Common Native English Speaker Mistakes Part 5

Common Native English Speaker Mistakes Part 5


It’s time we examine a few more of the most common grammar errors that native English speakers routinely commit. These are the sorts of mistakes that native speakers hear growing up and end up unconsciously repeating. Learn to identify these errors, and make an effort to avoid incorporating them into your own speech and writing.


Using Apostrophes to Form Plurals

In English, the apostrophe has two uses. The first is to form contractions:


I can’t [cannot] make it to the game because I have to work.


The second is to show possession:


Is that Jim’s car across the street?


(The car belongs to Jim)


The students’ grades will be posted by Monday.


(The grades belong to the students.)


An apostrophe cannot be used to make a word plural:


Only three student’s attended the class on Friday. (Incorrect)


Only three students attended the class on Friday. (Correct)


Confusing Lose and Loose

Lose is a verb that means to be without something:


We can’t afford to lose another client to our competitors.


Lose is also the opposite of win:


If the team loses the game on Saturday, it will be eliminated from the playoffs.


Loose is an adjective that means to be free from or not restricted by. It is the opposite of tight:


The wind blew the loose pile of leaves all over the yard.


Remember to wear loose-fitting closing the day of the surgery.


Lay and Lie

These words confuse many native speakers because lay is actually the past tense of lie. However, lay is also a present tense verb in its own right. Making the situation even more confusing, the present tense lay has its own unique past tense form: laid.


In the present tense, use lie when there is no direct object:


I need to lie down.


But use lay when there is a direct object:


Please lay the brochures on the table in the lobby.


Here is an example of lay as the past tense of lie:


I lay down after I finished the race.


Finally, here is an example of lain functioning as the past tense of the present tense lay:


He laid the brochures on the wrong table.


Here is a quick table of the different forms of lay/lie, as well as the past participles for each:


Present Tense Past Tense Past Participle

(no direct object)

Lay Lain

(direct object required)

Laid Laid