10 Common Mistakes Advanced ESL Learners Make

Even proficient users of English as a Second Language (ESL) commit mistakes. But don't despair. Mastering English is a lifetime process so it's all right to always find something new to learn every day. Be aware of these common mistakes and corrections and do your best to apply the correct form as you write and speak.

1. No doubt the world is getting smaller.

  • Say or Write: There is no doubt that the world is getting smaller.
  • Here's why: No doubt means probably or I suppose, not certainly

2. My mom worries more than what/it is necessary.

  • Say or Write: My mom worries more than is necessary.
  • Here's why: Than and as can replace subjects in clauses so nouns and pronouns are not used after them.

3. Would you follow me wherever I would go?

  • Say or Write: Would you follow me wherever I went?
  • Here's why: Would and will are avoided in subordinate clauses; instead, we use past verbs.

4. What live in those tiny holes? Rodents do.

  • Say or Write: What lives in those tiny holes? Rodents do.
  • Here's why: Who and what, when used to ask for the subject of a clause, most often have singular verbs, even if the question expects a plural answer.

5. A third of my workmates is from abroad.

  • Say or Write: A third of my workmates are from abroad.
  • Here's why: Plural verbs are used when talking about numbers of people or things, even after singular fraction.

6. When I closed the door, I sat down and had a cup of coffee. 

  • Say or Write: When I had  closed the door, I sat down and had a cup of coffee.
  • Here's why: We use the past perfect (had + past participle) to emphasize that the first action is separate, independent of the second or completed before the second action began.

7. Joyce can never return back to Paris.

  • Say or Write: Joyce can never return or go back to Paris.
  • Here's why: When there's already a verb to express return to an earlier situation or opposite direction, back is not used. 

8. I wish you felt/would feel better tomorrow. 

  • Say or Write: I hope you feel better tomorrow. 
  • Here's why: Wish is not generally used for wishes about things that seem possible in the future. Instead, we use the phrase I hope followed by a present tense with a future meaning.

9. It is too good chance to pass up.

  • Say or Write: It is too good a chance to pass up.
  • Here's why: After as, how, too, so, and this/thatadjectives are followed a/an

10. I'm very thankful for all your help.

  • Say or Write: I'm very grateful for all your help.
  • Here's why: We are grateful of kindness, favors, etc., but we are especially thankful when we have avoided danger or we have come through an unpleasant experience. 

I hope you've learned something new. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to use the comment box below. Cheers!


  • Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (Oxford University Press, 2009)
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