Category Archives: Common Errors

Common Errors: Pay vs Pay For and Other Common Expressions

Oh my! We are enjoying the last week of summer and I don’t want to think about what’s ahead of us. I quite like autumn provided it doesn’t rain a lot, but I absolutely hate winter. Light for me is essential and where I live, surrounded by beautiful misty green mountains, we don’t get to see much light in winter. That’s the downside.
Anyway, I got the idea for this post just before my brain exploded after endless hours of correcting errors from essays.

Have a look at these two sentences. Take your time.
Which is correct? The first? The second? Or maybe both?
1. I paid the tickets with my credit card
2. I paid for the tickets with my credit card

At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a little quiz to test your knowledge, but now here’s the explanation:

The verb “to pay” can be both transitive and intransitive.

Intransitive

  1. You” pay FOR something” when saying exactly what you’ll receive in return for the money/payment. Therefore, sentence 2 above is correct. (I paid the tickets with my credit card) 
  • I paid for the tickets with my credit card
  • My son pays for his internet connection with his pocket money.
  • How much would you pay for that jacket?

Transitive

  1. You “pay something” when you don’t mention what is being purchased.
  • I paid 50€ to get a good seat
  • Everybody in Spain must pay taxes
  • I need to work if I want to pay the bills/the rent
  1. You “pay someone”.
  • I paid him 50€
  • He has always paid his employees
  • Can you pay the plumber for fixing the tap?

And now that we are on the subject 🙂  perhaps  you’re williing to go the extra mile and learn a few expressions with this common verb. Here we go. Just 6.

  • To pay in advance= to pay for something before it is received or delivered

                              I paid in advance for the first night in the hotel

  • To pay an arm and a leg/ to pay through the nose for something = you pay too much

                           Most Americans pay an arm and a leg to provide their families with a health plan

  • To pay the price= to suffer the consequences for doing something or risking something

                           Those who did not get off early paid the price and couldn’t get there on time

  • To pay as you go = to pay costs as they occur; to pay for goods as they are bought (rather than charging them)

                                  Get a pay as you go mobile

  • To pay (someone) peanuts= to pay someone the absolute minumum amount necessary.

                         Talking about money, we hear that in sweatshops workers are paid peanuts.

  • To pay attention to (someone/something)= to give attention to someone/something              As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
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And here’s the quiz, as promised.

Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.

Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.

So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and  say they do, you elicit some examples and  give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.

Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.

This is how I suggest you do this quiz

  1. Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
  2. Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
  3. For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
  4. Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
  5. Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
  6. Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.

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Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

Ready to start the quiz? Here we go! Which of these sentences is correct?

I am interested in participate in a seminar

I am interested in participating in a seminar

Which of these sentences is correct? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises

There are a lot of meals that they are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals that are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals they are easy to cook

Another very frequent mistake. Which is correct?

From my point of view is very difficult to be the boss.

From my point of view, it is very difficult to be the boss.

Let’s try spelling now! Which is correct?

possible

posible

accommodationaccomodation
helpfulhelpfull

Ready for the next grammar mistake? Which is correct?

I don’t mind sharing it with other family

I don’t mind sharing it with another family

Think hard! Which is correct? Choose and then read the grammar and do the exercises

I would like to know how much does it cost

I would like to know how much it costs

Let’s see vocabulary now. Which is correct?

My mother is a great cook

My mother is a great cooker

Concentrate! Which is correct?

I prefer stay in a hotel

I prefer to stay in a hotel

And now, what do you say?

I couldn’t find the information on your website

I couldn’t find the information in your website

Let’s go for spelling again. Which one is correct?

comfortable

confortable

definitelydefinetely

Which is correct?

business

bussines

What’s the plural of “life”

lifes

lives

Let’s focus on articles now. Which is correct?

I strongly believe that the fast food is not healthy

I strongly believe that fast food is not healthy

Which is correct?

The dates of the seminar are not enough clear

The dates of the seminar are not clear enough

What do you say?

I am completely agree wih you

I completely agree with you

Think hard! What do you say?

Fast food is becoming very popular

Fast food it is becoming very popular

What’s the opposite of the adjective “polite”?

Impolite

Unpolite

Which is correct?

Everybody loves you

Everybody love you

What’s the correct spelling?

greatful

grateful

And now?

successful

sucessful

Which is correct?

neccesary

necessary

What do you say? At or in?

They arrived in London yesterday

They arrived at London yesterday

Which is correct in this context? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises.

In the end we decided to cancel the trip

At the end we decided to cancel the trip

Which preposition collocates with “depend”?

It depends on her

It depends from her

It depends of her

What do you say? Choose the correct answer and then read the grammar and do the exercises

The mountains were covered with snow

The mountains were covered by snow

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You might be interested in doing these other quizzes

Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom

Here’s my latest contribution to the British Council magazine Voices: “Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom. The article encourages students to correct their own writing and it contains  6 error-correction activities which are a lot of fun.Who said learning English was boring?

You might also be interested in reading  Nine ways to revise English vocabulary using slips of paper” published in December where I suggest  nine activities for revising English vocabulary using simple slips of paper.

Thanks for reading!

Teaching Collocations: a Low-Prep Activity

I am almost embarrassed to share this super easy lesson plan with you, but right now I am in the middle of a love affair with collocations and all my classes, no matter the level, are working  with collocations.

Please, don’t freak out! I am not going to give you an obnoxious list of collocations and ask you to learn them by heart. That’s not the way I do things!, but you’ll surely agree with me  that there is no point in learning the adjective “interested” if you don’t know that it’s followed by the preposition “in”. Yes, Ok, you can say “I’m interested”, but that’s it!! And we are aiming for a bit more, aren’t we?

(at the end of this post, you’ll find  some interesting links to learn more about collocations)

So, take a deep breath and follow me!

Step 1. What is a collocation? Though students don’t really need to be familiar with the term, it might be a good idea to introduce the concept.

In English we can say I absolutely agree but we cannot say I absolutely go; we can say I am interested in, but not I am keen in. We can say a heavy drinker, but not a strong drinker or a  chain drinker. These conventional combinations of words, chosen naturally by the English speakers to express an idea, are called “collocations”.

Below you’ll see some of the collocations I am going to use, but this activity will work with any collocation:

Depend on/ interested in/ arrive in/ arrive at/ fed up with/ spend on/good or bad at/ close to/fond of/keen on/ look forward to…etc.

Step 2. Slips of paper. Oral activity.

  • Select the collocations to be studied, as many as students you have in the class. In my case, I have decided to give them dependent prepositions with common adjectives and verbs because I have noticed they always make mistakes here.
  • Write the adjective or verb on the slip of paper and on the back of it, the preposition(s) it collocates with. Stand up in the middle of the class for everybody to see you. Show students the slip of paper containing the adjective or verb and ask them to guess the missing preposition, and then give you a sentence containing the collocation.
  • A small competition. Divide the class into two groups and repeat procedure. This time, groups will need to guess the preposition and give a sentence -different from the one they gave in the previous stage- to win the point.

Step 3. Slips of paper. Writing activity.

  • Give every student a slip of paper from the previous activity and ask them to individually think of a question to ask their partners containing this collocation.

Offer help if necessary.

Step 4. Speaking activity using the speed-dating technique.

Students sit facing each other. Some students will remain seated during the whole event (in real speed dating, women remain seated). They have 4 minutes to talk asking and answering the question they have written containing the collocation. Then, a bell rings and “men” need to stand up and move to their right to start a new conversation and the whole process is repeated again. I didn’t have a bell so I used a Class Timer (here).

A highly engaging activity your students are likely to enjoy!

Useful links to learn more about collocations

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Thanks for reading!

The Spelling Challenge: are you up to it?

Is it definetely or definitely? Which is correct, possession or possesion?

Most students struggle with English spelling and no wonder, English spelling is difficult. Plain and simple. The best advice I can probably give you to improve your spelling is to read a lot and then if you keep misspelling a word, you might want to write it down  several times ( I’m sorry! I know it sounds like a very traditional thing to do, but it works and this is what is really important, isn’t it?). Doing spelling quizzes can also help, and it’s certainly more fun than writing the tricky word several times.

So, are you up to a little challenge? Then, try these three quizzes based on students’ common spelling mistakes found in Intermediate, Advanced and Proficiency exams. I have created them with the aim of helping my students get rid of these common spelling mistakes and I hope they are helpful to anybody visiting the blog!

 

This is how I suggest you work with the quizzes:

  • Start with the intermediate quiz even though you are an advanced or proficiency student. Life is full of surprises and it doesn’t hurt to double-check tricky words.
  • Once you have finished the quiz, try to remember which words were tested and write them down on a piece of paper. You don’t only need to be able to recognise them, but to remember its correct spelling.
  • Do the quiz once again and compare your written answers with the ones given in the quiz.

Good luck!

 

Easy? Good! Let’s take the advanced quiz now!

Piece of cake? Well done! Let’s try now the most difficult one!

I’d like to finish this post with an excellent piece of advice from Thomas Jefferson.

“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.”

(Thomas Jefferson, American president  1800-1809, in a letter to his daughter Martha)

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Confusing Words: Finally,In the End, Eventually, Lastly and At Last

Yes, I know, these connectors can be quite confusing; that’s why I have created this beautiful presentation to help you clarify them . I just hope the explanation doesn’t mix you up more. And it’s also, with this mind, the reason why a quiz follows the explanation. Beautifully presented as well. 🙂

To create these two interactive activities I have used Riddle.com, which helps you create interactive content in a few minutes.

Steps to create a Riddle
• Click on the Create Button
• Choose the type of Riddle you want to make. For this post , I have created a List and a Pop Quiz, but you can also create opinion polls and surveys.
• In a Riddle you can use images, animated gifts, articles, youtube videos…etc
• You can share on facebook and twitter or get an embed code for your blog
• The best feauture? It’s free!
I highly recommend Riddle to create beautiful interactive content for your classes.

CONFUSING WORDS: LASTLY, FINALLY, EVENTUALLY, IN THE END, AT LAST

Lastly and Finally

Use LASTLY or FINALLY to introduce the last point you want to make, the last action in a series of actions, or the last item in a list
  • Lastly, I would like to remind you that speaking Spanish is not allowed in this class.
  •  Load the paper, select the number of copies, and lastly press ‘Print’
  • You add flour, salt, and finally milk.

FINALLY and EVENTUALLY

 Use FINALLY  or EVENTUALLY to say that something happens after a long time
  • Finally we managed to get the car to start.
  • When she eventually turned up, the food was cold.

EVENTUALLY and IN THE END

Use EVENTUALLY or IN THE END  to say what the result or outcome of something was
  • They eventually got bored and went home.
  •  In the end we decided to cancel the trip.

AT LAST

Use AT LAST to say that something happens after a long period of waiting or trying, when you are glad about this
  •  It’s good to be home at last.
  •  At last, the pizza’s here!

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Ready for a small quiz?

Confusing Words: Finally,In the End, Eventually, Lastly and At Last

Read the sentences and decide which of the options best fits the gap.
Source: Longman Dictionary of Common Errors

Although she had been ​ill for a ​long ​time, it still came as a ​shock when she ___ ​died

Eventually

At last

__, I’d like to ​thank everyone for coming this ​evening

Eventually

Finally

Thank goodness! I’ve ​finished my ​essay ____!

at last

in the end

___ the baby stopped crying and we managed to get some sleep

Finally/eventually

lastly

Do you really mean that you’ve stopped smoking ___?

at last

finally

___ Spain won by two goals to one.

in the end

at last

___, as soon as you hear a beep, press the start button

Finally

eventually

It seems more and more likely that the human race will ___ destroy itself

eventually

lastly

She showed us the new dress, then the blouse and ___ the shoes

lastly

in the end

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You didn’t score as well as the experts but this means you can only get better! Practise makes perfect so just get stuck in and give it a go. You’ve got to be in it to win it!
[You can use this space to write some funny content to encourage people to share their result. You can also add in links like the one below or choose (in the Customise menu) to show a form that collects user information so you can build an email list etc.]

Viral content expert!

You know everything there is know about creating viral content! Well, almost. Great start – now it’s time to get creating fun viral content. Then you can sit back and watch people share it around the world.
[You can use this space to write some funny content to encourage people to share their result. You can also add in links like the one below or choose (in the Customise menu) to show a form that collects user information so you can build an email list etc.]

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Did you Know…. hung or hanged?

I can almost see my students smiling with a hint of irony painted on their faces when they hear me saying the words” English is very easy”. And yes, you  might disagree with me here but  it all depends on what language you compare it with and, in their case, Spanish grammar is a far cry from English grammar, being the first much more complicated to understand. I am also well aware of the difficulties they have when learning English but we need to focus on the positive things. I wouldn’t be doing a good job if I don’t motivate my students!

But… sometimes… only sometimes, English could be a bit confusing, and the use of  hung and hanged is a little quirk of the English language.

This is what one of my students wrote . “He said that  nobody  lived in that house  because the man who lived there had killed all his family and then he hung himself.”

I crossed it off and wrote “hanged” instead. The verb “hang” can be regular or irregular. You study:

                 hang- hung/hanged-hung/hanged

So far, easy.But when do you use “hung” and when “hanged”? The explanation can be either short or long. I think I’ll go for the short one as you can always check meanings and use in a good dictionary.

  • Hanged is used  when the meaning is
  1. to kill somebody  by tying a rope attached from  above around their neck and removing the support from beneath them .

                              The prisoner  was ​found guilty of the crime  and hanged ​.

       2.  (slang) to damn or be damned: used in mild curses or interjections. 

                               I’ll be hanged before I ask her out again

  • Hung is preferred in all other senses of the word.

Once clarified, it isn’t that difficult, is it?

Do you have time for a little test?

Some pictures ___ on the walls of his house

hung

[collapse]
His arms __ down limply, over the edge of the couch.

hung

[collapse]
Red meat is __ for at least 28 days, making for a memorable steak

hung

[collapse]
He was __ for murder

hanged

[collapse]
I am __if I know

hanged

[collapse]
A heavy gold necklace __ around her neck.

hung

[collapse]
He _____ himself from a beam in the attic

hanged

[collapse]

Most Common Pronunciation Mistakes Heard in Oral Exams

Even for the most confident students  taking an oral exam can be quite stressful. Twice a year, in June and September,  I  assess students’ speaking abilities acting  as both an interlocutor asking questions and interacting with students, or an assessor listening to students’ performance.

It was while acting as an assessor that I  decided to write down the most common pronunciation  mistakes students make  with the intention of  going over them ,with my own students, at the very beginning of the course.

I  have created a quiz with, what I hope, will be the last I see of these pronunciation mistakes. I hope you find it useful!

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Common Errors 5: Spelling Mistakes

My favourite season is undoubtedly spring. The weather starts to warm up and you can enjoy the  warm rays of the morning sun while sipping some iced coffee on the shaded terrace of a cafe.  Sometimes, if  it is a very quiet place, I take with me the exams I need to correct and  what would have been a boring task, takes on a new dimension  I can almost say I enjoy it.

So, once again, it’s all about exams. June also means exam time .

Most probably you don’t have these speling mistakes but, just in case, check  or (much better) double-check  you know how to write these words because, trust me on this one, these are real spelling mistakes from B2 students.

This is how I suggest you do it.

1. Read through the list of misspelt words

2. Look up the ones you don’t know how to spell or check the correct spelling  below the poster

3. Take pen and paper and  write down all the words on the poster  you can remember. Repeat the exercises as many times as necessary until you feel confident  you can remember how to correctly spell the words.

Correct Spelling: comfortable, professional,discussion , responsible, successful, writing, necessary, recommend, appropriate, frequently, opportunity, immediately, foreign, conclusion, beautiful 🙂

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Common Errors 4

Here’s another post dealing with some common errors .These errors are mistakes B1/B2 students make.  I hope you find them helpful!

♥Read the sentence and identify the error

♥Rewrite the sentence correctly

♥Read the corrected version  and the grammar input after the  line

The correct form is: I couldn’t decide what dress to wear but in the end I chose the read one

In the end” means the same as “eventually”, “finally”  “after something has been thought about or discussed a lot”

At the end“ is more physical like “at the end of the road” “at the end of the book” , though you can also say ” at the end of the day”.

Check your understanding with these exercises. Click here

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