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Thread: Common Mistakes Native Germanic Language Speakers Make

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    Common Mistakes Native Germanic Language Speakers Make

    I've often seen Americans and Brits confusing you're with your, its with it's etc., even more often than people who speak English as a foreign language do.

    Some further examples:



    What are some mistakes you've noticed native speakers of English, as well as any other Germanic languages make and what do you think is to blame for it? Illiteracy, lack of education, laziness, etc.?

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    A common mistake native English speakers seem to make make and I never understood why and still don't, is using "would of" instead of "would have". I simply can't wrap my head around it how someone could confuse of for have in written language.
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    Don't worry, I am right there with you on this issue! Please keep pointing out the improper use of commas, periods, apostrophes and of vs have. As for grammar, I don't care how others do it, but reserve the right to use the passive voice and even got into an argument with my University professor, citing academic sources for my reasons.

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    I've seen almost all of these a zillion times and willfully continue doing some of them, perhaps even in this post A teacher once told me you weren't allowed to break the rules of English until you've learned them.

    One that I've seen time and time again and has, for the most part, gone under the radar is the difference between well and good. Strong suspicion that it's a class marker too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Juthunge View Post
    A common mistake native English speakers seem to make make and I never understood why and still don't, is using "would of" instead of "would have". I simply can't wrap my head around it how someone could confuse of for have in written language.
    My guess is that most of us hear it purely as a contraction in our heads (would've) and rarely say it in its full form. Definitely a weird mistake to make.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Juthunge View Post
    A common mistake native English speakers seem to make make and I never understood why and still don't, is using "would of" instead of "would have". I simply can't wrap my head around it how someone could confuse of for have in written language.
    It’s just the sound of it. People don’t think of it as “would’ve” when they finally write it down. Most people hear the contraction as closer to “of” and make the mistake without thinking too much about it.

    Speaking of this, when I began learning German it made me reflect on how interesting the word “have” is in English. Possessive, yet it can also function like an auxiliary verb: “must” or “should”. And then when you really sit there and think about a sentence like “he would have had to have known!”, it hurts your head a little, but spoken - it makes complete sense.

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    I had thought , that it is auto completion responsible for those mistakes .
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    Homophones (accept/except, affect/effect, allowed/aloud, weather/whether) are pretty common among native English speakers, as is the confusion of subject and object pronouns (I/me, they/them) or adjectives and adverbs (e.g. "He sang really good"/"I felt badly about it"). Some native English have trouble using the subjunctive correctly, e.g. "If I was rich", "If you would have told me the truth", etc.

    Native Germans also struggle with the subjunctive moods properly or mix them up (Konjunktiv I is for indirect speech and Konjunktiv II is the conditional).

    A very common mistake among native Germans is to say "es macht (keinen) Sinn". Grammatically wrong but one hears it literally all the time, to the point that Duden added it as a colloquial entry. The phrase comes from the literal translation of the English "it makes (no) sense". The correct, traditional wording would be "es ergibt (keinen) Sinn".

    Many Germans are afraid of using the genitive case and gradually replacing it with the dative (Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod), e.g. "wegen dir" instead of "Deinetwegen" or "wegen dem Hund" instead of "wegen des Hundes". The reason behind this is that to many people the genitive sounds old-fashioned. Some Germans use the preposition "von" to work around it (e.g. "der Hund von meiner Schwester" instead of "der Hund meiner Schwester") or come up with phrasings like "meine Schwester ihr Hund". Another mistake here is using the English gentive, e.g. "Sandra's Hairstyling" "Jerry's Imbiss". This is referred to as the Deppenapostroph (i.e. the idiot's apostrophe). The correct German spelling is without the apostrophe (i.e. "Sandras Hairstyling").

    Prepositions indicating movements are often used incorrectly in German, for example "Ich gehe bei Aldi" or "Ich gehe nach Aldi" instead of "Ich gehe zu Aldi". In this context, "gehen" implies not simply moving towards the supermarket, but also the act of shopping there, thus the correct expression would be "Ich gehe zu Aldi". Because this matter is complicated enough for native speakers, some German-speaking foreigners have given up on the prepositions altogether ("Ich gehe Aldi"). If in doubt which preposition to use, "zu" should be one's go to. The reason behind this is that one can substitute other prepositions ("in", "auf" and "an") by using "zu". "Nach" on the other hand cannot be replaced.

    Comparatives have also been known to cause trouble with some Germans. Often, following a majority comparative they will use "wie" instead of "als", the correct form that introduces the second comparative term (e.g. "Ich bin größer wie du" instead of "Ich bin größer als du"). "Wie” would be correct to use after an equal comparative (e.g. "Ich bin so groß wie du"= I am as tall as you"). Many native Germans confuse "das gleiche" and "dasselbe". The former implies a different, but similar copy, e.g. "das gleiche Kleid wie Anna" (the same model of dress), while the latter refers to the literally the same item, e.g. "dasselbe Kleid, das ich bei meinem Geburtstag anhatte" (the exact same dress I wore on my birthday). Also, using superlatives for words where it doesn't make sense, e.g. "das Perfekteste", "der einzigste". Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as "the most perfect" or "the most unique".

    "Zumindestens" - this word doesn't actually exist in German. It comes from merging two different words with the same meaning, "zumindest" and "mindestens" (i.e. at least).

    Mixing "das" (as relative pronoun starting a subordinating clause) and "dass" (starting a common subordinate clause).

    Using definite articles in conjunction with people's names (der Daniel, die Maria) has also become pretty common.

    One that particularly gets on my nerves is dropping the courtesy form and using "du" instead of "Sie" in informal situations. During recent years there's been a tendency to reduce formality, especially among young people and in fields like marketing and customer service.

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    My absolute favourite is "could of" instead of "could have". That's just horrible.
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    This might be a bit off-topic, since this thread is about native speakers, but one thing I've noticed about Germans writing English, is their some times odd use of contractions like I've (as in: 'I have'). For example in sentences like: "There's something I've to tell you". It seems very off to me, and I wonder if those who write it actually talk that way as well. I've never noticed any English-speaking Germans ever saying something like that, so perhaps it's an oddity that only happens in writing.
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    One such re-occuring error I've noticed is Anglos writing "dominate", when what they really meant to write is "dominant".
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