Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

4 Big English Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Apr 01, 2013 @ 03:41 PM

four common English mistakesWhat happens when you have an idea, put it into your native language in your head and then try to translate it directly into English and say it aloud?

Sometimes the translation turns out to be correct and people understand you. Great!

However, sometimes it doesn't work and you end up using a word or saying a phrase that makes no sense. That's one of the most common reasons that I have seen for mistakes that students make in English. Are you making this kind of mistake?

Another mistake you might be making is getting confused between two verbs or adjectives that sound similar in their past or present forms, but they are actually very different. Are you doing this?

In today's article, let's look at 4 big English mistakes that you are probably making and find out how to fix these mistakes today!




Mistake #1: "Record" versus "Remember" versus "Remind"


English mistakes record versus rememberIf you are a Spanish or a French speaker, you might make this mistake a lot. The verb "recordar" in Spanish means to remember and to remind (which are two different things in English).


To record: To put something in writing in order to preserve it, to use technology such as audio or video to document an event, a meeting, a conversation, or an interview

To remember: To recall something, to keep a fact, idea, or plan in your memory

To remind: To cause a person to remember something, to do something that helps a person remember a fact, idea, or plan


Sample sentences:

A: Did you remember to record the main points from the meeting last night?

B: No! I forgot to do that because you didn't remind me!




Mistake #2: "Lend" versus "Borrow"

book in hand  English  lend versus borrow When you lend, you give something to someone temporarily. You let someone use something that you own. When you borrow, you receive or use something temporarily.


To borrow: To take possession of something that belongs to someone else, for a specific purpose, without paying money for it


To lend: To allow someone to borrow something that belongs to you for a period of time without charging money for it


Sample sentences:

A: Can you lend me your book? I am looking for an interesting novel to read.

B: Sure, you can borrow my book for a few weeks. You will find it helpful.




Mistake # 3: "Make" versus "Do"

 do the dishes, common english mistakesIf you struggle with these two words, don't worry, you are not alone! Even some very advanced students get confused about when to use "make" and when to use "do."

Warning! This is another situation where translating from your native language (Spanish, French Portuguese speakers) will probably cause you to make a mistake.

So don't do it!


To make: We use "make" when we talk about creating something that didn't exist before

To do: "Do" is used when we talk about fulfilling a duty, taking part in something that we are required to take part in


Although these rules work some of the time, you will be better off if you just memorize some of the more common expressions. Here are the top seven that you should commit to memory:

  • To make a living: To earn money in order to pay the rent, feed your family, etc.
  • Do your best: To try as hard as you possibly can, to put all of your effort into something
  • To make an appointment: To schedule a specific time to speak with someone about something
  • To make reservations: To call a restaurant ahead of time to reserve a table for your group
  • To make a mess: To destroy a space or to make surroundings very dirty or messy
  • To make a call: To contact someone on the telephone
  • To do homework: To complete work that you need to do outside of class


"Make" versus "do" is a tough one! Learn more in this lesson




Mistake #4: "Feel" versus "Fall"


fall versus fell, english mistakes, military photoWhat's wrong with this sentence: "I felt in love with my husband on our first date."

Well, it sort of makes sense, but I think you meant to say "I fell in love with my husband on our first date." Don't get these two verbs and their past forms confused! Check this out:

  • To feel: To receive a sensation through your sense of touch or to experience an emotion  (feel, felt, felt)


  • To fall: To physically drop or descend due to loss of balance or figuratively to lose control over one's emotions as in "to fall in love" (feel, fell, fallen)


Sample sentences:


A: Do you feel like you are going to fall when you walk on that balance beam? (picture above)

B: I have never fallen but once I felt like I was about to fall.



I hope this lesson has helped you to clear up some common points of confusion with your vocabulary and verbs in English!

If you found this lesson helpful, be sure to click on the button below to get more lessons by email.



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 Photo credits: Jessica.Tam, slightly everything, loimere, The California National Guard, rosmary

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