Common Grammatical Mistakes in English (or how Neil Armstrong got it wrong) 

Common Grammatical Mistakes in English (or how Neil Armstrong got it wrong)

Just had a break from blogging, been busy with courses for drivers and seafarers and also examining. Spending the last few weeks doing oral examining has got me thinking about how you hear the same grammatical mistakes again and again.
Of course different language speakers tend to make different common mistakes but there are a few which seem to go more or less across the board for most nationalities. Anyway, here are some of the main ones I've come across. Do you know what's wrong with them? (explanations below)

"I'm meeting my friends in my free time"
"I'm going swimming about twice a week"
(looking at a musician in a picture) "I think he plays a guitar"
"I live in london for 3 years"
"I've been to Paris last year"
"I finished"
"I'm bus driver"
"I saw Tower of London"
"I saw the Tower Bridge"

Present Simple/Present Continuous
"I'm meeting my friends in my free time" "I'm going swimming about twice a week" (in a picture)"I think he plays a guitar" etc (see below for corrections)
This is supposed to be one of the first grammatical structures students learn but this really is one of the most common spoken mistakes, and it occurs right the way from beginner to advanced. Why? Most languages have the same tense or aspect for something we're doing at the moment and something we do regularly. In English we use the simple aspect for regular activities and continuous for at the moment. The interesting thing is, while most learners know this, and would never make this mistake in a grammar test, for some reason it comes out while speaking. I hear even really good speakers of English, like teachers making this mistake. Some students have even invented a completely new tense in English (as if we don't have enough already) and say "I working on a ship" which in some parts of the world is becoming such a common mistake it might in a couple of hundred years time start to become correct. One in the eye for 'living language' opponents or purists.

Present Perfect
"I live in london for 3 years" "I've been to Paris last year" "I finished" (see below for corrections)
We know why this is a problem because most languages don't have this tense. The perfect aspect is also supposed to be the hardest one to learn, which I'm sure is true. Explaining the difference between present simple/perfect and past simple/presentperfect is one of the first really tricky things a TEFL teacher comes across when starting out teaching. If you're not a teacher, to see how tricky it is to understand, try explaining the difference and especially in which situations we use the present perfect ("I have done something") as opposed to the past ("I did something"). Fortunately the other perfect aspects such as past perfect ("I had done something") and future perfect ("I will have done something") are used relatively rarely in spoken English so they don't count as common mistakes. But present perfect we really do use a lot and it needs to be understood if someone wants to be able to communicate in English with any efficiency or accuracy.
So often I get asked the question here in Poland "How long are you in Poland?" Being an English teacher I know they mean "How long have you been in Poland?" Does it matter you may ask? Well yes it does. A native speaker of English especially will understand the question "How long are you in Poland?" to mean the future, ie"How long are you going to be in Poland?" and they could well answer "I'm not sure" which would create all sorts of confusion.
Also, like the mistakes made with present simple/continuous, this kind of mistake is widespread and some have predicted that the perfect tenses will die out in spoken English if they haven't already done so in large parts of the world where English is used by non-native speakers of English, for example different nationalities working together or doing business. Perhaps in a hundred years "how long are you in Poland?" really will mean till now instead of the future.

Articles - a, an, the
"I'm bus driver" "I saw tower of London" but "I saw the Tower Bridge" (see below for corrections)
Articles (when we use 'a' or 'the' or don't use them) are supposed to be THE hardest grammatical thing to learn in English, even harder than (the) present perfect.
Why? Because most languages don't use them.
What's the difference between "The pen" or "A pen"? Non-native speakers of English tell me this is the one thing they think they will never be able to master completely, no matter how long or hard they learn English.
They could be right.
Even Neil Armstrong, a native speaker of English, got it wrong at one of the most important events in human history. While stepping onto the moon's surface he said; "This is one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind" which is actually nonsense in English.
What he should have said was; "This is one small step for A man and one .........etc"
Still I suppose he was under a lot of stress at the time.

"I meet my friends in my free time"
"I go swimming about twice a week" (both regular activities)
"I think he's playing a guitar" (activity happening at the moment)
"I've lived in London 3 years" (how long in the present)
"I went to paris last year" (finished time frame - last year)
"I've finished" (just happened, we still have the result of the action)
"I'm a bus driver" (unspecified job)
"I saw the Tower of London" (name or place with 'of')
"I saw Tower Bridge" (name or place without 'of')

More common mistakes to come.

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Comment Please tell me whether the following is a correct sentence? ' My father is called Henry Smith'. Or should it be 'My father's name is Henry Smith'.

Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:21 am MST by jay biz

Comment thanks sir, before now i don't ur web.

Sat Aug 5, 2006 7:24 am MST by mustafe

Comment Hello english.blogeasy, mostly my promblem is word, builging sentence and speaking english. so i want to help me

Sat Aug 5, 2006 7:17 am MST by mustafe

Comment Sorry Guy, but there isn't one grammatical mistake, one omitted preposition or punctuation mark in the first paragraph. However, I'd be interested to hear what you think is wrong with it. Let me know, and we'll carry in the discussion!

Fri Apr 7, 2006 6:23 am MST by julian

Comment The openeing paragraph contains more grammatical errors than the ones you are highlighting. You have omitted prepositions and punctuation in almost every sentence. I am sorry, but I don't think you are in any position to be correcting other people's use of English!

Thu Mar 9, 2006 1:10 pm MST by Guy

Comment 90.3655

Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:03 pm MST by Anonymous

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