Common English Errors

© Hudson Cress, 2004

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Table of Contents:

  1. Vocabulary Concepts
  2. Verb Problems/Problem Verbs
  3. Problem Prepositions
  4. Verb + Preposition = TROUBLE!
  5. Adjectives
  6. Conditionals
  7. Pronunciation Problems

Vocabulary Concepts

‘CHEAP’ is used two ways.


  1. To show something is not expensive
  2. More Commonly: to show something is of BAD QUALITY; for example:
  • things from a 100 yen store
  • These dishes are cheap.
  • This is a cheap tie.
  • Keiten Sushi is Cheap.
  • Fake Louis Vuitton handbags are cheap

cheap usually has a negative meaning (-)

...More accurate, positive, precise words should be used, if the meaning is positive (+):

Inexpensive = not much money.

  • Travelling in Greece is inexpensive compared to France.
  • These lessons are very inexpensive
  • Keiten Sushi is very inexpensive

Economical = does not cost much money to use it.  A good value for the money.

  • My Honda is very economical.
  • My Halogen Heater is very economical.

Efficient = uses little energy.

  • Halogen heaters are very efficient
  • He is a very efficient worker: He never wastes time..
  • Flourescent lighting is more efficient than incandescent lighting
  • Smaller cars are more efficient than bigger cars.
  • Nuclear Energy is more efficient than Fossil-Fuel Energy.



1. Three forms of matter: Solid, Liquid, Gas

  • Water turns to gas at 100 Celcius degrees. 
  • All matter turns to gas, or 'vaporizes', at a high enough temperature.

2. Casual for any burnable liquid.

  • My car is out of gas
  • this lighter's out of gas
  • I didn't pay the bill, and they shut off the gas

3. Types of gas:

  • Kerosene (for a room heater; very safe)
  • Gasoline (for a car)
  • Petrol (same as gasoline)
  • Butane (for a lighter)
  • Natural Gas (for a stove or water heater)

Big difference!!!

There's nothing I'd rather be doing

I'd rather be doing nothing.



Negative (-) Adjectives

English is very difficult
English is so difficult
English is too difficult ?
Its difficult but still we try
Its extremely difficult, but still we try
We don’t try, its impossible.
Louis Vuitton is very expensive
Louis Vuitton is so expensive
Louis Vuitton is too expensive
...but we buy the handbag anyway.
...maybe we can’t afford the handbag
...we definitely don’t buy the bag.

Positive (+) Adjectives

I’m very happy
I’m so happy
I’m too happy ?
more than the best (tears of happiness)

Neutral (+/-) Adjectives

Its very blue
Its so blue
Its too blue
A truly blue object
It can’t possibly be more blue
Please make it less blue

There are very many people
There are SO MANY people
There are too many people

A lot of people, its crowded
Its extremely crowded!  People everywhere!
You do not want to go there, or you don't like it.



Problem Verbs
Verb Problems

To Be:

  • contractions (I’m, You’re He’s)
  • ‘He has’ verses  ‘He is’

To Have:

  • Had had
  • Have had

To Do:

  • Used more frequently than most English speakers are aware!
  • Used in most questions

To Get:

To Go:

  • I have gone sometimes is the same as I have been
  • I have gone sometimes is the opposite of I have been


  • no “to can” form of the infinitive.  I am Going to can
  • simple past is not common.
  • Most common form is the conditional


  • be
  • begin
  • bite
  • break
  • bring
  • build
  • buy
  • catch
  • choose
  • come
  • cost
  • cut
  • do
  • draw
  • drink
  • drive
  • eat
  • fall
  • feed
  • feel
  • fight
  • find
  • fit
  • fly
  • forget
  • forgive
  • freeze
  • get
  • give
  • go
  • grow
  • hang
  • have
  • hear
  • hide
  • hit
  • hold
  • hurt
  • keep
  • know
  • lead
  • leave
  • lend
  • let
  • light
  • lose
  • make
  • mean
  • meet
  • put
  • quit
  • read
  • ride
  • ring
  • run
  • say
  • see
  • sell
  • send
  • set
  • sew
  • shake
  • shrink
  • sing
  • sit
  • sleep
  • speak
  • spend
  • stand
  • steal
  • sting
  • sweep
  • swim
  • take
  • teach
  • tell
  • think
  • throw
  • understand
  • wake
  • wear
  • win
  • wind
  • write


Confusion in Verb Usage
between Japanese and English

  • I wonder
  • I guess
  • I think

    • See
    • watch
    • look
    • Supposed to = expected
    • Should  (do) =  Suru+beki = ought to...
    • Since v. Until
    • Can, Could, Will be able to

    Problem Prepositions!

    'In' vs. 'At':

    This is a huge problem in English.  I've been working on it for two lessons today, and the best I can say is that we simply learn which to use in which situation from common use.  The problem is the same as 'o'を and 'ga' が in Japanse...

    The basic rule is, if  someone goes somewhere, far from where we are, we say "at"  i.e. He is at the story,  I was at a movie...  But if I mean to say something or someone  is "inside" something else, then I use in.

    These are from a grammar book:

    • in a picture   (on a map!!!???)
    • in the rain
    • in a soft/loud voice
    • in time  (in a month, in a year, in two weeks; often this means "after," but we say in)
    • in my opinion
    • in the end
    • at the cinema
    • at the theater
    • at a party
    • at university
    • at the cinema
    • at twelve o’clock

    The following is a question from an application for a course I am applying to that addresses the same question:

    How Would you explain to a learner of English the difference in meaning between the following pairs of sentences?


                “She’s in the cottage.”


                “She’s at the cottage.”  (she’s out of town)


    In and At are difficult.  Native speakers often confuse them, too!  If I say she is “in” the cottage,  I mean inside, or within.  I mean that If I open the door, I will see her inside the building.   If I say “at,” then I mean that she is “not here.”   “A” answers the question “Where is she?” if we are standing in front of the cottage.  “B” answers the SAME question if we are in a different city, or are far away from the cottage.    I would say “A” if I was talking to her friend, and wanted to know “is she by the lake?” or “is she at the store?”  And her friend would say, “no, she is in the cottage.”  I would say “B” if you asked me now, “where is your friend?”   I would answer. “She is in Switzerland.  She is at the cottage.”  But a better example is, “where is your dad/wife/husband/mom?”  you say, “She is at work/at home/at the bar.”   vs.  “Where is the other teacher?”  you say: “She is in the other classroom.”


    Verb + Preposition = TROUBLE!

    Common Verbs:

    Common Prepositions:






    She is always getting in trouble  


    what are you getting at?  


    where did he get to?  


    How are they getting on?  


    I know enough English to get by.





    What time did you get up?  


    I'd like to get with her!  


    I don't want to get into it with you!  


    Where do you get [your curly hair] from?  


    Get down! Now!  (=lay down)  


    When did you get back from Hokkaido  


    I'll never get over her.  I loved her!  






    Its difficult, but I found a way to get around the problem.  


    Do you get along with her?  


    I can't seem to get across to you how important this is.  


    She really gets under my skin  


    Get behind me, I'll do the talking.  




    Its a difficult book to get through.  


    Don't get between a mother bear and her child  

    Pronunciation Problems

    Difficult sounds:

    R – L – D

    B – V

    Th – Th

    Fa – Fi – Fu – Fe – Fo

    M - N

    Wa – Wi – Wu – We – Wo

    S – Sh






    Difficult Sentences:

    • I caught a cold, so I got to go [I cah-dah-cold so I gah-da go]
    • This is his house, which is hers?
    • 1330, 1440, 1550, 1660, 1770, 1880, 1990
    Tongue Twisters:
    Red lorry, Yellow lorry, Red lorry
    Yellow Lorry, Red lorry yellow lorry
      'Lorry' is the British name for a truck; lolly is the British name for candy.  Be careful!
    Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers [Peder-Piper-Pickda-Pecka-Pickld-Peppers]
    SHe Sells Sea SHells by the Sea SHore this one's a classic.  SHI and SI.  Be careful!
    How much wood would a would chuck chuck
    if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
    'chuck' means 'throw'.
    woodchucks are like chipmunks or mice.
    How much myrtle would a wood turtle hudtle
    If a wood turtle could hurdle myrtle?

    myrtle [mur-dul] is a kind of small bush
    hurdle [hur-dul] means to jump over something.



    Natural Pronunciation:

    English uses spaces in writing, Japanese uses spaces is speech.  Normally, english blends smoothly from word to word without breaks in pronunciation. 






    I – ul


      I have I've Iyv
    You’ll U – ul     You have You've U-vv
    He’ll ひ – ul hell   He is She's sheez
    She’ll し - ul shell   she is she's sheez
    It’ll i - tul     It is It's ihts
    They’ll thay-ul          
    We’ll wE – ul well        







    Your yer
    t + you cha
    t + your cher


    want to wanna (whaddaya wanna do tonight?)
    going to gonna (Its gonna be trouble!)
    have to hafta  (what do I hafta do
    has to hasta  (She hasta work late tonight)
    Got to gotta   (Ya-gotta-check this out!)



    should have shoulda
    could have coulda
    would have woulda
    might have mighta
    will have willuv


    will you? Willya?
    won't you? woncha?
    Could you? Couldja?
    Should you? shouldja? shouldn-tya?
    would you? wouldja?
    might you? mie-cha?




    The only real problem with adjectives is their proper order.  Very descriptive English uses up to three adjectives per sentence more than three and it starts to sound awkward, but its a fun game to play!!!

    Order of Adjectives

    number size judgement shape age color pattern country / brand kind/type [NOUN]
    a small ugly misshapen antique brown smattered japanese tea bowl
    three long scary slender young brown diamond-backed japanese adder snakes
    some small delicious round fresh yellow ridged Ruffles Sour Cream™ potato chips
    many big expensive clunky new brown monogrammed Louis Vuitton hand- bags
    a short beautiful plump 19 year old blushing freckled irish college freshman



    Type I: the optomist

    • If I win the lottery, I will quit my job.
    • If I am a bird, I will fly to work.  (???)

    This is a typically

    Type II: half optomist/ half pessimist, always confusing.

    • If I won the lottery, I would quit my job
    • If I was I bird, I would fly to work
      *technically; If I were... is more correct, but its losing favor in spoken English.

    Typical mistakes in English involve a present or near future happening that is natural to express in the present tense, followed by a possibility.  For example:

    • If I get drunk tonight and crash my car, I could lose my license. 
    • If I break up with my girlfriend I would be lonely.
    • If I become Lawyor or Doctor, I might find a girlfriend.   


    Type III: the pessimist

    • If I had won the lottery, I would not be working here today.
    • If I had been a bird this morning, I would have flown to work today.


    Speculative Language

      degree of certainty  
    It must be 100%  
    It could be 75% This is the optomist for positive statements, the pessimest for negative statements
    It may be 50%  
    It might be 25%  
    It can't be 99% This is often used as an exclamation
    It couldn't be 100%