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Common Usage Errors

The type of errors international students make depends a lot on the structure of their native language. For example, Japanese visitors often have trouble with determiners like "a", "an", and "the" because articles are largely lacking in Japanese. Some Japanese students omit articles entirely. Others try to compensate by including too many.

Try to avoid double negation. The resulting interpretation may be the opposite of what you intended. Double negation is also difficult to understand. It is better to be direct.

Other very common types of errors made by nonnative speakers of English are illustrated in the following table.

Type of ErrorExample ErrorsCorrect Form
Problems with auxiliary verb sequences, especially involving tense agreement. She should have talk to him. She should have talked to him.
Wrong choice of preposition. The female dog was on heat and ready to mate.
The car was covered in snow.
The female dog was in heat and ready to mate.
The car was covered with snow.
Missing determiners. She is good woman.
What is answer?
She is a good woman.
What is the answer?
Disagreement between determiner and noun, especially with regard to number. He has many wonderful toy. He has many wonderful toys.
Irregular verbs, nouns, and adjectives, such as think/thought, go/went/gone, drive/drove/driven, send/sent, and child/children. He sended the childs home to their parents. He sent the children home to their parents.
Subject-verb agreement errors. The questions on the test was difficult.
The passage through the hills were narrow.
The questions on the test were difficult.
The passage through the hills was narrow.
Commonly confused words, such as to/too/two, except/accept, effect/affect, which/that, then/than, piece/peace, and its/it's. Reuniting the dog with it's master was a peace of cake. Reuniting the dog with its master was a piece of cake.


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