Correct These Three Common Mistakes Today!

When learning a language, it’s generally agreed that the target language should be used as much as possible in the classroom.  However, I do believe that it’s important for teachers to also have experience with foreign languages, if only to appreciate the challenges that your students face.

When learning a language, it’s generally agreed that the target language should be used as much as possible in the classroom.  However, I do believe that it’s important for teachers to also have experience with foreign languages, if only to appreciate the challenges that your students face.

While I have taught English to speakers of a number of other languages, I now specialise in teaching English to native speakers of Russian (of which I am a fluent speaker).

It means that I can support nervous beginners as they learn the English basics, but most of all, I gain a great insight into their linguistic thought processes, as they learn my native language.  If my students make a mistake in English, more often than not, I can understand why they have made this error. In fact, the chances are, I’ve done the same in reverse when I was studying Russian!

A teacher should always be ready to correct mistakes – but in knowing the speaker’s native language, you can explain the root of the problem and help it disappear more quickly!  It’s rather like treating the cause of an illness, instead of just the symptoms.

So, let’s correct these three common mistakes today!

1. “I feel myself happy.”

The verb “to feel” is reflexive in a number of languages.  But it doesn’t work like this in English. You certainly do not need to say feel + “myself/yourself/himself etc.” when talking about emotions.

Will I ever hear it said like this?

You might hear someone saying “I don’t feel myself today”, but this means that they are not well and think they may be ill.  But generally, if you say “I feel myself”, a native speaker gets the impression of a different activity altogether!

So, if you don’t want to make us blush the next time you’re in a positive mood, just say: I feel happy.

Correction: I feel happy (without “myself”).

2. “I was in London.”

When talking about experiences, in English, we use the present perfect (have/has + 3rd form of verb).  It doesn’t matter WHEN the action happened, as it is the ACTION which is of interest.

Will I ever hear it said like this?

Yes. If you are asked the question “Where were you last week?” you can answer “I was in London”.  That is because with past simple, the time frame should be clear. But if you are just trying to say that at some point in your life, you have been to London and you are not saying when exactly, you need present perfect.

Also, remember that it should be been + to and not been + in, when talking about countries in the present perfect.

Correction: I have been to London/I was in London last week.

3. If I will have time, I will…

In English, first conditional sentences are usually made with if + 1st form, will….  It doesn’t matter that you are talking about the future.  We can understand that from the “will” in the other part of the clause.  One will is enough, and it shouldn’t come straight after “if”.

Will I ever hear it said like this?

You may hear someone say “If she will do the presentation, it will help us a lot”.  But in this case, the first “will” is a synonym for “agrees to”.  If you are using will as an auxiliary to express the future, don’t use it after “if”!

Correction:  If I have time, I will do extra homework/ I will do extra homework if I have time.

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Remember, my blog is here to help you improve your English actively!  Now you’ve read the text, here are some more things to think about…

Look again at the words and phrases from the text, with my explanation of how they are used:

  1. it’s generally agreed

-This is a good way to say “people say” in a more formal way.

  1. While I… I…

-Use this construction to show contrast between two elements.

While I + opinion 1, I + contrasting opinion 2

  1. However, I do believe…

-Look closely at how I’ve used the word “do”.  When we add the auxiliary (вспомогательный) verb into a positive sentence, it emphasises the point.  It’s similar to adding «же» in Russian:

I believe (я верю) / I do believe (я же верю)

  1. Rather like

This phrase is a more formal alternative to “It’s similar to”.  Rather = similar.

We can also use “rather” to show preference: “I’d rather play football than watch it”.

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