What are some of the most common grammar mistakes English Language Learners make?

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Answered by: Deborah, An Expert in the English Grammar Category
Most grammar mistakes English Language Learners (ELLs) will vary based on each person's country of origin. However, there are some common grammar mistakes that are universal. Some universal mistakes are word order in a sentence, the use of articles, and the use of prepositions.

Word order is confusing for many people whose first language is not English. Many languages simply do not have equivalent word order to that found in English. As a result, some very strange sentences occur as people are beginning to learn the language. For instance, in Spanish, the adjective often comes after the noun, but in English that is not the norm. So, a Spanish speaker might say, I like the flowers purple instead of I like the purple flowers.

Prepositions also have a tendency to trip English Language Learners up. Of and in are two of the most problematic prepositions. In causes difficulties when referring to places. One example is that many English as a Second Language (ESL) students will say I am going to stay in home this weekend instead of at home. The preposition of is also difficult for these students. ESL students often use of instead of for or in. For instance, a student might say I have my degree of business in place of I have my degree in business.

Another big problem for students is the use of articles. Several languages, especially Asian languages, do not have articles. As a result, it is very difficult for students to understand the difference between using a,an, and the. They may even leave the articles out completely. For example, they might say, I will go home in few weeks. In that instance, the a is missing from "a few weeks." The is a funny word for many people learning English. Often it is left out, but sometimes it is added where it does not belong. You might hear a non-native speaker say I go to the church instead of I go to church. Alternatively, you might hear someone say I am surfing Internet instead of I am surfing the Internet.

The good news is that there are many resources available to aid a person in the journey toward becoming proficient in the English language. There are several websites that provide tips and tricks. There is even software to aid students in their writing. One great resource on the Web is the Purdue Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/678/01/. For a comprehensive list of websites covering ESL topics a good source is ESL Resources for Students at the City College of San Francisco. The URL is http://www.ccsf.edu/Departments/ESL/credit/. A piece of software built to aid the intermediate to advanced ESL student is Easy Writer. It uses authentic essays written by other ESL students to teach grammar rules. Students using this software can learn by correcting others.

English is a difficult language to learn. There are many irregularities and odd grammar rules. Some common grammar mistakes people make when learning the language are how to use prepositions, how to decide when to use which articles, and how to determine proper word order.

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