Unit 1------ The “Since” and “For” Error
Unit 2------ The Reflexive Error
Unit 3------ The “Say” and “Tell” Error.
Unit 4------ Adjective or Adverb
Unit 5------ The elliptical Error (missing verb)
Unit 6------ The Article Error
Unit 7------ Wrong Tense
Unit 8------ The “Do” and “Make” Error
Unit 9------ The Quantifier Error
Unit 10----- The Dative Error
Unit11------ The Ubiquitous Error (Prepositions)
Unit 12----- False Cognates to avoid.
Unit 13----- The Size Error
Unit 14----- The Passive Error (birth year, month, day, place etc.)
Unit 15----- The Wrong Word
UNIT ONE The SINCE and FOR error.
1. I have been waiting for you since twenty minutes.
2. I have been living in Frankfurt since nine years.
3. I have been here since many months.
4. My father bought this house for five years.
5. My husband moved to Berlin before ten years.
6. I can't remember when I was in Africa. I was there for a long time.
7. I met my boyfriend in Berlin. We have known each other since two years.
8. My son has been learning French since five years now.
9. The cold world war has been going on since fifty years.
10. We have been married since ten years.
11. I have been working here since twenty years.
12. My children arrived the school for five hours.
13. I have loved this girl since three years.
14. I have had this car since a month.
15. My daughter bought the dress for a couple of months.
16. Germany won the world cup before twenty three years.
1. I have been waiting for you for twenty minutes.
2. I have been living in Frankfurt for nine years.
3. I have been here for many months.
4. My father bought this house five years ago.
5. My husband moved to Berlin ten years ago.
6. I can't remember when I was in Africa. I was there a long time ago.
7. I met my boyfriend in Berlin. We have known each other for two years.
8. My son has been learning French for five years now.
9. The cold war has been going on for fifty years.
10. We have been married for ten years.
11. I have been working here for twenty years.
12. My children arrived the school five years ago.
13. I have loved this girl for three years.
14. I have had this car for a month.
15. My daughter bought the dress a couple of months ago.
16. Germany won the world cup twenty three years ago.
For and Since pose problems for German learners of English because the two words are translated in German with one word, Seit; a word that resembles the English word Since and means since but not in all contexts.
Unlike in German there is a difference between SINCE (a specific time) and FOR (a space of time.)
Er lebt seit drei Jahren in Deutschland. (Space of time) = FOR
Er lebt seit 2010 in Deutschland. (Specific time) = SINCE
Both prepositions are Seit but the English cannot translate all the two with SINCE.
Three years is a length of time so the English translate:
seit drei Jahren with for three years.
But when Seit is used in the sense of a date, a year, a day then since is used.
seit 2010 means since 2010.
NB: Since and For are strong indicators for the use of the Present perfect continuous. He has been working since 2010
H e has been working for three years.
(We will see this in detail in a later unit)
For - a period of time, a space of time, a length of time.
for three hours
for a week
for five years I have been working for two hours.
for a long time
for a number of days
for a number of hours
for a couple of years etc.
Since- a specific time, the time when the action began.
since last year I have been living in Germany since 1990.
since my childhood
since this morning
since 12 o'clock
So far the difference is clear but there is another little trick to quickly know when to use since or for.
When it is possible to use the German word lang instead of the word seit, then use For.
seit 10 Jahren- 10 Jahren lang - f or 10 years
seit 5 Minuten- 5 Minuten lang - for 5 minutes
seit drei Wochen- drei Wochen lang- for three weeks
seit zwei Tage- zwei Tage lang- for two days
seit drei Stunden- drei Stunde lang- for three hours
seit 1990 1990 lang is bad German since 1990
seit heute Morgen since today morning
seit 13 Uhr- since one o'clock.
German learners of English also make the mistake of translating the German word Vor with the English word for and before. So they make sentences like:
I bought this car for three years Ich kaufte das Auto vor drei Jahren
She was here for three days. Sie war hier vor drei Tage
He was in Paris before two years. Er war in Paris vor zwei Jahren
I bought this car three years ago.
She was here three years ago.
He was in Paris two years ago.
Ago normally comes at the end of the sentence and unlike since and for (which go with the present perfect tense) it normally goes with the simple past tense and indicates that something happened at a particular time in the past.
UNIT TWO THE REFLEXIVE ERROR.
1. We see us tomorrow.
2. When shall we meet us again?
3. The party was boring so I decided me to go home.
4. It is too loud. I can't concentrate me.
5. I want to buy me a book.
6. I feel me fantastic today.
7. My legs are tired. I must sit me down.
8. I must comb me the hair before we go out.
9. I can't remember me.
10. I shame me for my English.
11. I don't talk with my sister. We hate us.
12. I don't interest me for football.
13. I got myself up at 8 o'clock, showered myself and polished my shoes.
1 See you tomorrow. (informal)
2. When shall we meet again?
3. The party was boring so I decided to go home.
4. It is too loud. I can't concentrate.
5. I want to buy a book.
6. I feel fantastic today.
7. My legs are tired. I must sit down.
8. I must comb my hair before we go out.
9. I can't remember.
10. I am ashamed of my English.
11. I don't talk with my sister. We hate each other.
12. I am not interested in football.
13. I got up at 8 o'clock, showered and polished my shoes.
This errors springs from Germans thinking in their language while speaking or writing English, so they translate directly from German adding a reflexive pronoun when not necessary.
The grammatical term Reflexive simply means the object of the verb reflects back to the subject, so a reflexive verb is a verb that has an object which is the same as the subject of the verb. In German, reflexive phrases are more complicated because they consist of a verb together with the reflexive pronoun in the accusative or in the dative case.
Person Accusative reflexive pronoun Dative reflexive pronoun
Ich mich mir
Du dich dir
Er/sie/es sich sich
Wir uns uns
ihr euch euch
Sie sich sich
This is not the case in English.
In English the pronoun always ends with --- self or ---selves and there are no case distinctions.
Person reflexive pronoun
Hemmingway killed himself. (a reflexive phrase)
Hemmingway killed a shark. ( Not a reflexive phrase because, the subject,
Hemmingway is not the same person as the
object, the shark.)
Languages differ in their use of reflexive phrases. German uses many reflexive phrases while English uses much fewer. While most English reflexive verbs are also reflexive in German, not all German reflexive verbs are reflexive in English. In this regard German learners of English should be aware that NOT ALL GERMAN REFLEXIVES HAVE A CORRESPONDING CONSTRUCTION IN ENGLISH. An English speaker would simply say,
The earth spins round the sun.
But the Germans would make a sentence full of reflexives like:
Die Erde dreht sich um sich selbst um die Sonne.
Infact the reflexive is obligatory for many more verbs in German than English.
For example, To sit down (sich setzen). is a MUST REFLEXIVE IN GERMAN. Otherwise it would mean something else: Setzen( non reflexive in German means to put or to place)
It is therefore wise to always find out whether a new verb you have learnt in English is reflexive or not. Even verbs that sound reflexive in their meanings are not necessarily reflexive in English. This is because the English do not use reflexive pronouns after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves:
It is thus common to hear an Englishman say:
I shave everyday.
I always wash in cold water.
I comb my hair everyday.
She dressed before I came in.
Only when there is a need for Emphasis is it correct to say:
I shaved myself even though I was ill.
I was surprised to see a two year old washing himself.
In English the plural personal pronouns, we, you and they when reflexive could also mean each other, one another. These are referred to in grammar books as reciprocal reflexives because the action is mutual and involves two or more people.
We help each other. Wir helfen uns.
We love each other. Wir lieben uns
They hate each other. Sie hassen sich.
We kiss each other. Wir küssen uns.
They hit each other. Sie schlagen sich.
We respect each other. Wir respektieren uns.
We got to know each other. Wir haben uns kennengelernt.
When it comes to showing possession and referring to parts of the body, Germans use the reflexive, but the English do not.
I wash my hands. Ich wäsche mir die Hände.
We clean our teeth. Wir putzen uns die Zähne.
There are very few typical reflexive verbs in English but sometimes these verbs are not reflexive. Example:
Express- I can express myself in Spanish. (Reflexive)
I always express my views . (Not reflexive)
Please, express yourself. (Reflexive)
Please, express your opinion. (Not reflexive).
Enjoy- She enjoys herself during holidays.
But She enjoyed the music.
Respect- If you don't respect yourself, nobody will respect you.
We respect our captain because he respects himself.
Repeat- I don't like to repeat myelf.
I don't like to repeat my words.
Convince- Don Quixote was weak but convinced himself that he was strong.
Don Quixote could not convince his friends.
Market- He was a good artist and knew how to market himself.
He was a good artist but did not know how to market his products.
Distinguish- Nelson Mandela was a politician and distinguished himself in this
It is important to distinguish between business and pleasure.
(Einen Unterschied machen)
Exert- You are sick. Don't exert yourself.
When you kick a ball, you exert a force on it.
Devote- He loved children and devoted himself to them.
The writer devoted his works to his mother.
Commit - I commit myself to the payment of your debts (sich verpflichten)
He committed an offence against the state. (begehen)
Introduce- The actor introduced himself to the audience.
I introduced my girlfriend to my mother.
UNIT THREE The Say“and “Tell“ error
1. Please, say us a joke.
2. Please, say me your name.
3. Why do you tell that I am a liar?
4. Please, say us your secret.
5. Please, say the truth and nothing but the truth.
6. She can't say the difference between a bar and a pub.
7. The journalist told that there there was a strike at the airport.
8. Please, say me the time.
9. He tells very funny things about me.
10. Please, say me something about yourself.
11. If you need help, tell it me.
1. Please, tell us a joke.
2. Please, tell me your name.
3. Why do you say that I am a liar?
4. Please, tell us your secret.
5. Please, tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
6. She can't tell the difference between a bar and a pub.
7. The journalist said that there was a strike at the airport.
8. Please, tell me the time.
9. He says very funny things about me.
10. Please, tell me something about yourself.
11. If you need help me, tell me.
Say and Tell have more or less the same meanings and the use of the two words is extremely idiomatic. It is therefore not surprising to find learners having trouble with these two words. The Germans often use say where an English speaker would use tell.
The German sagen to say is used in many expressions which in English take tell.
to tell the truth die Wahrheit sagen
to tell the difference den Unterschied sagen
to tell the time die Uhrzeit sagen
to tell a secret ein Geheimnis sagen
The above examples are all idiomatic expressions and it is advisable for learners to learn them by heart. More idiomatic expressions where tell is used instead of say include.
to tell a lie
to tell somebody's fortune
to tell the time
to tell people your name
to tell a story
to tell the future
Idiomatic expressions with say include:
to say or recite a poem
to say a word
to say a sentence
to say what you think
to say thank you
to say goodbye
to say hello
Difference in Meaning:
To tell: to communicate a thought, information, command, message to some listener. (The German erzählen, to narrate could translate the idea of telling but only in few situations like telling a story)
To say: simply speaking (listener or no listener), just opening of the mouth and letting out words at some audible level.
The indirect object
Germans like grammatical rules so I hope they could understand this hard and fast rule. Tell is often followed by the indirect object.
Tell Claus something. (Claus- indirect object something- direct object)
Tell me a story. ( me-indirect object a story-direct object)
Tell them your name. (them- indirect object your name- direct object)
Tell the teacher what you did.
Tell us etc.
Say me your problem Tell me your problem.
Say us Tell us
Say him Tell him
Say them Tell them
Say the teacher Tell the teacher
Say the children Tell the children
Say in Reported speech:
Say is used mostly to report what somebody said.
She says, “ I am a teacher.“
She said that she was a teacher.
The journalist said that there was a strike at the airport.
The man said that he was hungry.
The girl said that she was thirsty.
Use tell if you want to report that what was said was directed to you or someone else.
She told me that she was a teacher.
The journalist told the public that there was a strike at the airport.
The man told us that he was hungry.
Note the indirect object in the three examples . The indirect object is aways a good indicator for the use of tell even in reported speech.
UNIT FOUR Adjective OR Adverb.
1. Please, can you speak slow?
2. I was unhappy that I did so bad in the exam.
3. Her English is good. She speaks English very good.
4. I am not looking for a man. I am happy married.
5. Bayern München won the game although they played very bad.
6. Come quick. I am waiting for you.
7. I like the way Dieter Bohlen sang the song. He sang it very good.
8. Last night I could not sleep. My neighbour's dog barked loud.
9. She is an extreme beautiful woman.
10. I like your cake. It tastes well.
11. What is wrong with you? You look angrily today.
12. After work, I went direct to bed.
13. That was a difficult song but you sang it perfect.
14. Dogs have good noses. They can smell extreme good.
15. It was snowing so the police told us to drive careful.
1. Please, can you speak slowly?
2. I was unhappy that I did so badly in the exam.
3. Her English is good. She speaks English very well.
4. I am not lóoking for a man. I am happily married.
5. Bayern München won the game although they played very badly.
6. Come quickly. I am waiting for you.
7. I like the way Dieter Bohlen sang the song. He sang it very well.
8. Last night I could not sleep. My neighbour's dog barked loudly,
9. She is an extremely beautiful woman.
10. I like your cake. It tastes good.
11. What is wrong with you? You look angry today.
12. After work, I went directly to bed.
13. That was a difficult song but you sang it perfectly.
14. Dogs have good noses. They can smell extremely well.
15. It was snowing so the police told us to drive carefully.
Germans normally use the same form for both adjective and adverb. This is not the case in English.
Die Antwort ist richtig. Adjective
Sie haben richtig beantwortet Adverb
In English the form changes.
The answer is right ( correct.) Adjective
You have answered rightly ( correctly) -- Adverb
Der schnelle braune Fuchs Adjective
Der Fuchs lief schnell- Adverb
The quick brown fox Adjective
The fox ran quickly Adverb
An Adjective tells us more about a noun.
The question here is: how is a thing or person?
A right answer
The quick brown fox
A beautiful girl
A careful driver
A slow car
An Adverb tells us more about a verb.
The question here is: how does a person or animal perform an activity?
HOW TO FORM ADVERBS
1. Adjective + ly .
2. Adjective +ily
In adjectives ending with the letter y.
3. Adjective + y
In Adjectives ending with le
4. Adjective + way(manner)
In adjectives ending with ly (These adjectives look like adverbs but they are not)
lively in a lively way (manner)
lovely in a lovely way (manner)
friendly in a friendly way (manner)
kindly in a kindly way (manner)
silly in a silly way (manner)
holy in a holy way (manner)
ugly in an ugly way (manner)
manly in a manly way (manner)
womanly in a womanly way (manner)
cowardly in a cowardly way (manner)
stately in a stately way (manner)
disorderly in a disorderly way (manner)
Your English is good. You speak English well.
Jimi Hendrix was a good guitarist. Jimi Hendrix played the guitar well.
NB Well is used as an adjective with the meaning IN GOOD HEALTH.
How are you today? I am well.
double Adverb forms
Adjective Adverb 1 Adverb 2 (different meaning) hard hard (fest, hart ) hardly(kaum)
near near (in der Nähe ) nearly (beinahe)
late late (spät) lately (in letzter Zeit)
John tried hard to pass the exam but he failed.
(with a lot of effort)
I was not surprised that John failed the exam. He hardly studied.
(almost not at all)
John is a Christian but he hardly goes to church.
( almost not at all)
So we NEVER say:
Schumacher drives fastly.
Obama speaks English good.
Good students work hardly.
The bridegroom arrived lately for the wedding.
Schumacher drives fast.
Obama speaks English well.
Good students work hard.
The bridegroom arrived late for the wedding.
Sometimes an adverb is combined with an adjective:
The driver who caused the accident was horribly drunk.
The president was terribly sorry for his mistake.
What you said was absolutely wrong.
I am sorry, I was totally wrong.
He was finally sorry for his misconduct.
Bayern München won the match although they played terribly bad.
Sometimes an Adverb is combined with another Adverb
Children learn languages incredibly quickly.
The Chinese spoke German surprisingly well.
NB. We normally don't use Adverbs with the following verbs.
We use adjectives after these verbs.
The verb to be. I am happy, sad etc.
She/ he/it /is
We are etc.
have been, had been etc
stay (Please , stay calm)
keep (Please, keep quiet)
The food tastes good.
You look good.
I feel good today.
Your perfume smells good
UNIT FIVE The Elliptical Error (missing verb)
1. I can English.
2. I can also Spanish and French.
3. The kids can German but no English.
4. My sister can a little bit Russian.
5. I must to the toilet now.
6. I must to the police now.
7. The kids must to the house now.
8. You must not inside if you come late.
9. I would like to stay longer but I must now to work.
10. My father is Jack of all trades. He can all.
1. I can speak English.
2. I can also speak Spanish and French.
3. The kids can speak German but can't speak English.
4. My sister can speak a little bit Russian.
5. I must go to the toilet now.
6. I must go to the police now.
7. The kids must go home now.
8. You must not enter (go inside) if you come late.
9. I would like to stay longer but I must go to work now.
10. My father is Jack of all trades. He can do everything.
English and German often say and do things differently. In German it is normal to omit the main verb after the modal verb, but in English the omission of the main verb like in the above examples is not normal. Thinking in German while speaking English is a problem because students tend to make word for word translations. The Germans would say:
Ich kann Englisch.
Ich kann auch Spanisch und Französisch.
Die Kinder können Deutsch aber keinen Englisch.
Meine Schwester kann ein bisschen Russisch.
Ich muss jetzt aufs Klo.
Ich muss jetzt zur Polizei.
Die Kinder müssen jetzt nach Hause.
Du musst nicht hinein wenn du zu spät kommst.
Ich würde länger bleiben aber ich muss zur Arbeit.
Mein Vater ist Hansdampf in allen Gassen. Er kann alles.
But in English the main verb is obligatory. My father can all. is WRONG. It is correct to say My father can do everything.
It is important for the learner to master English modal verbs and to know how they are used in English.
They are used to express wish, possibility, ability and obligation.
Can/ could, to be able to (können, könnte, fahig sein)
Ability: I can speak French. Ich kann Französisch.
I can write a letter.
I can ride a bicycle.
Permission: Can I dance with you?
Can I play with you?
Possibility: This can not be possible.
It can be very hot in Egypt.
Polite Requests: Could you offer me a drink?
Could you wait for me, please?
Could we drive to the mountains tomorrow?
Could is also the past form of can: I could speak Arabic when I was young.
To be able to is an alternative form of can.
Modal verbs in English have no infinitives like in German but with the use of alternatives like to be able to, an infinitive form of can is available. We can say:
I want to be able to drive a car.
NOT I want to can drive a car.
May/ Might (durfen, könnten)
Permission: May I go to the party?
May I go out tonight?
May I play football?
Possibility: It may snow tonight.
(probability) It may rain tomorrow.
Polite Request: May I ask you something?
May I help you?
Slim possibility: It might snow tonight
It might rain tomorrow.
The alternative form of may is to be allowed to. In this case we have an infinitive form of may - Example: I want to be allowed to do what I like.
Obligation: You must do your homework.
You must go to the police.
I must go to the toilet now.
Probability: You must be tired.
It must be interesting.
My father must be angry with him.
Recommendation: You must taste it.
You must see the new film.
You must read that book.
The alternative form of Must is to have to. must in the past tense is had to.
Example. We say:
Yesterday, I had to call the police. (Gestern, Ich müsste die Polizei anrufen)
NOT Yesterday, I must call the police.
Future: It will rain tomorrow.
Wish, Request: Will you please, shut the window?
Promise, wish: I will stop smoking.
Polite question: Would you like a beer?
Wish. I would like to see the boss.
The alternative form of would is simply to want to.
Future- just like Will- I shall go to the market tomorrow.
Proposal - Shall I carry the bag for you.
Obligation: You should stop when you see a red light.
You should drive slowly when the weather is bad.
Ought to (sollen) Same like should
Obligation You ought to stop when you see a red light.
The alternative form of should is : supposed to, expected to. Likewise for ought to.
So in the past we would say:
You were supposed to stop when you saw the red light.
Take note that unlike in German, most English modal verbs are not followed by the infinitive. Thus, Ich kann /muss, darf /werde singen, tanzen, spielen
In English no infinitive after the modal verb.
I can/may/must/will sing, dance, play.
- Arbeit zitieren
- Bernard Mulesiwi Ateh (Autor), 2014, THE MESS IN FRANKFURT. Common mistakes in English made by German speakers, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/267832