12 Common Non-native Speaker Language Mistakes

In this post, I briefly cover 12 common language mistakes, which I encounter at Approach International Student Center. These mistakes were mostly compiled last term from a variety of levels (A1-B2), but should still be fairly easy to understand for most students. Mistakes have been underlined, and corrections have been bolded so that they are both easy to identify; and brief explanations for each correction are italicized. Lastly, it should be noted that Approach’s student population is fairly homogeneous, so these mistakes are probably more characteristic of Portuguese and Spanish speakers than, say, Thai or Russian speakers. In any case, I hope you find some of these corrections useful and, most importantly, memorable! 

1. Person A: I’ve never been to Paris. 

Person B: Me too. → Me neither. / Me either. (Use ‘Me either’ / ‘Me neither’ when agreeing with a negative statement; conversely, use ‘Me too’ to agree with affirmative statements.) 

2. He never listens me. → He never listens TO me. (You listen TO somebody/something.) 

3. It was a very difficult time to me. → It was a very difficult time FOR me. (Something is easy/difficult FOR you, not TO you.) 

4. It depends of the company. → It depends ON the company. (Use ‘on’ after ‘depends’ rather than ‘of’.) 

5. ____ Was my friend’s birthday.→ IT was my friend’s birthday. (English sentences usually need subjects, even when the subjects don’t mean anything. Here are a couple more example mistakes and corrections: (a) Is 5 o’clock. → IT’s five o’clock. / (b) Is snowing. → IT’s snowing.) 

6. I went to home again. → I WENT HOME again. (We say ‘go home’, not ‘go to home’.) 

7. I don’t know nothing. → I don’t know ANYTHING. (Use ‘anything’ in negative sentences instead of ‘nothing’. Here are a couple more correct examples: (a) I COULDN’T remember ANYTHING. / (b) He NEVER did ANYTHING wrong.) 

8. I no remember. → I CAN’T remember. / I DON’T remember. (Negation of sentences in English requires an ‘auxiliary verb + not’ rather than ‘no’. Here are some examples to illustrate this point: I SHOULDN’T go. / I DIDN’T go. / I COULDN’T go. / I WON’T go.) 

9. I have a doubt → I have A QUESTION (When you are confused by something, say ‘I have a question’ rather than ‘I have a doubt’.) 

10 .I look forward to see you. → I look forward to SEEING you. (‘Look forward to’ is followed by ‘v-ing’ rather than ‘base verb’.) 

11. She really loves _____. → She really loves IT. (‘It’ could mean many things in this sentence such as ‘coffee’, ‘the movie’, ‘the restaurant’, etc. The important thing is that ‘love’ and many other verbs (e.g. ‘like’, ‘hate’, ‘want’, etc.) often need an object, and this object is frequently—though not always—an object pronoun like ‘you’, ‘him’, ‘her’, ‘it’, ‘them’, etc.Therefore, instead of saying ‘I loved’, ‘He liked’, ‘They hated’, say something like ‘I loved IT (e.g. it = the movie), ‘He liked THEM (e.g. them = the guests), They hated HIM (e.g. him = the new boss). 

12. I don’t know explain this. → I don’t know HOW TO explain this. (The correct structure is ‘I don’t know how to + (base verb)...’. Here are a couple more correct examples: I don’t know HOW TO speak Chinese. / She doesn’t know HOW TO cook.)

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