• Common English Mistakes: miss/lose, make/ask, doubt/question

    There are a couple words in English that my students misuse, mostly I believe due to language interference from Latin-based languages. Here are three incorrect sentences I hear often.

    I lost my bus.

    I need to make a question.

    I have some doubts.

    To speakers of Latin-based languages, these sentences may sound correct, but to English speakers they’re a little strange. When are not on time for a bus ride, a plane or an appointment, we say that we “missed” it. For example:

    He missed his bus.

    We missed our flight.

    I missed my appointment with the dentist.

    Saying that you need to ‘make’ a question is similar. It may sound right, and even sort of make sense to an English speaker, but it’s not what we would say. Instead, we use ‘ask.’ For example:

    I need to ask you a question.

    Finally, the overuse of the word ‘doubt.’ My students are often telling me they have a ‘doubt’ about something, when they mean that they have a question. It is possible to that you have a doubt about something, but when you use it that way in English, it means that you’re not looking for an answer. For instance:

    I have some questions about my homework. – In this case, you would follow by asking specific questions about the homework.

    I have some doubts about the president’s policies. – In this case, you’re expressing an opinion that you’re not sure the policies are good, but you are not asking for any specific information.

    Here’s a really terrible song form the early 1990s that will help you to remember to say that you ‘missed’ the bus. If my students make this mistake more than once, they will be assigned to watch this video 10 times 😉

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