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As we know, native speakers sometimes use non-standard English and even make mistakes. Find out about some more 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 more 'mistakes' that native speakers commonly make (except him of course!)

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Hi guys. Dan here for BBC Learning English. In this Masterclass, we'll be taking a look at three grammar mistakes that native speakers commonly make. 

Now, as everybody knows, native speakers of English speak English exactly the way that it's written in grammar books. We never, ever make mistakes... and if you believe that, you'll believe anything. Native speakers make mistakes. It's normal. 

Now, before we continue, it's important to understand that these 'mistakes' are only 'mistakes' according to the standard rules of English, which don't allow for regional variation, personal choice or differences in formality. So take everything that we say with a pinch of salt. Are you ready? Here we go.

Using 'innit' for every question tag

A: Did you see the UEFA final?

B: Yeah! It was quite a good match, innit?

Now it's quite common these days to hear native speakers use 'innit' as an auxiliary verb at the end of a question tag. 'innit' is a corrupted form of 'isn't it' and shouldn't be used this way. Question tags are formed from auxiliary verbs which are taken from the main tense from the main verb. In this case, because the sentence is in the past tense using 'be', your question tag should be 'was'. And because the sentence is affimative, the question tag should be negative. No 'innit', but 'wasn't it'. No!


A: Look over their! They're dog has just stolen that woman's shopping.

B: Ha! There going to be so angry when they catch it.

Now guys, even though this is a relatively simple problem, it's so common that people make mistakes. It's a written problem not a spoken one because these three words are pronounced exactly the same. But don't confuse them when you write them down, OK? 'There' (t-h-e-r-e) is an adverb which shows position of something. 'Their' (t-h-e-i-r) is a possessive adjective that shows ownership. And 'they're' (t-h-e-y'r-e) is a contracted form of 'they are'. Be careful. 

Using 'what' as a relative pronoun

A: Do you have the item what I ordered yesterday?

B: I don't have what you ordered, but I have something which you'll love!

Now guys, 'what' is a very useful word and it can be used to make relative clauses. However, it's unlike the other relative pronouns: who, which or that. These three join with a noun and are followed by a relative clause. 'What' actually means 'the thing which'. It is the relative pronoun and the noun combined. So, if your sentence already has a noun, you need to use 'who', 'which' or 'that'. Have a look here. 

Now, remember guys, spoken communication is often more informal and more relaxed than written communication and it's far more important to be understood than to stick rigidly to the grammar rules. Remember that no one, but no one is perfect… except me! See you next time.


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 'innit' for every question tag

Native speakers sometimes use 'innit' instead of question tags. 'innit' is a corruption of 'isn't it', which is just one type of question tag. Question tags in positive sentences should be formed by taking the main verb and making it negative.

  • "It was quite a good match, innit?"
  • Correction"It was quite a good match, wasn't it?"

2. there/their/they're

When writing, native speakers sometimes use the wrong version of the words there/their/they're. This is because they are pronounced in exactly the same way. 

  • A: Look over their! They're dog has just stolen that woman's shopping.

    B: Ha! There going to be so angry when they catch it.

  • CorrectionA: Look over there! Their dog has just stolen that woman's shopping.

    B: Ha! They're going to be so angry when they catch it.

3. Using 'what' as a relative pronoun

Native speakers sometimes us what as a relative pronoun instead of who, which or, that.

  • Do you have the item what I ordered yesterday?
  • Correction: Do you have the item which/that I ordered yesterday?

To do

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

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?

Parabéns! Você completou o exercício.
Excellent! Excelente! Bad luck! Você acertou:
x / y

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 example of native speaker mistakes watch Part 1 or check out 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.

Pontos de gramática

  • Typical native-speaker 'mistakes'

    1. Using 'innit' for every question tag

    "It was quite a good match, innit?"

    2. Confusing there/their/they're

    A: Look over theirThey're dog has just stolen that woman's shopping.

    B: Ha! There going to be so angry when they catch it.

    3. Using 'what' as a relative pronoun

    Do you have the item what I ordered yesterday?

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