The Most Frequent Speech Errors to Avoid

By Ashley Kornee

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It’s common knowledge that English is one of the most popular languages in the world. This is both good and bad when it comes to everyday use of the language, no matter if you are a Native or a foreign speaker.

English language is both flexible and easy to grasp at first, but it still proves to be too much for many speakers. Some of the most common pitfalls are common in American, English as well as foreign speakers and they can be easily avoided.

Using “much” and “many”

Depending on the context of your sentence and the message you are trying to communicate, using these two words and mixing them up can be quite common. Using “many” with words that apply to countable objects is the proper way to use the word, while “much” can be applied to uncountable items.

“Many apples have fallen from the trees.” / “Much apples have fallen from the trees.”

You can easily see that the second sentence makes little sense when you think about it. Using “much” with items such as fuel, water, air and others is the proper way to do it. Knowing this can help you avoid your next speaking mistake without any worries whatsoever.

Using “me” and “I”

Many languages don’t differentiate “I” and “me” in their speech and writing. This is due to the fact that different languages come from different roots such as Latin or Germanic. While you yourself might know this, it’s also important to consider your friends and acquaintances from abroad and politely correct their mistakes.

“I am a very good person to work with.” / “Me is a very good person to work with.”

This might sound comical to some native speakers but you would be surprised as to how many US and UK citizens make these mistakes daily. Like we mentioned before, mocking anyone about their mistakes won’t lead us anywhere, and helping each other learn how to speak proper English will do everyone a favor.

Using “well” and “good”

You might have heard someone say that they feel “good” many times before. This is a common mistake that took root many years before and it will be very difficult to do anything about it without specifically pointing it out in elementary schools.

“I feel well today.” / “I feel good today.”

While both of these sentences are grammatically correct, one implies that a person feels physically or mentally okay, while the other one indicates that they are a good person today. Depending on the context of the conversation, these two ideas should be kept separate and the mistake pointed out promptly.

Choice and confirmation

Depending on the conversation you are having, you might get a question from your partner every now and then. These questions are sometimes based on a “yes or no” system, while at other times you might be asked to choose an option.

“Would you rather we walk home or take a taxi instead?”

Answering this question with a “yes” or a “no” will make the conversation confusing and your partner won’t know what to do next. Choosing an option instead of waiting passively for something to happen is the base of a good conversation.

Using “is” and “are”

Singular and plural objects can make things confusing when two non-natives are talking. You might want to give a number to some concept in order to make it more empirical, but using “is” and “are” in an incorrect way can make it difficult to have a proper conversation.

“Some of these apples are ripe.” / “Some of these apples is ripe.”

You can also take note of using “are” in plural and “is” in singular form. If you are talking about a single object of interest, “is” is the proper word to use – otherwise you should opt for “are”.

Misplaced nouns

Placing a noun at the end of the sentence can sometimes lead to embarrassing conversation scenarios. Keep in mind that some languages do so in order to keep their tradition and do things a bit differently than others.

“I’m going to give you a soda from the refrigerator.” / “I’m going from the refrigerator to give you a soda.”

While you can still make ends meet and understand the basic gist of the sentence, you can also learn how to structure a sentence properly. Knowing where a noun belongs when talking about basic things such as kitchenware and everyday issues and topics can lead to further understanding of English language as a whole.

Using “any other” in comparison

Comparing different objects of interest is what most conversations are about. This can prove difficult when talking to a foreigner or speaking with someone with only elementary knowledge of English language.

“The UK is more civilized than countries in Europe.” / “The UK is more civilized than any other country in Europe.”

Again, while both sentences are structured properly, both of them imply a very different statement. The first one implies that the UK is more civilized than some countries in Europe without specifying any examples. The second one states that the UK is more civilized than any other country in Europe as a whole, giving the statement a much different connotation. While this is only a blatant example, failing to add “any other” in your comparative sentence structure can often lead to confusing your fellow speaker.

Short and direct instead of long and convoluted

Being a good English speaker is more than just knowing the basics of how to form a sentence. After all, English is being taught at elementary and high school institutions throughout the world. That matters the most is to know how much you really know and drawing a line for yourself. Using overly complicated sentences just to show how much English you know can in fact represent your downfall.

“I will let you know that I feel quite good today given the nature of the weather.” / “I feel well despite the weather.”

You can clearly see that the second sentence goes straight to the point without losing momentum or attention of the speaker. Overly complicated conversation structure should be left in the literary world where it belongs, while the spoken words should be as direct and concrete as possible.

Using “lay” and “lie”

A common mistake than can be found in both English natives and foreign speakers is the improper use of “lay” or “lie”. These two words sound very similar and can even be mistaken for each other when writing a paper on a computer. However, one stands for laying down or putting something down while the other one talks about lying to someone about something.

“I can lie in bed all day long.” / “I can lay in bed all day long.”

As you can see, these two words make the sentence sound identical, but when things are put on paper, things are not as they seemed. Making this mistake when working with business partners or representing your company in any way can make huge problems for you if you are not careful enough. Remember to always annunciate your intent with your fellow speaker and explain what you actually wanted to say if you are unsure about it.

Use of “since” and “for”

Time can be very relative if you are a non-native English speaker. Using all the proper forms of transforming a sentence based on the context of your conversation can often be difficult. Such is the case with proper use of “since” and “for” when talking about time and past events.

“I have worked at this company for three years now.” / “I have worked at this company since three years now.”

As you can probably see, the first sentence implies that a person has worked at a company for three years at the time of speaking. However, the second sentence implies that the person has worked at a company since they were three years old, which is highly unlikely. Make sure that you always use “for” when you count the time, and “since” when you talk about a fixed point in time that happened in the past.

Final thoughts

The only way to get better at speaking and fixing your speech errors is by practicing English language often. No one knew English since the day they were born, and even if you talk to a native speaker, you will often hear mistakes in their voice.

Don’t get discouraged by the errors you make and always ask your fellow speaker for an explanation if you are unsure. Whether you are learning English for yourself or for an important oral exam know that you can only get it right if you keep trying and don’t give up.


About the author:  

Ashley Kornee is a blogger and freelance writer. She always tries to write about ordinary things in a creative way.  She’s currently working on The Word Point translation company. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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