5 Common Mistakes in English — And How to Learn From Them

When you’re learning a language, making mistakes is part of the process. As you practice you will get better at recognizing when things sound right. So take every opportunity to say the sentences out loud; think like an actor and recite them like you were practicing for a play. Have fun!

1. Mixing Up Watch, Look, and See

These are related verbs with slightly different meanings and usage that can easily confuse the non-native speaker. Here are some ways to understand their different uses:

  • Look – implies intentionality, and often requires a preposition–look at, for, in, etc.
  • See – the act of sight, intentional or not, often used idiomatically, as in “See you later.”
  • Watch — to look at something carefully, usually at something that’s moving.
  • Note that you can see something by mistake, but when you look at something, it is with purpose.


Did you see me in the latest Spiderman movie?

You bet! We watched it three times yesterday.

Be sure to look for me in Superman XXII!

2. Knowing When to Loan or Borrow

If you are the owner of the item in question, you will loan it — you are in the position of putting it into someone else’s possession for a while.

And if you really like your friend’s something, you will ask to borrow it from them.


I noticed that you have an amazing alien costume in your closet. May I borrow it for the film shoot?

Sure. I can also loan you the spaceship that I keep in my backyard.

3. The Case “Of” in Subject-verb Agreement

Sometimes a prepositional phrase indicated by “of” misleads you in your verb choice. Remember to look to the noun that precedes “of” for your number agreement.


Only one of her movies has won at Cannes. (one is the subject)

The list of awards given at Sundance is staggering. (list is the subject)

4. To Apostrophe or Not to Apostrophe

Sometimes it’s confusing to know when and how to use the apostrophe (‘), because some words, like it’s/its and your/you’re sound alike. However, if you remember what the uncontracted words are and substitute them, you will never be mistaken.

It’s = it is

You’re = you are

Your and its indicate possession: Your dog loves to chase its tail!


You’re (you are) going to have the time of your life!

It’s (it is) the best musical of the year because its songs are so memorable.

5. Back to the Future With Will

Lots of verbs use auxiliary, or helper verbs to convey tense. These include: has, had, is, am, are, was, and were. But will is unique in conveying the future tense, so be sure not to confuse it with other such helpers. You will not go to the store yesterday, unless  you have a time machine!


I will be very nervous in front of all those people.

You will knock their socks off!

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Published on: September 12, 2017

Filled Under: Language Tips

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