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Common English Grammar Mistakes and How to Fix Them

One of the most common challenges experienced by people who are learning English as a second language is choosing the right word for the right context.

The English language is well known for being the language of international communication in the modern world – and wherever you originate from, and whatever native tongue you speak, it’s likely that learning English will be invaluable in both your personal and professional lives. Of course, the English language frequently frustrates new learners with various grammatical hurdles and stumbling blocks.

Signing up for our courses at Oxford International English School is a great way to improve your English language skills.

Common English Grammar Mistakes 


1) Present and Past Tense 

Present tenses in English are used to talk about the present, the future and to summarise a book, film or play when telling a story in the present tense. 

There are four present tense forms in the English language. 

Present Simple: I Work 

Present Continuous: I am Working 

Present Perfect: I have worked 

Present perfect continuousI have been working 


You can use the past tense to talk about events or situations that have finished. You can also use past tense in English to talk about long-standing events and situations that have already happened in the past. 

For exampleWhen I was a young child, I lived in the countryside. 

Here are some frequently used examples of verbs in past simple: are, was, were and went. 


2) How To Avoid the Overuse of Adverbs

Adverbs are a varied class of words that work in many different ways to express many different kinds of meaning.  

This can make adverbs a useful word group. You should, however, avoid overusing these words to describe actions and events.  

The most commonly overused adverbs are manner adverbs, this particular type of adverb modifies the verb. 

For example: 

Emily Scott shook her head vigorously. 

He was in a good mood now, smiling broadly as he grabbed his mug of tea. 

A common issue in story writing occurs when you rely too heavily on manner adverbs in your stories. 

For example: 

The curtain opened quickly, and Ben came slowly into the room. He saw Emma looking flirtatiously with Jack and walked over to her aggressively. ‘Why are you here?’ he screamed angrily. 

Here is the same extract with the manner verbs highlighted: 

The curtain opened quickly, and Ben came slowly into the room. He saw Emma looking flirtatiously with Jack and walked over to her aggressively. ‘Why are you here?’ he screamed angrily. 

The correct use of adverbs is to show not tell the reader what is happening in the story. 


3) Your/You’re 

These words are also troublesome homophones that cause many problems. 


Your” indicates a possession – and defines that something belongs to you. 

You’re” is short for “You are”. 


Here is how not to use these words: 

Your beautiful. 

Do you know when your going? 

Can I have you’re coat? 


How to get it right: 

You’re beautiful. 

Do you know when you’re going? 

Can I have your coat? 


4) Misplacing Apostrophes 

You find apostrophes a little tricky, but once you follow the rules, it will become easy. Putting an apostrophe in the wrong place is a common mistake. 


Apostrophes indicate something belongs to something or is owned by someone else. 

To show that something belongs to one person, place the apostrophe before the letter ‘S.’ 

For example – “The girl’s sheep”. 


To show that something belongs to more than one person, you need to place the apostrophe after the letter ‘S’. 

For example – “The girls’ sheep”. 


Apostrophes are also used in contracted words such as “Can’t” to indicate that the ‘O’ is missing from “Cannot. 

Apostrophes should never be used to make a word plural. 


5) There / Their /They’re 

You may find that these pesky homophones, a little bit of a headache. 


Use “There” to refer to a place that isn’t here, for example, “Over there.” 

Use “Their” to refer to how owns something – showing that something belongs to that person. 

Use “They’re” is a shortened version of “They are”. 


Here is how not to use these words: 

Their going to be here soon. 

We should contact they’re friend. 

Can we use there house? 

They’re is is an argument that says. 


Here is how you use these words correctly: 

They’re going to be here soon. 

We should contact their friend. 

Can we use their house? 

There is an argument that says. 


6) Confusing similar spellings and words

The English language is quite rich in words which sound similar, or are spelled similarly, but which have different meanings and need to be used in different contexts.

Perhaps the most common stumbling block experienced by people who are learning English as a second language is making sure to use the right word in the right context, rather than a similar but improper one.

The only way to avoid this issue is to learn which words fit in which context, on a case-by-case basis.

Here are some words people often mix up:


Two,” “too,” and “to”


“Here” and “hear”


Your” and “you’re”


“Weather” and “whether”


7) Using incomplete comparisons


Many words in the English language imply a comparison – and using them without “completing the comparison” is a common grammatical mistake.


Here’s an example of an incomplete comparison:


“It was much hotter today.”


To make this example grammatically correct, you would need to complete this comparison. Here’s one way you could do that:


“It was much hotter today than yesterday.”


8) Getting adjectives and adverbs confused


Confusing your adjectives and adverbs often results in speech or writing that comes off as very informal, and even uneducated – and it’s a great way of infuriating many English teachers.


Often, you’ll notice this issue happening with words that end in “-ly.”


Here are a couple of grammatically incorrect examples:


“It was a real nice day today.”


“I ran quick to the bus stop.”


And here’s how these two examples would look if they were made grammatically correct:


“It was a really nice day today.”


“I ran quickly to the bus stop.”


9) Misplacing your modifiers


Language would be pretty dull without words to add a bit of extra flavour to sentences and descriptive speech.


This is exactly where modifiers come in.


With modifiers, “the tiger” can become “the fearsome tiger,” “the sunrise,” can become “the beautiful sunrise,” and so on.


The issue is that these modifiers need to be placed very close to the word they’re modifying, or else the meaning falls apart.


“Misplacing your modifiers” means that you are putting these modifiers too far away from the terms they are meant to be modifying, in your sentence.


The result is confusion.


In fact, misplaced modifiers can even completely change the meaning of your sentence in unintended ways.


Here’s an example of a misplaced modifier:


“He almost walked for the entire day.”


And here’s how this example would read with the modifier in the right place:


“He walked for almost the entire day.”


In the example with the misplaced modifier, it is not clear if he “crawled”, “ran slowly”, or simply “thought about walking” for the entire day.


In the correct example, the meaning is clear.


10) Falling into pronoun disagreement


A common grammatical mistake for English learners is for their pronouns and nouns to disagree, when dealing with singular and plural examples.


The straightforward rule is that singular pronouns must go with singular nouns, and plural pronouns must go with plural nouns.


So, for example:


“Every boy must sign in when they arrive” is incorrect. “Boy” is singular, and “they” is plural.


The correct phrasing here would be:


“Every boy must sign in when he arrives.”


Grammar and punctuation are essential in the English language and gaining confidence in how to avoid any grammatical errors is a valuable part of your learning journey.  

You should practice developing your grammar daily; it will help you to become a confident writer with a firm grasp on the English language. 

One of the most common challenges experienced by people who are learning English as a second language is choosing the right word for the right context.