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Even native speakers sometimes make mistakes. Find out about some typical native-speaker 'mistakes' in this Masterclass with Dan

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BBC Masterclass

Native-speaker 'mistakes' 

You may think that all native speakers are perfect and they never make mistakes in English - but it's not true! Dan's here to tell you about three 'mistakes' that native speakers commonly make (except him of course!)

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Dan
Hi guys. Dan for BBC Learning English here. In this Masterclass we’ll be taking a look at the 'mistakes' that native speakers commonly make. Are you ready? Here we go.

Behold native speakers in their natural environment. Observe how they interact verbally – filled with deep and meaningful communication. They are social, verbose, articulate and always always ALWAYS 100% grammatically correct. Worship them in all their glory.

Rubbish! Native speakers make mistakes too – not me, I’m fantastic, but everybody else.

Now guys, it’s important to remember that as we continue that these mistakes are only mistakes according to the rules of standard English. But the rules of standard English don't allow for regional variation, changes in formality and personal preference, which is of course very important. So please bear this in mind as we continue. Are you ready?

Number 1. Using past participles instead of past simple.

A: John, how was the test? Have you finished?

B: Yeah! I done it!

Stop stop stop! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this. In this case a person has used a past participle either as a past simple verb like 'I did it' or they've forgotten to include 'have' to make the present perfect. 'I have done it'. If the action is completed and in the past they should use the past simple 'I did it', and if the action is completed in the past and but is still important in the conversation now, they should use 'I have done it'. No!

A: John, how was the test? Have you finished?

B: Yeah! I have done it!

Number 2.  Using 'me' instead of 'I'

So, it's quite common to hear people say 'Me and John went to the shops'. But technically this is wrong. 'Me' is an object pronoun, but in the sentence 'me and John went to the shops', 'me' and 'John' are subjects. That means that 'me' should be 'I'. Secondly, in English it is considered impolite to put yourself before someone else, so they should switch the pronouns around. Not 'I and John' but 'John and I'. Got it? No!

Number 3. Splitting infinitives

A: Ok, we’ve got the shopping…is there anything else?

B: Yes, I need to quickly stop at the bank.

So a full infinitive is a construction of  'to + a verb'. Many would argue that 'to' and the verb should never be separated and this usually happens when an adverb intrudes. For example, 'I wanted to violently punch him in the head!' What we should do is move the adverb to the position after the verb or the position before. So, in this sentence 'I need to quickly stop at the bank' we should say 'I quickly need to stop at the bank' or 'I need to stop at the bank quickly'. Got it? No!

Remember guys, that spoken communication is usually more informal and more relaxed than written communication and it's more important to be clearly understood than to stick to rigid grammar rules. Go out there and do your best, that's the most important thing and remember that no one, but no one is perfect… except me! See you next time.

Summary

Native speakers often say things that don't follow the rules of standard English. This is due to regional variation, changes in formality and personal preference. Here are three typical native speaker 'mistakes':

1. Using past participles instead of past simple

Native speakers sometimes use a past participle instead of a past simple verb - or they forget to include 'have' to make the present perfect.

  • "John, how was the test? Have you finished?" "Yeah! I done it!"
  • Correction"John, how was the test? Have you finished?" "Yeah! I have done it! / I did it."

2. Using 'me' instead of 'I'

Native speakers sometimes use the object pronoun me instead of the subject pronoun I and put these in the wrong order.

  • Me and John went to the shops.
  • Correction: John and I went to the shops.

3. Splitting infinitives

Native speakers often separate the 'to' from the 'infinitive' - normally by inserting an adverb.

  • I need to quickly stop at the bank.
  • Correction: I quickly need to stop at the bank OR I need to stop at the bank quickly.

Note: In spoken English, split infinitives are quite common and are not normally viewed as an error. Splitting an infinitive can make the meaning of your sentence clearer and more natural.

  • You need to really pay attention here.
  • I want our profit to more than double this year.

To do

Next, try this quiz to see if you can correct the native speaker mistakes!

Correcting native speaker 'mistakes'

5 Questions

Here are some examples of common 'mistakes' made by native speakers. Can you correct them by choosing the 'standard English' version?

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End of Session

That's it for this session. So, remember don't worry too much if you make mistakes sometimes - native speakers often do too! For more information about native speaker mistakes watch this episode of Stop Saying with Tim.

Join us for News Review, where we'll be discussing a major story in the news, and the language you need to understand it.

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  • Typical native speaker 'mistakes'

    1. Using past participles instead of past simple.

    "John, how was the test? Have you finished?"
    "Yeah! I done it!"

    2. Using 'me' instead of 'I'

    Me and John went to the shops.

    3. Splitting infinitives

    I need to quickly stop at the bank.

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