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9 Most Common Mistakes ESL Students Make


Most ESL students find themselves struggling to have a good grasp of English. Trying to cram all the rules, learn as many words as they can and it’s still not enough.

If you’re eager to polish your English to perfection, this information is right up your street. We have talked to experienced ESL teachers and singled out 9 common mistakes students make all the time.

Check it out and see if you make these mistakes!

1- The “SASHCOMUN” rule

No, we’re not trying to teach you another strange word in English. These letters stand for the word order of adjectives. Quite often students use the wrong word order of adjectives, so here’s how it should always be.

Take a look at this sentence: ‘It’s a big old round black Italian wooden dining table.’

Size - big
Age - old
SHape - round
Colour - black
Origin - Italian
Material - wooden
Usage - dining
Noun - table

Certainly, you will hardly ever use all the categories in one sentence. But if you’re having troubles to put adjectives into correct word order, this rule will be of great help.


2- It’s or Its?

Let’s sort it out once and for all. Its means possession, like ‘The cat is licking its paws’. It’s can stand for ‘It is’ or ‘It has’. It’s as easy as ABC.


3- Missing ‘Am, Is, Are’

Another common mistake is omitting the verb ‘be’. Using ‘He student’ instead of ‘He’s/He is a student’ or saying ‘We enjoying the party’ instead of ‘We’re enjoying the party’. This mistake often puzzles students, as they often say they hear natives omitting the verb ‘be’ as well. Well, firstly, native speakers also can make mistakes. Secondly, if this is a short answer to a question, like ‘What are you doing? - Oh, just relaxing’, then it’s ok. However, in case you construct a sentence ‘I relaxing’, it will be a mistake.


4- Using Too Many Words

Overusing words isn’t really a mistake, but too many words may sound strange to a native speaker. Just compare two sentences: ‘I like when I have time to be on my own’ and ‘I like having me time’. The second variant just sounds more natural to the native speakers.


5- My or Mine?

You can often hear students saying ‘This is mine phone’ or ‘mine partner works…’. Here are two schemes that will help you understand the difference between these two tricky pronouns:

  •     my + noun
  •     mine ⨯

For example, ‘This is my phone’, but ‘This phone is mine or ‘It’s mine. To put it simply, you need ‘my’ before a noun. But if there’s no noun, you can just use ‘mine’.


6- Kids’ or Kids’s?

Moving further to the next quite typical mistake. It’s about forming plural possessive the wrong way. You know that to make a possessive case you just add ’s to a noun. But what if it’s a plural noun? The rule is the following: no matter whether it’s plural or not, if a word ends with ‘s’ we add apostrophe only, like kids, brothers, James. In case a word ends with any other letter but for ‘s’, we add ‘s (even if its plural). Compare the following examples: people’s, men’s, children’s.


7- Omitting Articles

Everybody hates articles. Especially if there’s no such thing in student’s mother-tongue. ESL learners often leave out a/an/the or misuse them. It’s impossible to explain all the rules in one sentence, but we can give a piece of advice: ‘learn and use the articles, because they truly want to be in your speech


8- Subject Verb Agreement

You’re probably aware of the fact that English is the language of exceptions. Subject and verb agreement isn’t an exception, although you may find some funny unexpected combinations such as: ‘The news is’, and ‘the police are’. Just keep such things in mind.


9- There, Their, They’re

The last most common mistake is the spelling of these three words and their meanings. Let’s provide you with examples to understand it better:


  • Put it there (meaning: put it at that place)
  • Their dog is dangerous. (meaning: someone has a dog, so we say ‘their dog’)
  • They’re so chatty. (meaning: we talk about some people and describe them, by saying ‘they are’)


Do you make any of these mistakes? We hope not, especially after you’ve read our article about 9 common errors. You’re doing a great job learning another language, so don’t give up and remember a great saying ‘A different language is a different vision of life’. Good luck!

Written by Rhonda Martinez

Rhonda Martinez is an English teacher, professional writer and lead editor at LegitWritingServices. Her passion for writing started developing in early college days. Since college, Rhonda wrote a number of articles on subjects of psychology and linguistics that were published in national media.


This post was sponsored by Legitwritingservices

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