Let’s be honest: No matter how good your English is, you’re probably still making mistakes.

It’s not the end of the world. No one expects English learners to speak perfectly, and even native speakers make mistakes when they speak.

But just because a few mistakes aren’t a big deal, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to improve your accuracy.

Here are 25 English mistakes that even advanced learners make. How many of them are you guilty of?

1 Neglecting to use the subjunctive

The mistake: “My friend recommended me to buy this car.”

The correct way: “My friend recommended that I buy this car.”

Explanation: We use the subjunctive after certain verbs and expressions that emphasize importance or urgency (e.g. demand, insist, recommend, suggest, It is important…, It is recommended…).

After these verbs and expressions, we use an optional that followed by the base form of the second verb.

Examples of correct usage:

“I recommend (that) my students read novels in English.”

“The customer demanded (that) her money be refunded.”

“It is important (that) you be on time for the meeting.”

Notice that the second verb is in the base form even if the first verb is in the past tense.

Practice: Try this mini tutorial from englishpage.com and the practice exercise that goes with it.

A nutritionist might recommend that you eat smaller portions. (Photo by stevepb from Pixabay)

2 Using verbs like explain incorrectly

The mistake: “Can you explain me the grammar?”

The correct way: “Can you explain the grammar to me?”

Explanation: Many verbs can be followed by an indirect object pronoun and then a direct object. So we can say, “My friend gave me a ride to class,” “I bought my son a video game,” or “The manager of the restaurant gave us a free appetizer.”

But not all verbs follow this pattern. We cannot follow the verbs explain, describe, and recommend with an indirect object and then a direct object. Instead we follow this word order:

explain/describe/recommend SOMETHING to SOMEONE

Examples of correct usage:

“Please explain the problem to me.”

“I recommend that restaurant to all of my friends.”

“Marvin had trouble describing his symptoms to his physician.”

Note that with explain, we can also explain to SOMEONE SOMETHING. (“I explained the situation to my supervisor,” for example.)

For a further explanation, see English Teacher Melanie’s excellent article on this topic.

Do you need someone to explain these equations to you? (Photo by athree23 from Pixabay)

3 Using should have + past participle instead of must have + past participle to draw a conclusion about the past

The mistake: “The ground is all wet. It should have rained last night.”

The correct way: “The ground is all wet. It must have rained last night.”

Explanation: We use should have + past participle to criticize a past action or express regret.

We use must have + past participle to draw a conclusion about the past.

Examples of correct usage (expressing regret):

“I definitely shouldn’t have eaten that third doughnut. My stomach feels terrible.”

“You should have called me if you knew you were going to be a half an hour late.”

“Marcus definitely should have studied more for the test.”

Examples of correct usage (drawing conclusions):

“Karen must not have gotten a good night’s sleep. She looks exhausted.”

“I can’t believe you took a cruise to Antarctica. That must have been incredible!”

“The field is muddy. It must have rained a lot last night.”

Practice: Try this past modals exercise from esl-lounge.com.

She must have been really tired. (Photo by Min An from Pexels)

4 Using prefer instead of would rather or would prefer to talk about a specific choice

The mistake: “Today I prefer to stay at home because it is raining.”

The correct way: “Today I’d rather stay at home because it is raining.”/”Today I’d prefer to stay at home because it is raining.”

Explanation: We use prefer or would rather to talk about general preferences. We use would rather (less formal) or would prefer (more formal) to talk about specific choices. We often contract would (e.g. I’d rather instead of I would rather).

Examples of correct usage (general preferences):

“This steak is okay, but I prefer my steak medium rare.”

“I prefer Pepsi to Coke.”

“Do you prefer to read in English or Spanish?”

“In general, I’d rather be outside than inside.”

“I hate crowded places. I’d much rather stay home and read.”

Examples of correct usage (specific choice):

“I love coffee, but I’d rather have tea today because my stomach doesn’t feel good.”

“We can meet the deadline, but we’d prefer to have a little more time.”

“I got you a gift receipt in case you’d rather get the shirt in a different color.”

When the weather is like this, you’d probably rather drive than ride your bike. (Photo by Genaro Servin from Pexels)

5 Adding the preposition on before expressions like next Sunday, last Thursday, etc.

The mistake: “I’ll see you in class on next Saturday.”

The correct way: “I’ll see you in class next Saturday.”

Explanation: If we use next or last plus a day of the week, we do not use the preposition on.

Examples of correct usage:

“The dance recital is next Saturday night.”

“The last time Mike went to class was last Monday.”

“Next Friday is my birthday.”

There’s a big event next Saturday. (Photo by Basti93 from Pixabay)

6 Adding an ‘s’ after thousand, million, etc. in expressions like thirteen thousand dollars, eight million people, etc.

The mistake: “There are 21 millions residents in the state of Florida.”

The correct way: “There are 21 million residents in the state of Florida.”

Explanation: If we mention an exact number, we don’t add an ‘s’ after hundred, thousand, million, or billion.

However, we use an ‘s’ in these expressions is if we give a non-specific number (hundreds of dollars, thousands of people, millions of voters, etc.).

Examples of correct usage (exact number):

“Four thousand people have signed the petition so far.”

“The average price of a house in this neighborhood is three million dollars.”

“The US debt is over 21 trillion dollars.”

Examples of correct usage (non-specific number):

“Thousands of people have signed the petition so far.”

“Houses in this neighborhood cost millions of dollars.”

“The US debt is trillions of dollars.”

Australia has about 25 million residents. (Image by WikiImages from Pixabay)

7 Adding an ‘s’ to the expression Thank God!

The mistake: “Thanks God I don’t have to work tomorrow.”

The correct way: “Thank God I don’t have to work tomorrow.”

Explanation: Thank God is an expression we use to express gratitude to God or to communicate that we are happy about something. We do not use the expression Thanks, God unless we are directly addressing God and thanking him for something.

Examples of correct usage:

“It was a fairly strong earthquake. Thank God no one was killed.”

“Thank God it’s Friday! I thought this week would never end.”

“Thank God the weather is finally getting warm.”

Thank God for libraries. Without them, many people wouldn’t be able to afford to read books. (Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels)

8 Not using the gerund after the expression look forward to

The mistake: “We always look forward to relax on the weekend.”

The correct way: “We always look forward to relaxing on the weekend.”

Explanation: We always use the gerund form of the verb after a preposition. In the expression look forward to, the word to is a preposition and not part of an infinitive verb. Therefore, we need to use the gerund. We can also use a noun after the expression look forward to.

Examples of correct usage:

“Are you looking forward to seeing your family over the holidays?”

“Marlene is looking forward to starting her new job and meeting her new coworkers.”

“My friends are looking forward to the concert next weekend.”

Are you looking forward to your next vacation? (Photo by Ricardo Bresciani from Pixabay)

9 Not using the second conditional to communicate that something is hypothetical or unlikely

The mistake: “I would never choose to live in another country, but if I do move to another country, it will be Spain.”

The correct way: “I would never choose to live in another country, but if I did move to another country, it would be Spain.”

Explanation: We use the first conditional to communicate that a condition is possible. We use the second conditional to communicate that something is impossible, unlikely, or hypothetical.

See this conditionals chart for a review of the correct structures.

Examples of correct usage (real situation):

“If it rains, we’ll postpone our beach trip.”

“Mark will buy a new car if he gets the job he applied for.”

“The president will veto the bill if it passes in the Senate.”

Examples of correct usage (impossible/unlikely/hypothetical situation):

“If I were you, I would think about getting a new job.”

“You wouldn’t be so tired if you slept more at night.”

“If I had more time, I’d travel more.”

Practice: Try these conditionals exercises from Perfect English Grammar.

Many people would buy luxury vehicles if they won the lottery. (Photo by Sourav Mishra from Pexels.)

10 Adding not to the expression I’m pretty sure

The mistake: “I’m not pretty sure what the weather is going to be today.”

The correct way: “I’m not sure what the weather is going to be today.”

Explanation: We don’t use not before pretty sure. Instead, we say “I’m not sure,” or “I’m not quite sure.”

We can also say “I’m not so sure,” which means “I’m not convinced.”

Examples of correct usage:

“Kate says she’s not sure it’s a good idea to leave a twelve-year-old kid home alone.”

“I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to help you with that.”

“My financial adviser says it’s a great time to invest, but I’m not so sure.”

This woman looks like she isn’t sure about something. (Photo by 1899441 from Pixabay)

11 Using much instead of a lot of in positive sentences with non-count nouns

The mistake: “I have much experience with children.”

The correct way: “I have a lot of experience with children.”

Explanation: Many students learn that we use much with non-count nouns, which is true. We use much with non-count nouns in negative expressions (“I don’t have much time”) and questions (“Have you had much luck finding a car?”). We also use much with non-count nouns in expressions with too much, so much, as much, and how much.

But we don’t normally use much with non-count nouns in positive statements. Instead, we use a lot of.

Examples of correct usage:

“We got a lot of snow here last year.”

“There was a lot of traffic on the highway this morning.”

“We need someone who has a lot of experience with this technology.”

Practice: Try this exercise from Lingolia.

The people in this town got a lot of snow. (Photo by fabiopiccini from Pixabay)

12 Making nouns plural in compound adjectives

The mistake: “We have a three-days weekend coming up.”

The correct way: “We have a three-day weekend coming up.”

Explanation: A compound adjective is when two or more words join to modify the same noun. If a compound adjective has a noun, the noun should be singular.

Examples of correct usage:

“Let’s take a ten-minute break.”

“Becky has a four-year-old daughter.”

“Did you go on your normal five-mile run this morning?”

Nobody wants this 30-year-old television anymore. (Photo by 3dman_eu from Pixabay)

13 Misusing used to

The mistake: “I’m used to wake up early, so I have no problem getting here at 7 a.m.”

The correct way: “I’m used to waking up early, so I have no problem getting here at 7 a.m.”

Explanation: We use used to + base form to talk about something that was true in the past but no longer true.

We use to be used to + gerund/noun to talk about something that we are accustomed to. We often use the expression to talk about whether something is a problem.

We use get used to + gerund/noun to talk about something that we are becoming accustomed to.

Examples of correct usage (something that is no longer true):

“I used to have long hair when I was younger.”

“Did you use to work in retail?”

“Mark used to be a bartender.”

Examples of correct usage (something someone is accustomed to):

“I’m not used to running in the heat, so I’m going to take it easy today.”

“My wife isn’t used to eating spicy food, so please don’t make the chili too hot.”

“I don’t want to drive a lot because I’m not used to my new car yet.”

Examples of correct usage (something that someone is becoming accustomed to):

“When Emily started working nights, it took her a long time to get used to staying up all night and sleeping all day.”

“I’m still getting used to my new phone.”

“Have you gotten used to your new diet yet?”

Practice: Try this exercise from UsingEnglish.com.

These used to be everywhere in the ’80s and ’90s. (Photo by Heissenstein from Pixabay)

14 Using the infinitive after the causative verbs let, make, and have.

The mistake: “I made my son to clean up his room.”

The correct way: “I made my son clean up his room.”

Explanation: Causative verbs show the reason that something happened. After the causative verbs let, make, and have, we use an object followed by the base form of the second verb. We do not use the infinitive form of the second verb.

Examples of correct usage:

“Please don’t let your son run in the house.”

“Connie’s parents made her start a savings account when she was in middle school.”

“We should have the gardener plant some bushes on that side of the house.”

After the verb help, we can use an object followed by either the base form or infinitive form of the second verb.

Examples of correct usage:

“Can you help me to find my glasses?”

“Can you help me find my glasses?”

Good personal trainers make their clients work hard. (Photo by 5132824 from Pixabay)

15 Using could instead of was/were able to talk about an ability on a single occasion in the past

The mistake: “I had to think about it for a while, but finally I could remember the name of my first grade teacher.”

The correct way: “I had to think about it for a while, but finally I was able to remember the name of my first grade teacher.”

Explanation: In positive sentences, we use was/were able to to talk about an ability on a single occasion, and we use could or was/were able to to talk about a general ability.

In negative sentences, we can use could and was/were able to interchangeably. There is no difference in meaning.

Note that if both could and was/were able to are possible, we tend to use could.

Examples of correct usage (ability on a single occasion):

“Despite the traffic this morning, I was able to get to work on time.”

“All of my students were able to pass their grammar test.”

Examples of correct usage (general ability):

“By age five, Sam could read at a third-grade level.”

“By age five, Sam was able to read at a third-grade level.”

Examples of correct usage (negative sentence):

“I couldn’t see the board, so I moved closer.”

“I wasn’t able to see the board, so I moved closer.”

Practice: Try this tutorial and exercise from the British Council.

This person worked hard and was able to graduate. (Photo by Brandi Ama Doyal from Pexels)

16 Confusing to be supposed to and should

The mistake: “Today I should babysit my little brother. I told my mom I would.”

The correct way: “Today I’m supposed to babysit my little brother. I told my mom I would.”

Explanation: We use supposed to, not should, when we want to communicate that someone has an obligation to do something. The obligation could be because the person agreed to do something or because the person was told to do something.

Examples of correct usage (obligation):

“Our manager is supposed to be here at 8 a.m. to open the store.”

“You were supposed to call me when you got home. What happened?”

“I’m supposed to pick my friend up at the airport tonight. He’s counting on me.”

Note that when we use to be supposed to in the past, it communicates that the action didn’t happen.

You’re probably supposed to put these away during English class. (Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels)

17 Confusing even though and even if

The mistake: “We won’t cancel the meeting even though it snows later.”

The correct way: “We won’t cancel the meeting even if it snows later.”

Explanation: Even though is for true conditions, and even if is for hypothetical conditions or for conditions that haven’t happened yet.

Examples of correct usage (true condition):

“Even though it’s raining, I’m going to go for a run.”

“I ate even though I wasn’t very hungry.”

Examples of correct usage (hypothetical condition):

“Even if I were rich, I wouldn’t buy a luxury car.”

“I don’t think I could learn Arabic even if I had the best teacher in the world.”

Examples of correct usage (condition that hasn’t happened yet):

“Even if it’s raining later, I will swim in the pool.”

“I am going to meet the deadline even if I have to work all night.”

Practice: Try this practice exercise from englishgrammar.org.

Even though it’s raining, this woman and girl seem to be enjoying themselves. (Photo by sasint from Pixabay)

18 Confusing stop smoking with stop to smoke, etc.

The mistake: “I stopped to smoke several years ago.”

The correct way: “I stopped smoking several years ago.”

Explanation: DailyStep has a great explanation of this grammar point. If we use stop + gerund, it means the gerund activity stops. If we use stop + infinitive, it means the infinitive activity starts.

So if we stop smoking, it means that we stopped the action of smoking.

And if we stop to smoke, it means that we stopped what we were doing in order to start smoking.

Examples of correct usage (gerund activity stops):

“I stopped smoking because my family was worried about my health.”

“The restaurant stops serving breakfast at 11 a.m.”

Examples of correct usage (infinitive activity starts):

“I was studying, but I stopped to have dinner with my family.”

“On her road trip, Beverly stopped to take some pictures of the famous landmarks along the way.”

It’s really hard to stop smoking. (Photo by bruce mars from Pexels)

19 Using some tricky non-count nouns as count nouns

The mistake: “My father always gives me great advices.”

The correct way: “My father always gives me great advice.”

Explanation: Some non-count nouns can be tricky because the nouns are count nouns in other languages.

These non-count nouns often give English learners trouble: advice, helphomework, information, knowledgeproof, equipmentevidence, furniture, luggage, mail, and work.

Examples of correct usage:

“First time home buyers often ask their parents for help and advice.”

“In your country, do young children have to do a lot of homework?”

“What financial information were you able to find on the company?”

“The partners at the law firm have a lot more legal knowledge than everyone else.”

“Despite an overwhelming amount of proof, some people refuse to believe that the earth is round.”

“You need a lot of equipment to climb Mount Everest.”

“How much furniture do you need to buy for the new house?”

“Airlines generally do a good job of keeping track of people’s luggage.”

“When we go on vacation, we normally ask the neighbors to get our mail for us.”

“One of my coworkers recently quit, so my department has a lot more work than we are used to.”

Practice: Try this exercise from eflnet.com.

You can count the tables and chairs, but you can’t count the furniture. (Photo by podlesakpetr from Pixabay)

20 Using news without an ‘s’

The mistake: “Did you hear the new about the Kardashians?”

The correct way: “Did you hear the news about the Kardashians?”

Explanation: News (i.e. information about current events) is a singular noun and ends in an ‘s.’ We can say “news story,” “news report,” or “news article” if we want to reference one piece of news.

Examples of correct usage:

“Many older Americans remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.”

“I’m reading a news story about a political scandal in my country.”

“This is a really short news article without any sources. You should find an article from a more reputable website.”

The way people get their news has drastically changed in the last few decades. (Photo by mali maeder from Pexels)

21 Using due to and because of incorrectly

The mistake: “Due to it was a holiday, there weren’t many cars on the road./Because of it was a holiday, there weren’t many cars on the road.”

The correct way: “Due to the holiday, there weren’t many cars on the road./Because of the holiday, there weren’t many cars on the road.”

Explanation: We use due to and because of followed by a noun or a gerund. We cannot use due to and because of followed by a subject + verb.

Examples of correct usage:

“Some smaller islands are in danger of disappearing due to climate change.”

“Due to their criminal histories, many ex-convicts have trouble finding work.”

“Because of rising enrollment, class sizes have increased.”

“Many people in Beijing get sick because of all the air pollution.”

Practice: Try this exercise from LearnAmericanEnglishOnline.com.

This man is wearing a mask because of the air pollution. (Photo by Respro Polska from Pixabay)

22 Using despite and in spite of incorrectly

The mistake: “In spite of she grew up poor, Melanie became a successful entrepreneur.”

The correct way: “In spite of growing up poor, Melanie became a successful entrepreneur.”

Explanation: We use despite and in spite of followed by a noun or a gerund. We cannot use despite and in spite of followed by a subject + verb.

If we want to use a subject + verb, we must use although, even though, or though instead.

Examples of correct usage (in spite of/despite + noun):

“In spite of an overwhelming amount of evidence, the jury did not convict him.”

“We work well together despite our differences.”

“Despite numerous warnings from his physicians, Benjamin wouldn’t change his diet.”

Examples of correct usage (although/even though/though + subject + verb):

“Although there was an overwhelming amount of evidence, the jury did not convict him.”

“We work well together even though we have our differences.”

“Though his physicians warned him, Benjamin wouldn’t change his diet.”

Practice: Try this exercise from englishgrammar.org.

Despite the high cost, many people buy Apple’s products. (Photo by Armand Valendez from Pexels)

23 Using the preposition about after the verb discuss

The mistake: “We discussed about adding additional security measures.”

The correct way: “We discussed adding additional security measures.”

Explanation: We can talk about something or argue about something, but we can’t discuss about something.

Examples of correct usage:

“Let’s discuss all four proposals and then take a vote.”

“I love it when we discuss current events in my English class.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t discuss politics during Thanksgiving dinner.”

Practice: Try the preposition exercises in the Practice Exercise section of this site.

These people are discussing important business matters. (Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels)

24 Using the wrong word order in indirect questions

The mistake: “Could you please tell me where are the restrooms?”

The correct way: “Could you please tell me where the restrooms are?”

Explanation: In indirect questions (polite questions that start with expressions like Could you tell me… or Do you know…) we invert the subject and verb.

We don’t use the auxiliaries dodoes, or did in indirect questions, and we use if in yes/no indirect questions.

For more on indirect questions, see this excellent guide from perfect-english-grammar.com.

Examples of correct usage:

“Do you know what time it is?”

“Could you tell me what the correct answer is?”

“Do you know if they canceled the TV show?”

“Can you tell me where your friend goes to school?”

Practice: Try these exercises from perfect-english-grammar.com: Indirect Questions 1 (Present Simple), Indirect Questions 2 (Past Simple), and Indirect Questions 3 (Modal Verbs).

We use indirect questions to politely ask for information. At a hotel, you might say to the receptionist, “Excuse me, could you tell me what time check out is?”(Photo by Hermann from Pixabay)

25 Confusing Native American speaker with Native English speaker

The mistake: “I like living in the United States because I can practice my English with Native American speakers.”

The correct way: “I like living in the United States because I can practice my English with Native speakers.”

Explanation: A Native American is someone from one of the groups of people that was present in the Americas before Europeans arrived. We cannot use Native American speaker to mean “a native English speaker from the United States.”

Examples of correct usage:

“Is your teacher a native English speaker?”

“You don’t have to be a native speaker to communicate well in English.”

“Just because you hear a native speaker say it, doesn’t mean it’s correct.”

“How would a native speaker from the United States pronounce this?”

A picture of a Native American from 1910.  (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

If you think you make some of these mistakes, try the practice activities in the links above.

Also, note that most of the mistakes on this list are grammar mistakes. For word usage mistakes, see these words that English learners often misuse and this word usage mistakes practice exercise.