As long as one is willing to correct one’s mistakes, learning English can be a piece of cake.
PERSEVERANCE, practice and persistence are what it takes to be a superior communicator of the English language.
Besides that, not much is required except that one needs to be introspective. By recognising the common mistakes made in daily conversations and correspondence, learners can improve their grasp of the language.
The term “all right” is two words, just like “all wrong”. Example: Is Jake all right after falling off that ladder?
It is traditionally incorrect to write the word group “all right” as “alright”, “allright” or “all-right”. Unfortunately, some dictionary publishers include the spelling “alright” thus causing confusion for learners.
There is no such word in English as “alot”. The term “a lot” should always be written as two words. Example: The gambler lost a lot of money betting on race horses.
The adverb “only” should always precede the word it qualifies. Example:Only the Premier can resolve this political factional impasse. — If onlyshe were here.
Real — really
The word “real” is an adjective that is used to describe a noun. Example: That was a real challenging experience.
The word “really” is an adverb that is used to describe or qualify a verb or another adverb. Example: I felt really well after my holiday at the beach.
It is incorrect to say: Jason is real sorry for crashing your motorbike. (really)
Some — any
While the adjectives “any” and “some” are usually interchangeable, these words should be used carefully in the context of a question.
It is incorrect to say: Where can I buy any batteries for my torch? (some)
It is preferable to say: “Have you any AAA batteries?” rather than “Have you some AAA batteries?”.
Such as — like
It is common practice to use “such as” for examples and “like” for resemblances.
Example: Some police officers, such as those who handle domestic disputes, need very good people-skills. — Those elderly neighbours arelike grandparents to my children.
An — a
A common mistake is to use the wrong indefinite article. To use “a” instead of “an” or “an” instead of “a”.
Example: I ate a orange for lunch. (an) — Can you draw an unicorn? (a)
The indefinite article “an” is always used instead of “a” before the vowels “a”, “e”, “i”, and “o”. Example: an apple, an eel, an ice cream, an orange.
When the following word begins with a “short u”, an is used. Example: anumbrella.
When the “u” sound is “long”, a is used. Example: a unit, a unicorn.
With unstressed “h-words”, an is used. Example: an honest man.
Pronouncing words with the neutral “uh” sound also causes indefinite article difficulties.
Example: Do you have a answer to my problem? (an)
The word “the” is called the definite article. Unlike the indefinite articles “a” and “an”, its function is to definitely or specifically refer to someone or something. Example: That is the car I want. — He is the captain of our team.
In contrast, “a” and “an” are more general in their reference to words. Example: I would like a new bike, ie. the bike could be one of many.
Similarly, in the sentence: I eat an apple every day, ie. any apple.
One of the mistakes made is to wrongly omit the definite article “the”. Example: That was only way to solve the problem. (... the only way...).
Another less commonly made error is to confuse the definite article “the” with the pronoun “they”. Example: They concert was really wonderful. (the)
Either or — neither nor
“Either” is always followed by “or”. “Either” should never be followed by “nor”.
Example: We can either go to the theatre or to the art show. The words, “either - or” and “neither - nor”, form what are called correlative conjunctions.
Both require singular verbs when used with singular nouns in a sentence. Example: Either a cat or a dog is an ideal pet for a child.
In contrast, when one or both the specific subjects are plural, the verb too has to be plural.
Example: Neither the dog nor the cats have been fed. — Either the parents or the students have to pay for the books.
It is a common grammatical mistake to use “or” with “neither”. Example: I like neither that blue tie or that red one. (nor)
Another common error is using a plural verb when two singular subjects are joined by “either - or” and “neither - nor”.
Example: Either David or Mica are going to mow the lawn as neither Peter nor Andrea were able to do it yesterday. (is...was)
Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English. The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Programme (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English proficiency of people with different competency levels. E-mail contact@4Sliteracy.com.au for a free copy of the PDF File on The 4S Keys To Plurals.