Common Grammar Mistakes

Common Mistakes

This portion of grammar is dedicated to mistakes that are commonly made specifically by Taiwanese's students studying English. These are mistakes that I have seen made over and over again in my 5 years experience of teaching English in Taiwan.

"there have" - You can't say "there have" in English. This mistake is often confused with "there are" and "there is". "There is" and "there are" already have the meaning of "have" embedded in them.

"I have ever" -  "Ever" can only been used when asking a question, so one can say " Have you ever been to Taiwan?".

"must to" -  This is incorrect, you can say "I must (verb)." or " I have to (verb)."  I think many students confuse "must to" with "have to".

Fun / funny - These are two different words however Taiwanese students often tend to mix them up. 

"I like to swimming" - When we use "like to" it must be followed by the root form of the verb, " I like to (verb)".  So we must say "I like to swim." , however if we use the Gerund form of  "swim", which is "swimming" we can say "I like swimming".

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Irregular Past Tense Verbs

be was/were been   leave left left
become became become   let let let
begin began begun   lie lay lain
blow blew blown   lose lost lost
break broke broken   make made made
bring brought brought   meet met met
build built built   pay paid paid
burst burst burst   quit quit quit
buy bought bought   read read read
catch caught caught   ride rode ridden
choose chose chosen   ring rang rung
come came come   rise rose risen
cut cut cut   run ran run
deal dealt dealt   say said said
do did done   see saw seen
drink drank drunk   seek sought sought
drive drove driven   sell sold sold
eat ate eaten   send sent sent
fall fell fallen   shake shook shaken
feed fed fed   shine shone shone
feel felt felt   sing sang sung
fight fought fought   sit sat sat
find found found   sleep slept slept
fly flew flown   speak spoke spoken
forbid forbade forbidden   spend spent spent
forget forgot forgotten   spring sprang sprung
forgive forgave forgiven   stand stood stood
freeze froze frozen   steal stole stolen
get got gotten   swim swam swum
give gave given   swing swung swung
go went gone   take took taken
grow grew grown   teach taught taught
have had had   tear tore torn
hear heard heard   tell told told
hide hid hidden   think thought thought
hold held held   throw threw thrown
hurt hurt hurt   understand understood understood
keep kept kept   wake woke (waked) woke (waked)
know knew known   wear wore worn
lay laid laid   win won won
lead led led   write wrote written

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Plural Nouns

Plural Noun Spelling

In English is we are talking about more than one noun we must refer to it in it's plural form. This is simply done by adding "s" onto the end of any countable noun. This is the case most of the time with the exception of the situations listed below:

We make a noun plural by adding "es" when the singular noun ends in the following letters:   



When a noun ends in a consonant + "y" (-by/-ly/-sy, etc.) we make the noun plural by deleting the "y" and adding "ies"



Plural Noun Spelling 

Some nouns have a completely different word when we make them plural, these nouns are called irregular plural nouns. Refer to the chart below for a complete list of these nouns.

child children   man men
die dice   mouse mice
foot feet   person people
fish fish   tooth teeth
goose geese   woman women

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Sentence Structure

There are basically two things that you have to understand in order to write and speak good English.

1. English is a “word-order-language”

What this means is that word order is necessary to the meaning of everything we say and write. When we speak English we discover that the word order is very inflexible and must be followed at most times. There are of course some exceptions to this, however the basic word order in English is as follows: Subject-Verb-Object-Manner-Place-Time (S/V/O/M/P/T)

Try to train yourself to use this pattern when speaking or writing. You must also be careful not to change the nouns around because it can really change the meaning of what you are saying.

For example: The customer paid the cashier. (The customer being the Subject and the cashier the Object) or The Cashier paid the customer. This sentence has a totally different meaning.

2. Sentence Structure

Sentence structure is the way we show a relationship between ideas and events. There are basically three different kinds of sentence structure that you must learn.

A) The simple sentence – this type of sentence simply contains a subject and a verb.
E.g. “ All the shoes were sold.”

B) The compound sentence – this type of sentence has two or more simple sentences that are connected by a conjunction such as: but, and, or, etc.
E.g. “ I asked her the question but she didn’t answer me.

C)    The complex sentence – this type of sentence has two or more simple sentences that are connected by a conjunction such as: when, since, as soon as, etc.
E.g. “ We knew we lost the game as soon as they made a goal 

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Grammar Quizzes

Requests: Will, Would, Could, Can, Would you mind...?

Questions: Will / Could / Would / Can
Will / Could
Would / Can*
Subject Base form of the Verb Example
you give me some help on Sunday?
buy some milk for me?
fill up my car with gas?

* Will, would, could and can are modals. Modals don't have -s in the third person singular.

Short Answer   Short Answer
Affirmative   Negative
Of course
(I will)
(I can)
  I'm sorry, but I can't


Questions : Would you mind...?
Would you mind Gerund Example
Would you mind giving me some help on Sunday?
buying some milk for me?
filling up my car with gas?


Short Answer   Short Answer
Affirmative   Negative
No, not at all.
I'd be glad to.
  I'm sorry, but I can't

Notes to keep in mind:

1. We use will, can, could and would when we ask someone to do something.

We usually use will and can for requests that are informal

We use could and would to make the request less demanding


Friend: Can/will you help me with my homework?

Boss: Could/would you type this letter for me?

2. We can also use Would you mind + gerund to make a polite request. A negative answer to this question means you agree to the person’s request.


A: Would you mind looking after my dog on Monday?

B: Not at all (I’d be glad to)

3. Please can be used to make the request more polite. Notice the different word order on the right.


Could you please turn up the TV?
Could you turn up the TV please?

4. We normally expect the answer to be yes when we ask polite requests. When we can’t say yes we usually apologize and give a reason.
* Don’t use could or would when answering a polite question, this is considered impolite.


A: Could you pick up my suit at the dry cleaners?

B: I’m sorry, I can’t. I have a meeting after work.

A: I’m broke, would you lend me NT 500.

B: Of course ( NOT Yes, I would)

Exercise 1. Check the appropriate answer.

1. Mike would you please drive me to class today? My car won't start.
a. Yes, I would. b. I'd be glad to.
2. Would you mind lending me NT 1000? I'm getting paid tomorrow.
a. No, not at all. b. Yes.
3. Mike can you take these books back to the library for me? I'm running late this morning.
a. I'm late for class too. Sorry. b. No, I can't.
4. Could you lock the door when you leave? My hands are full.
a. Yes, I could. b. Sure.
5. Can you turn the radio down? I need to study for my test tomorrow.
a. Certainly. b. Not at all.
6. Will you pick up some milk on the way home this afternoon?
a. No, I won't b. I'm sorry, I can't. I'll be late for work.

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