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Common mistakes in English

One of the most common mistakes I see among English learners is to say "interesting" instead of interested. For example, I am interesting in learning xxx. It should be "I am interested in learning xxx".

The same goes for boring and bored. If you say "I am boring", it doesn't mean that you don't have anything to do, but that you are not an interesting person!

Another common mistake is not to use capital letters when necessary. It may not seem important to you but it will make your written English look so much better if you use capital letters correctly. Always use capitals for: the first letter of the first word of the sentence, the word "I", languages, countries, cities, names, days of the week, months of the year, names of books and songs.

Maybe other people could add to this.




Another common confusion is the difference between "live" and "living".


I live in China.  =  China is the permanent place where your home is.

I"m living in China. = You are in China for a temporary stay.





I'm curious to know why interesting/interested, boring/bored are such common mistakes. Of course learners make mistakes, but why that mistake in particular, and why is it so widespread among learners with completely different native languages? Every language has its particular challenge for learners, but I just don't see what is hard about that.


About using capitals, if people are just writing in a chat room or something informal, it's not such a big deal but if they need English for work they don't realise that if they don't use capitals correctly, whatever they write will not be taken seriously.



I see a lot of people typing 'u' instead of  'you'. The only times this is acceptable is when texting or when you're in a private IM chatroom (ie. when space is limited and you need to type quickly). If you're sending an email or typing a letter, it's not acceptable.


Another mistake I see often is incorrect word order in adverbial clauses. People often phrase adverbial clauses as questions, and it really sticks out. The following sentences are wrong:

"I don't know when is it."

"Can you tell me what is it?"

"Please explain when does (something) mean (something else)."








I had to laugh at this thread! My students do the same thing in French:


"Je suis ennuyant" (I am boring) instead of "Je suis ennuyé'' (I am bored)

Mark, I have come across this complaint that learners decide what is and isn't important in the language they are learning. Like why do you need the or a in English? I find this idea really strange. When I was learning French, it never occurred to me to say that accents, masculine and feminine forms, past participle agreement and the like are simply unnecessary. Or that the French should just get rid of the subjunctive. I just accepted that if you are learning someone else's language you play by their rules.

thnx Rosia , yes i do this mistake and thnx for the correction .


The issue of capital letters and text style writing are not only for the English learner's, but also for the native speakers.  I see 'i' instead of 'I', 'u' instead of 'you', 'd' instead of 'the', etc. so often in high school students' assignments.  


My main problems are articles and prepositions.  I have no idea when to use 'a', 'the', 'in', 'on', 'within', 'at' etc.

Kara, there's a little trick you can do to figure out which article to use. Your English is already good, so you probably don't need it; but I'll write it anyway so other people can see it.


The use of 'the' is similar to 'it'. To figure out what article to use, look at what happens if you replace a noun with 'it':


"There was a dog. The dog was hungry."

-If 'the dog' is replaced by 'it', 'it' is still clearly referring to the dog. Therefore 'the dog' uses the definite article.

-If you replace 'a dog' with 'it', readers won't be able to guess that you're talking about a dog and will just be confused. Therefore, the indefinite article is used.

-Here, you can say 'the dog' or 'it' interchangeably; because 'it' is obviously the dog. The reason why definite articles are used will be made clear in the following example.


"There was a dog, cat and snake. The dog was hungry."

-If 'the dog' is replaced with 'it', 'it' could refer to the dog, cat or snake. Readers could guess that 'it' is the dog; but 'it' could also be the cat or snake. It's unclear what 'it' refers to, so therefore the sentence is poorly written. Since 'it' could refer to the dog, the definite article is used.


"There was a dog, cat and snake. A dog was hungry"

-Readers would interpret this to mean that there are two dogs: one was with the cat and snake, and the other was hungry. Technically speaking, the second dog could be the first one; but it could also be any other dog in existance and people would interpret it as such. It's best just to write 'another' to be clear.


Sometimes English learners say things like "I talked to the people today" (instead of "I talked to some people today"). When I see 'the people', I instantly thing "what people?" and try to remember what people the person wanted to see. It's like writing "I talked to them today": if I don't know who 'them' refers to, I'll be very confused.


If there's only one of something, 'the' is used because it's obvious what is being talked about. For example, "The ___ of....", "The ___ that....", "The last ____", "the definite article" etc.


Thank you, Jmat.  I have learnt the very basic rules of articles at school and I can usually do it in text books.  However, the real world is so much different from the textbook world(-.-;)  Once my friend told me not to put any articles as she woul put them for me accordingly, when I asked her to proof read my assignment.  Apparently, I put "the" where it was not needed, but did not put it where it was needed, and it annoyed her a lot.

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