Have you made any of these common mistakes in English? Chances are you have, but that’s cool because literally every student I’ve taught has made at least one of these mistakes!

English can be tricky (difficult). We basically decided that there won’t be any hard-and-fast spelling rules (we probably have more exceptions than rules), the difference between do and make and then there’s those phrasal verbs…

Over the years I’ve become intimidate with learners’ mistakes and also just how terrified many learners are of actually making these mistakes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that;

  • Even NATIVES make mistakes (I once said “I haven’t saw” when I was panicking about something at the airport……..)
  • It’s impossible to learn something new and not make a mistake
  • Mistakes help us grow

So let’s clear up some issues you might have with the following words/expressions.

1) Remind & Remember

Remind: make someone remember something

Imagine there is something important you have to remember and you are afraid of forgetting. You might ask someone; “Can you remind me to go to the bank today?” You are asking that person to give you a reminder so that you don’t forget. We don’t say:

“Can you remember me to go to the bank?”

You can use this reflexively too; “I have to remind myself that mistakes are an important part of the learning process”

Now imagine your favourite dish from your childhood (mine is mashed potato and baked beans) every time I eat mashed potato and baked beans I am transported back to my childhood so I can say: “This reminds me of my childhood”

Remind always goes with an object

Remember: retain/have in your memory

“I remember what life was like before smartphones” = I have memories of what life was like before smartphones.

2) Other(s) and Another

Other + plural noun: Do you have other photos? We don’t say: “do you have others photos?”

Others (used alone to refer back to plural noun): “I don’t really like these biscuits, do you have any others?” Others = other biscuits

We would only use “others” like this to refer to a plural noun if we’ve already mentioned the plural noun before. In the sentence above we have already mentioned the biscuits so we know that “others” refers to other biscuits

Another is used with singular countable nouns and means ‘additional’

Related: Everything you Need to Know About English Articles

“Can I have another biscuit?” = (Can I have one more biscuit?)

3) Say and Tell

Let me tell you something, everyone confuses these two verbs!

Both are used in direct and indirect speech;

“I love you” she said.

She told him that she loved him.

Tell has a similar meaning to “inform” or “instruct”: “I told him to call me if he needed any help” (I instructed him to call me) but “tell” is much more common in spoken, informal English. Both inform and instruct are quite formal.

Careful with those objects!

We say something to someone (something is the direct object and someone is the indirect object). Let’s look at an example;

John is speaking to his colleague Tim over the phone, they had a meeting but John is running a little late. John says;

“Sorry Tim I’m going to be a bit late, there’s a lot of traffic,”

So John said to Tim that he was going to be late . This means we can’t say “John said Tim that he was going to be late” because we have to introduce the indirect object (Tim) with the preposition “to”

However, with tell the direct object is the person being told;

“John told Tim that he was going to be late”

Not: John told that he was going to be late to Tim

Remember also that told needs an object and say doesn’t

“I said yes”

“I told yes”

4) See, look [at], Watch

Why do we have so many verbs like this?!? Take a chill pill, let’s look at them together.

See: see is passive, it’s something we don’t have much control over.

Imagine you’re walking down the street and your good friend Steve is also walking down the street towards you. Then you’d say;

“I saw Steve on the street” because it was something passive, he appeared before your eyes, you weren’t searching for him he was just there.

Look [at]: if you’re looking at something you are paying attention to it, you are concentrating. For example;

“He was looking at the painting and thinking about the Impressionists,”

When look has an object it is followed by at but when there’s no object we don’t have a preposition, but what is happening in this sentence?

“Look who’s arrived!” Why is it not “Look at who’s arrived” ??

This is because with wh-clauses (who, what, where and why) we normally drop the at.

Watch: watch and look at are very similar but there is a subtle difference. If you watch something it suggests that something is happening or is going to happen. We watch things that change or develop in some way

“I love watching TV on a Sunday morning”

It can also mean “keep an eye on/look after” something or someone;

“Can you watch the kids tonight? I have to go to work.”

5) Shade and Shadow

Shade is protection from the sun; “It’s really hot let’s sit in the shade” not “let’s sit in the shadow

Shadow: a shadow is the silhouette projected by something that is blocking a source of light;

Peter Pan’s shadow has a life of its own!

And there we have it! I hope now you understand these mistakes better. If you have any questions or want some feedback using these words please comment below and I’ll reply asap 🙂

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