix common ESL grammar mistakes irrespective of whether they’re verbal or written. But the first step to doing so is identifying where you’re going wrong. Awareness is half the work done.
Even native English speakers struggle with grammar rules sometimes – especially since these ‘laws’ keep changing with times – so it’s difficult for anyone to have perfect English. Let alone someone who learns it as a second language. What we can do is strive for increasing accuracy, however, and here are a few places where ESL students often end up making grammar mistakes –
1) Subject-verb Agreement
Mistake: None of them is very good at this.
Correction: None of them are very good at this.
Subject-verb agreement is just that, the subject of your sentence will determine the verb that would go with it. For instance, in the above sentence, the subject is ‘them’, referring to many people in the plural. Therefore, the verb used in accordance is ‘are’. Always look at the subject being spoken about, and you’ll automatically know what verb to use!
2) Thesaurus Trouble
What You Said: “On Sunday morning, I was excessively apathetic, making it impossible to try and scrub down!”
What You Meant to Say: “On Sunday morning, I was too lazy to even take a shower! “
To an ESL speaker, we know that thesaurus often comes as a saving grace. Being able to better your language and written communication is always a good idea, but believe it or not – thesaurus isn’t always a writer’s best friend.
Due to homonyms, it can be hard to find the right synonym and convey what you originally meant to say. So, make sure you have a complete understanding of the word you’re trying to use before you start looking for alternatives!
Mistake: I bought new dress yesterday.
Correction: I bought a new dress yesterday.
What with definite and indefinite articles and all the rules governing it, we can imagine what a nightmare it might be to ESL speakers! Hence, their lack of confidence stops them from intuitively realizing that there’s something missing in their sentences.
Definite articles are used when everyone is aware of the subject being spoken of, and indefinite articles when the identity is unknown or common.
For example, you would say ‘The Sun’, because we all there’s just one of those. But unless you were referring to one famous elephant, it’s always going to be ‘an elephant’.
Mistake: I have 2 brother’s and 3 childrens.
Correction: I have 2 brothers and 3 children.
There can never be too many “womens”, “friend’s” or even “foods” as far as ESL speakers are concerned. Using the right plural and singular forms of words is important, and apostrophes don’t make a word plural. Tread lightly, officer!
5) Incorrect Comparatives
Example: That phone is more good than this model.
No, and your English gets less good every time you write or say something like this. There are comparative and superlative forms of most words, so don’t use double comparative to enunciate your point. There’s really no need to be more comparative than necessary!
6) Conjunction And More
Example: I am a woman and I work in a small clinic because I have 2 children to take care of but I don’t like my job.
If you can’t read the sentence in one breath, then don’t say it. Sure, conjunctions are meant to bring two clauses together – but not entire paragraphs or novels! Using ‘and, because, but, etc.’ to begin your sentences also reflects weak English, so our advice would be to use these sparingly.
While we can’t have our editors sit with you and help you out with your oral communication skills, we can help you out with the way you write! As an ESL speaker, it can be hard to master what you don’t fully understand, but you can always seek help. What you need is good editing and proofreading, and you might want to read up a bit on the importance of the same.
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