Learning any language is difficult, and making mistakes is something a lot of language learners are afraid of. This isn't an article about the importance of making mistakes (there are countless out there already), but instead I want to show learners that making mistakes is not a big deal.
I'm sure when you are talking in your native language, you will find you are correcting yourself all the time. You might not be aware of it, but next time you have a conversation, think about how many times you stop and restart what you are saying, because it came out wrong. It happens constantly, so much you don't even think about it.
Having said that, there are some common mistakes I hear or see that often are not self-corrected. These mistakes are often allowed to slip through the cracks, as they do not affect the meaning of the sentences, but are not correct English grammar.
So, if you want to speak better than a native, read on to identify and avoid these common English mistakes:
Confusing Homophones Homophones are two words that have the same pronunciation, but are spelt differently, and English has a lot of these. Words like there/their/they're, or to/two/too all sound identical, but have completely different spellings and meanings too. When writing, English speakers often confuse these similar sounding words (I myself recently cringed when I mixed up allowed and aloud), so make sure to learn the different meanings and spellings to avoid making the same mistakes!
Use of Apostrophes The way English uses apostrophes is, I think, quite unique. There are two main usages, and despite much practice at school, a lot of people still confuse them when writing. Write better than a native by following these two rules:
a. Showing a Possessive We use an apostrophe to indicate that something belong's to someone. This will usually be a Proper Name, but can be used with regular nouns. 'eg. My Sister's Keeper (The Keeper of my Sister), the bee's knees (the knees of the bee).
b. When a Letter is Omitted There are certain phrases in English which can be shorted and turned into one word, with the use of apostrophes. In these cases, any missing letters are replaced by the apostrophe. This is used most commonly with negative phrases. eg. do not becomes don't; cannot becomes can't; it is not becomes it isn't. NB Apostrophes are never used for plurals. I despair when I see shops offering to sell 'drink's' or are open 'weekend's'. Please don't do this!
Misuse of Verb Conjugations In the defence of many English speakers, we often aren't taught about this in schools, Conjugation may as well be a foreign word to many! This is because we don't have the same system of changing the verb depending on the speaker, we use our pronouns for that. However, there are a few occasions where we do, and this is where some trip up. The most common example is the use of the verb to be, which is our most irregular verb. In the part tense, the two forms are I/he/she/it was and you/they were. You will sometimes hear people mix these up (e.g.. you was, I weren't), and it is part of the Cockney London and some northern dialects. While it is accept in spoken English, you would never speak this way in a professional environment, and you should never write this way.
Confusion between Countable and Uncountable Nouns Again, this is not something English speakers are generally taught explicitly, so it is often somewhere we make mistakes without realising it. Countable nouns, are a collection of nouns where the number can be counted, often referred to specific items (the people, the clothes). Uncountable nouns are often more abstract ideas, and cannot be counted individually (the rain, food). Only countable nouns can have a or an in front of them. Mistakes here often come with adverbs used with these nouns. *More should only be used with uncountable nouns. Fewer should be used instead with countable nouns, but this is not widely known and therefore not widely used by English speakers. The same is true with many and much.
**Use of of in place of have The conditional phrases could have or would have are used in scenarios that are hypothetical, or dependant on other conditions (e.g.. I would have gone to Spain, but I had no money). These phrases are often shortened to would've and could've, which often means it sounds like an 'f' when spoken. For this reason, this often get changed into the word of, and the phrase becomes could of or would of. Again, this may be okay in informal spoken English (when often it is said too quickly to register the mistake), but it is grammatically wrong and should never be used in written or formal English.
So how hopefully you've learnt what not to say (even if you hear these mistakes often), and you might even find you need to correct other English speakers you hear make these mistakes!