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Common Mistakes Made By Non-Native English Speakers

February 22, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 215

There are many mistakes that non-native speakers make when speaking or writing English, and in this article I will cover one of the most common ones: the use of the indefinite and definite articles - a/an/the and of course, the zero article (when no article is used at all).

The Indefinite Article: If we look at the use of 'a' or 'an', we need to decide whether the noun is countable or uncountable, as they will only be used with singular countable nouns, and only if the noun is general, e.g. I am sitting on a chair. I went to a wedding last weekend. We don't know which chair or which wedding is being talked about. It is also the first time the chair and the wedding have been mentioned, so we use 'a' or 'an'.

'An' is normally used before singular countable nouns that begin with a vowel, e.g. an apple, an orange, an egg, an ice-cream, an umbrella, or before a noun beginning with silent 'h' - an hour, an honest man, an heiress. However, non-native speakers of English do not usually think about the sound of the word they are writing or saying. The words 'one' and 'once' begin with a vowel, but the sound or phoneme is 'w', so a native English speaker would say: a one-legged man, or a once in a lifetime opportunity. Equally, the initials MA, which is short for a master's degree, would be called an MA, because the sound is 'em', which sounds as if it starts with a vowel, but it doesn't. The same rule would apply to any letter which sounds like 'e', e.g. F, L, N, S, X and Z. Hence you may need to have an X-ray if you think you have broken your leg.

The Definite Articleis usually used when we are being more specific about the noun or defining it is some way, or it is the only one or the one that everyone knows you are talking about. e.g. the wedding was held at Westminster Abbey. The chair that l am sitting on, is made of wood. The sun is shining. Please put the plates on the table. 'the' is also used before plural nouns and some named buildings such as pubs, art galleries, museums and theatres - The Spyglass and Kettle, The Tate Gallery, The Teddy Bear Museum and The National Theatre.

Zero Article. Finally, non-native English speakers find the rules for using 'the' or 'zero article very confusing. 'the' is used before the names of rivers, seas, oceans, groups of islands and mountain ranges. e.g. The Thames, The Baltic Sea, The Atlantic Ocean, The Philippines and The Alps. And before the names of countries if they contain a noun or are plurals e.g. the USA, the Netherlands, the UK and the UAE.

On the other hand, there is no article before the names of countries, continents, lakes, single islands and mountains. e.g. America, Europe, Lake Geneva, Cuba and Everest.

As a final thought, do you play tennis or golf? And do you play the piano or the flute? We should not forget that English is an illogical living language with many idiosyncrasies but is all the richer for them.

Sarah Short is the Principal of Tudor Hall School of English, based on the beautiful south coast of England. Sarah has worked in some of the best EFL schools in the area and has a long history of success in running her own schools - both in the UK and abroad. In addition to being a CELTA qualified teacher, she is a young learner specialist of note.

To find out about the courses available at this unique school, visit Tudor Hall

Source: EzineArticles
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