improve your English with bee-line

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /

Have you noticed that while learning a foreign language you repeat the same mistakes all over again? This common problem can be solved only by realizing what mistake it is and pay attention to it whenever it comes up. Here are the most common 10 mistakes of advanced students of English – both grammatical and lexical.

Please read and do not sin anymore.

1. I’ll try to know whether she is pregnant or just cranky.

As very few English learners are fans of phrasal verbs, English students start using the verb to find out at a late learning stage. Which is a shame because know means to have learnt sth (wiedzieć), and not – to learn sth (dowiedzieć się). To talk about getting knowledge we use verbs like: find out, get to know, learn, hear, can tell.
correctly -> I’ll try to find out whether she is pregnant or just cranky.

2. According to me, one should get paid for watching this movie.

This one is very simple: According to Tom / Mr President / the latest research..
While talking about your own opinion, though, do not use according to, but in my opinion / I think, etc.
correctly -> In my humble opinion, one should get paid for watching this movie.

3. Finally! Where the hell have you been?

Seems ok, but.. Although finally and at last are synonyms when used in a sentence, finally cannot be used as an exclamation. So, if you want to express your impatience, use at last.
correctly -> At last! Where the hell have you been?

4. I’ll ask you in case I need help.

Do you remember the classic example of the use of in case? I’ll take an umbrella in case it rains. Right, we do something first (take an umbrella) because something else (rain) might happen later. Quite different than conditionals with if. I’ll ask you if I need help — I will only do something (ask you) if something has happened (if I need help) and if I don’t, I won’t ask you.
Still not very clear? Two more examples:
– Let’s buy a bottle of wine in case Susy comes. (Let’s buy wine now because she might come later.)
– Let’s buy a bottle of wine if Susy comes. (Let’s wait – if she comes, only then we’ll buy the wine. If she doesn’t, we won’t buy it.)
correctly -> I’ll ask you if I need help.

5. I have five thousand, a hundred and three Facebook friends.

Although in many cases you can say a instead of one, with numbers it’s a bit tricky. You can use a” only at the beginning of a number (a hundred Facebook friends). In more complex numbers, it is always safer to say “one.
correctly -> I have five thousand, one hundred and three Facebook friends.

6. I don’t like to be shouted.

Obviously, the preposition at is missing because the verb is to shout at sb. You know that but also heard somewhere that prepositions should not be used at the end of sentences. The good news is – this is not true! Sometimes it is necessary to use a preposition at the end, see the sentence above. If you need stronger arguments, see F.V. Bywater’s “A Proficiency Course in English,” p.104. 🙂
correctly -> I don’t like to be shouted at.

7. This dog surely eats too much.

Well, I’m sure this dog eats like a horse, but it doesn’t allow me to use surely here. Certainly conveys that something is true = I know it. Surely means that I believe it to be true or it seems probable.
correctly -> This dog certainly eats too much. but He will surely lose weight on this revolutionary canine diet.

8. ‘Who’s that?’ ~ ‘He’s John.’

Why does it sound wrong? Because to identify a person, we use a pronoun it. For example, on the phone: It’s Tom Brown. Or: Is that our professor? ~ No, it isn’t.
correctly -> ‘Who’s that?’ ~ ‘It’s John.’

9. The police is looking for him.

A classic grammar issue present in most tests and exams. The police is a plural noun with no singular form (similar to cattle – no offence, policemen!) – other plural nouns include staff and crew.
correctly -> The police are looking for him.

10. It’s time I go to bed.

It’s time is one of these weird expressions which defy logic. So, although the meaning is present, after it’s time / it’s high time we need to use a verb in a past tense.
correctly -> It’s time I went to bed.. Really. Good night!