Top three mistakes made by native English speakers
In this post I’ll look at some common mistakes made by native English speakers.
Instead of making a long list, I’ve chosen three errors that are prevalent among my compatriots. (I’m British, so this is aimed at the Brits.) Before anyone starts ranting “Grammar police!”, let me just tell you that I’m an English teacher and am doing this to make my own students feel better about themselves. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to read this.
So, here goes. My top three mistakes made by native speakers are:
Number of, amount of
Native speakers don’t generally have problems differentiating between countable and uncountable nouns. They can quite easily use how much, how many, a few and a little, for instance. However, when it comes to the amount of, all grammar seems to go out of the window.
The common mistake is:
The amount of people he knows is unbelievable.
People, of course, can be counted. We should therefore say:
The number of people he knows is unbelievable.
The same would apply to the amount of cars or the amount of times. Make it the number of cars and the number of times.
When I was about twelve I had an English teacher at Ainthorpe Junior High called Mr Thomas. He was a lovely guy and a fantastic teacher. I always remember him pointing out the sitting-sat grammar howler to us. He told us that it was one of his pet hates. Taffy, as we called him, put us right on quite a few other things as well, as I’m sure my classmates Chris Bailey and co. would testify.
I was sat in the chair.
Now, unless someone picked you up and physically dropped you into your seat, you were not sat there, you were sitting. Only little kids are sat in chairs (by their parents). The correct thing to say is therefore:
I was sitting in the chair.
This is a simple case of using the wrong verb. The problem seems to be in both the present and past tense.
When someone says “I was laying on the sofa” we could be forgiven for thinking that he was trying to produce his own eggs, because that’s what he has just implied. What the speaker should have said was, “I was lying on the sofa.”
Admittedly the verbs lie and lay are difficult to use, probably because of the similarity of their past simple and past participle forms:
|Infinitive||Past simple||Past participle|
Aside from English people laying eggs on their sofas, the strangest thing is that very few, if any, of my intermediate students would ever make these mistakes. But many native speakers do. (That should make my students feel good.)
I’ll look at some other common errors in future posts. Please leave a comment below if you have any ‘favourites’ you’d like to share.