Unfortunately, there are many, many traps that are easy to fall into when you are not a native speaker. To help you avoid some of them, here are a few tips:
Drop your idioms
Virtually by definition, idioms don’t make literal sense. This means that they only work in your language. Just don’t use them, use well constructed, meaningful sentences. For example, a phrase that means “not my problem” in Polish, translates as “not my circus, not my monkey”. Or, in Portuguese there’s a phrase saying “to feed a donkey spongecake” – it means “to treat someone well, who doesn’t need it”. Idioms need an explanation to make sense, so are never going to work when writing.
The Problem of ‘the’
This is a tricky one – sometimes Non-Natives miss the “the” when they need it, and sometimes use one when they shouldn’t.
A) Needs but often missed
I have been in UK for a long time.
I have been in the UK for a long time.
B) Shouldn’t but often used
TheDeveloping of thethe language skills has always been a very difficult task.
Developing language skills has always been a very difficult task.
Being just aware of the problem should help you a lot. As a general rule, make sure you use it when there is only one of something.
Look out for irregular verbs
This has probably been one of your greatest frustrations with English already. As you already know, it’s not safe to always just assume that you’ve done it correctly. It’s an absolute minefield and here’s just one example to show why:
We talked, drinked coffee and eated ice cream while we waited for the flight.
We talked, drank coffee and ate ice cream while we waited for the flight.
The problem of “S”
This can happen with both people/groups and with quanitities. For example:
She types, but they type
“I’ve been in New York for one and a half month” (or “one month half”)
“I’ve been in New York for one and a half months“
For quantities, you’re always going to need it.
One word or two
Some words are made by combining two distinct short ones. It is a common mistake to write these using two words instead of as one.
Wrong: bed room, bath room, good night, on line
Right: bedroom, bathroom, goodnight, online
These are just some of the common mistakes people often make, so try to pay attention to them. Even then there’s no guarantee you’ll catch them!
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