Silly slips in English that tell a tale.

En el artículo de hoy queremos hablar de los típicos errores gramaticales que solemos cometer alguna vez en inglés y que, si no los aprendemos correctamente desde un principio, podemos seguir cometiendo, llegando incluso a fosilizarse.

Kathleen, la fundadora de Smyth Academy, ha querido escribir este artículo para que veamos con sencillos ejemplos, cómo utilizar correctamente ciertas estructuras y cómo evitar esos errores.

¡Aquí os lo dejamos!


Silly slips in English that tell a tale. Pequeños errores que revelan mucho sobre su inglés.

This little collection of gems of mistakes is taken from the early to middle stages of learning English as a Foreign Language. They happen to lots of learners but that is of little consolation to the individual student. However, they are easy to remedy; you just need to be made aware of the rules and to be alerted to the traps.

But if you let them last for longer than necessary, they become ingrained into your use of the language and will spoil whatever level you try to reach, whether it be in grammar, speaking or writing specifically, or the overall image of your dominance of the language in general that you want to achieve. You will never be able to pass yourself off as James Bond or Maggie Smith!

Follow our hints and discover how to avoid them!

1. Verbs in English need a subject before them except in the case of the imperative (Open the door! Don’t open the door! – giving orders or instructions) or special literary or colloquial structures like, “Went off early this morning, he did”.

Feels chilly today” (It feels chilly today)

Look out! The verb to be is especially dangerous for you from the outset.

Wrong: Is a teacher. Right: He/She is a teacher.

Wrong: Is a lovely place to live in. Right: It is a lovely place to live in.

Always check that your subject is in place and note whether it is singular or plural so that your verbs and pronouns agree.

2. The gerund and the past participle (eg. interesting/ interested) when used as adjectives, are easily….and often embarrassingly….confused. The gerund implies that the noun causes the sensation or emotion while the past participle implies that the feeling already existed.

Wrong: I am very interesting in golf. Did you really mean that you are a really interesting person when you play golf?

Right: I am very interested in golf. Right: I read an interesting article on golf in the newspaper today.

Some more examples: a very trying person/ a well-tried remedy; an excited puppy/ an exciting day; a boring person/ a bored child; a worried expression/ a worrying situation; a freezing look/ a frozen river; a very tired mother/ a very tiring mother.

3. Knowing the word order of a language is very important. The standard order of a formal simple sentence in English is the following:

Affirmative: Subject + ( auxiliary verb ) + principal verb. I am working.

Negative: Subject + ( aux. verb ) + NOT + principal verb. I am not working.

Interrogative: (Aux. verb) + subject + principal verb. Am I working?

Negative interrogative: (Aux. verb) + subject + NOT + principal verb. Am I not working?

The brackets indicate that in a few cases there is not an auxiliary verb, eg. with the verb to be.

Wrong: Is a doctor the man. Right: The man is a doctor.

Wrong: The house in the picture it is my house. (Two subjects – “The house” and “it”)

Wrong: The girl driving the car it is my sister. (Two subjects and the pronoun “it” should be “she”)

Un hombre grande / un gran hombre cannot be translated into English as the same thing. The first one means “ a big man” and the second one means “a great man”.

Often, one cannot translate the direct word order or meaning from one language into another. That is why thinking directly in your own language does not always produce the correct result and we say that the person is speaking pidgin English. That marks you as a non-native.

4. Another look at word order:

You explain something to someone.

Wrong: I want to explain you something. This means – I want to explain what you are like a little.

Right: I want to explain something to you.

5. More of the same:

You show something to someone or you show someone something.

Wrong: I want to show to you my new coat. Right: I want to show you my new coat. I want to show it to you.

Right: I want to show my new house to my family today. / I want to show my family my new house today.

The same applies to the following verbs: give, lend, pass and send.

Say/tell (Decir/contar o dar una instrucción)

You TELL something to someone or you tell someone something.

Wrong: I want to tell to you the truth.

Right: I want to tell the truth to you. / I want to tell you the truth.

Right: Sally said that it was going to rain.

Right: Sally told me to close the door.

You SAY something to someone.

Right: Say that poem out loud to the class, please.

Wrong: Say me what you know about Africa. Right: Tell me what you know about Africa.

Wrong: Tell to John that I want to see him today. Right: Tell John that I want to see him today.

6. Modal verbs:

Modal verbs function like auxiliary verbs and take the bare infinitive ( the infinitive without to ) after them. They indicate ability or permission – can, could, to be able to (a little less common).

obligation – must, have to

certainty and uncertainty – might, may, must be, can’t be.

Opinions and advice – should, ought to.

Wrong: You must to do it now.

Right: You must do it now.

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