English Language Blog

Getting straight some common mistakes in English Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in English Grammar

Today I have a quick review for you of some common mistakes people make in English and some ideas for you to keep these different words straight so you don’t make these common mistakes again.

“For” vs. “since”
For and since are both prepositions that deal with time. “Since” is used with a specific point in time (for example: 9:00am, this morning, 2 years ago). “For” on the other hand is used to talk about a duration, or a length, of time (for example: five hours, three day, six years).
Here are some examples of how to use these prepositions in sentences:
I have lived in this house since I was born.
I have been waiting since 5:00am to get into the store.
He has been sitting in front of the house for 30 minutes waiting.
She has lived here for 50 years.

“That” vs. “who”
When used as pronouns “who” is used to refer to people, while “that” refer things.
Jill is a person who I can really rely on.
 The team that Jill plays on is the team that won first place.

In” vs. “on” when talking about transportation
When talking about going somewhere in any kind of vehicle “in” and “on” are very common prepositions. You should use the preposition “in” when talking about going in cars. You should use on with everything else that moves. So, you get on a plane, on a boat, on a train, on a scooter, on a skateboard, etc., but you get in a car and a in a taxi (because a taxi is a kind of car).
Get in the car and let’s go!
Patti didn’t want to get on the boat because she is afraid of water.

“In time” vs. “on time”
To be “in time” means you have done something before a deadline or before a time limit has expired. Whereas to be “on time” means to be punctual, to arrive at the time stated.
Here are some examples:
I got to the store just in time; it was about to close.
Paul prides himself on always being on time for work every day. His boss likes that he is never late.

“Boring” vs. “bored”
“Bored” is an adjective that describes a person’s feeling of being tired or uninterested because they have nothing to do. “Boring” is also an adjective, but it describes when someone or something is not interesting or exciting. You insult yourself when you say ‘I’m boring’, but if you say ‘I’m bored’ you are just describing how you are feeling.
When I’m bored I like to see what is on TV.
I think it is boring to watch TV all day; I would rather be outside doing something.

“I used to” with “I am used to”
“I used to” is used to refer to something you did in the past, but you don’t do anymore. “I am used to” on the other hand refers to being accustomed or familiar with something based on experience.
For example: When I was a child I used to climb trees. (This implies you no longer climb trees.)
I am used to climbing trees, because I have to climb for my job. (This implies you climb trees often.)

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. jmtech:

    The correct way of using who and whom also confuses many people.

    EPiC Online ( http://www.epiclanguage.com )