4 common mistakes English learners make

In my last post, I pointed out that the kind of mistakes that you read about on the Internet are mistakes that English speakers make, not ones that English learners should watch out for. So the obvious question is: what should English learners look out for?

Before I present my list, I should warn you that these come from my experiences working with mostly Japanese speakers, so the mistakes you see here may or may not be a problem for people whose native language is closer to English. 

  1. many

    English learners often use "many" in sentences where it's not natural like this:
    "These days I have many days off"

    It is much more natural to use "a lot of" in positive sentences:
    "I've had a lot of days off lately."

    "Many" is fine to use in negative sentences:
    "I haven't had many days off lately."

    And you can use "many" in formal speech or writing:
    "Many athletes dream of one day representing their country at the Olympics."

  2. wear / put on

    People often use the word "wear" when "put on" would be more appropriate:
    "I felt cold so I wore my jacket."

    What you must understand is the difference between continuous actions and single-point actions. "Wear" is a continuous action, while "put on" is a single-point action. You "put on" a piece of clothing, and then you "wear" it for some length of time:

    "I felt cold so I put on my jacket. I wore it for a few minutes, but then I started to feel hot again, so I took it off."

    Lots of actions that are continuos work the same way. If you don't know a specific word to describe the starting point of a continuous action, just use "start ___ing"

  3. delicious

    The word "delicious" is certainly used to describe food that tastes good, but it's not the most common word to use in that situation. It's much more common to describe food as "good":
    "Their burgers are really good."

    "Delicious" is used to describe something that is more than just good. Because it's an "ungradable" adjective, it doesn't fit very well with adverbs like "very":
    "This soup is very delicious."
    "This soup is delicious."

    Other ungradable adjectives include "perfect", "huge", "great", "amazing", "gorgeous", etc.

  4. explain about

    It is often difficult for English learners to know which word to use with verbs that involve saying things. I often hear things like:
    "I explained to them about my situation."

    The correct form of this is:
    "I explained my situation to them."

    The reason this is so hard to get is that different verbs use different combinations of objects and prepositions to express similar ideas. So the format that doesn't work for "explain" is correct for "talk":
    "I talked to them about my situation."

    The solution to this is simply to learn each verb along with the words that come paired with it: "interested in ___ing", "excited about ___ing", "argue with ___ about ___", and so on.

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