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5 of the Most Common Mistakes to Avoid in English

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Ever find yourself wondering when to use ‘a’ and ‘an’? Or why the same word might be spelled in a range of different ways, depending on where you look?

You’re not the only one! In fact, a lot of learners find that the smaller, subtler details in written and spoken English can often be the most difficult and challenging.

Even when you’ve got your head around all the complicated grammar rules – you can still come unstuck on these!

So if you want to avoid them, you better check out our list of the most common mistakes out there…

  1. Using ‘a’ and ‘an’

Both ‘a’ and ‘an’ are called indefinite articles. You use them before a word to describe something that is not specific – for example, if you are talking about “a book”, it could be any book at all.

But how do you decide which one to use, and why is there a difference in the first place? The simple answer is – you use ‘a’ in front of words that start with a consonant sound, and ‘an’ in front of a word that starts with a vowel sound.

Sometimes that means that words that behind with a consonant letter will use the article “an”, while words that start with a vowel start use “a”! For example you would say “an historic moment” , “a unique feeling” and “an understanding”.

  1. Advise and advice

These two words both relate to a similar subject – giving advice about something. So why is there a spelling difference between the two?

It depends on how the word is used, as this one can be both a verb and a noun. If you want to “advise” someone on what to do – that is, use the word as a verb – then it’s spelled with an ‘s’. But if you’re taking or giving “advice” from someone, then you spell the word with a ‘c’.

Simple, right?

  1. All together and altogether

This is another set of words that look very similar, but have a subtle difference when it comes to meaning.

“Altogether” means to look at something, having considered all aspects involved, or to the full extent of something taking place.

“All together” meanwhile, describes an entire group of things, gathered together.

For example:

“She was altogether very fed up after working late.”

“We got the bill and paid for it all together.”

  1. A.M and P.M

These two abbreviations are used to describe different times of day, and can be very useful! “A.M” describes anytime in the morning – starting from after midnight, to just before midday.

“P.M” describes the second period – from just after midday, to just before midnight.

Remember that you don’t need to say that a time happens in the morning, afternoon or evening, if you are using these as it’s already clear.

  1. Anyone and any one

With this pair, there is quite a clear difference between the two sets of words. “Anyone” means any person that is relevant to the context, while “any one” describes a single and specific item or person.

For example:

“Is anyone going to the party on Saturday?”

“You can join any one of the groups on the list.”

Have you come across any other common mistakes? What are you trying to avoid? Let us know!