Common Mistakes in English

Some of the frequent mistakes made in English have to do with words that are confusing or misused, such as accede and exceed and accept and except. Conscience and conscious are often confused, even though they mean completely different things. Conscious means having knowledge of one’s own sensations or feelings or an awareness of what one is thinking. Conscience is a knowledge or sense of right and wrong. Desert and dessert are other commonly misued/misspelled words. In the English language, an “s” is usually pronounced like a “z,” while two “s’s” are pronounced as an “s,” such as in the word prissy. A desert is a large area of land, and the word is pronounced déz-urt. Dessert, on the other hand, is something we usually eat after a meal, and the word is pronounced di-sért. To add even more confusion-when someone abandons something, they say it has been deserted.

The smallest unit a word can be broken into is called a syllable and has one vowel sound. Even though syllables may contain more than one written vowel, they still only have one vowel sound. There are six basic syllable types. One of the most difficult of the syllable types is the double-vowel syllable. Words such as coat and seed have two vowels, but only one vowel sound is heard. There are three-syllable words pronounced as two-syllable words, such as different, which is pronounced diff-rent. Four-syllable words are also pronounced like words with three syllables, such as vegetable, which is pronounced veg-ta-ble.

Other commonly misused/misspelled words in English are homophones, or words that sound the same but are different in spelling, meaning, or origin. Some words that sound alike are odder and otter, principal and principle, reel and real, and write and right. The homophones to, too, and two can be especially confusing. Two means the number 2. One “o” (in the word to) indicates direction, such as “to Italy.” A way to remember the word too is it has more “o’s” than “to” so it refers to quantity. An example is, “There are too many cars.”

Pronoun-pronoun disagreements are also common mistakes in English. Singular pronouns such as everyone, anyone, and someone take a singular verb form and singular pronoun forms. It’s incorrect to use they and their when referring to everyone, anyone, and someone because they and their are plural pronouns. Pronoun-verb agreement is another problem. Words like he, she, and it always take the singular form of a verb. You should say or write “he does,” “she does,” or “it does.” It’s incorrect to say or write “he don’t,” “she don’t,” or “it don’t.”

The number of troubling words in English may seem overwhelming, but it IS possible to learn the correct spellings and meanings-it might just take a while!

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