Common English Mistakes That ESL Learners Make

 In Grammar

Learning English as a second language is a challenge, but one which holds great rewards once achieved.  It is English Mistakesbelieved that when learning a language, the process begins with a silent period. Just like babies learn language by listening, hearing and copying words and sounds, ESL learners can use the same methods at the start of their journey to learn English. Listening, observing and mimicking can help ESL learners to understand language patterns more effectively. For ESL learners, it is all about commitment and practice – and avoiding these common grammatical mistakes:

Correct Sentence Structure

Languages often differ in the way the sentences are structured, and this is a challenge for those whose native tongue uses a different sentence structure to the one used in English. A common mistake made by students include the misuse of adjectives.  Adjectives are describing words which describe a noun. In general terms adjectives are generally written in order. This order includes article, judgement, size, shape, age, color, nationality and material. For example “He wants a blue new boat”. This sentence is wrong because the age of the boat should come before the color. “He wants a new blue boat”. This flows better and is correct.


Wordiness refers to using too many words to say something simple. It is a common ESL mistake for learners. For example compare these two sentences:

  • “Tom believed, but couldn’t confirm, that Rachael had strong feelings of affection for him”.
  • “Tom assumed Rachael liked him”.

The second sentence has exactly the same meaning as the first sentence only it is more direct and uses fewer words.

Plural Possessives and Apostrophes

Plural Possessives isn’t just a common ESL mistake, but a mistake that many English natives make as well. The key rule is that when showing a possession of a plural noun you simply add the apostrophe at the end of the word. Example:

  • The boys’ bike.

When the noun is singular the apostrophe is between the “S” and the last letter of the word.

  • The cat’s toy.

Which Vs. That

Selecting whether to use “which” or “that” is a common mistake that ESL students make. Which is used when any information is added that isn’t essential to the meaning of the sentence. That is used when the information being added is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Statements that use “which” need to be offset by commas.


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