Fun vs. Funny: Common ESL Mistakes

May 19, 2021 by Ashlee Hunter

When learning any new language, mistakes happen often. When learning English, some mistakes are more common than others. Here are some examples of common mistakes and how to fix them.

Fun vs. Funny

At times, some ESL learners mix up the definitions for fun and funny. When something is fun, you enjoy it and get pleasure from it. When something is funny, it makes you laugh.

Example

The card game is fun to play with my family.
That movie was so funny I couldn’t stop laughing.

Played vs. Hung out

These two verbs get switched quite a bit. We can use play with friends when we are talking about children or when the friends are playing a game or sport. However, when adults are with their friends doing general activities, we use the phrase ‘hang out’ or ‘hang around’.

Example

We played basketball with his neighbours last night.
The kids played together at the park.
My friends and I hung out at my house yesterday.

Basically From vs. Originally From

When using the word ‘basically’, we are referring to almost. If something is basically the same as something else, it is nearly the same. We use this word when trying to show how alike two things are and exaggerate our comparison. If someone is talking about where they are from, they cannot say, “I’m basically from India and have lived in Canada for three years.” If someone was trying to exaggerate the truth, they could say, “I was born in India but have lived in Canada since I was six months old, so I’m basically Canadian.”

Example

A turtle and a tortoise are basically the same, except one is a bit bigger.
I’m originally from Japan, but I’ve lived in Canada for 10 years.

Years Old vs. Year Old

When referring to someone’s age, you don’t need an ‘s’ when emphasizing the person. If you’re emphasizing the age, use an ‘s’.

Example

My brother is 14 years old.
My brother is a 14-year-old boy.

Many vs. Much

Although the rule that many = countable and much = uncountable, these words often get mixed up. As a trick, always put a number in front of it. If it sounds correct, it’s probably a countable noun. If it sounds strange, it’s probably an uncountable noun—for example, 1 money, 2 money, etc. We wouldn’t say this, so it’s probably uncountable. With 1 bill, 2 bills, etc., this sounds correct, so it’s probably countable.

Example

In the restaurant, there are many people.
I have many things to do today.
She doesn’t have much money.
pink and blue eraser on paper

She vs. He

Even though this is a small mistake, it can make a story very confusing. It is a challenge for many ESL learners from different countries, so that mastering pronouns can be a score booster on the IELTS test.

Example

She is my sister. Her name is Julia.
He has three brothers. They are all younger than him.

Did a Mistake vs. Make a Mistake

This is a common mistake made by English learners. The verb best-suited for mistake is make.

Example

I made a mistake on my homework last week. I make mistakes when I’m not focused on my task.

More Better vs. Better

Comparatives can be confusing. Some words add ‘er’ or ‘ier’, and some words use ‘more’. Then some words completely change. The word ‘better’ is one of them. This means that you cannot put an ‘er’ or use the word ‘more’ in front of it.

Example

That restaurant on Smith Street is better than the one on Ban Road.

Suggest Me vs. Suggest

Commonly, English language learners want to put the word ‘me’ after the word ‘suggest’. However, when you use the word ‘suggest’, you are talking about yourself or the person you are talking to. In this case, you can omit the word ‘me’ because the person will know who you are talking about from the context of the question or sentence.

Example

Can you suggest a good lawyer?
I suggest that you call your mother right now.
I suggest going to the office instead of calling.

I’m Agree vs. I Agree

This can be a common mistake for ESL learners. In this example, ‘agree’ is the verb, so you only need to say, ‘I agree’. The verb ‘to be’ can be used in front of a verb when forming continuous or passive tenses.

Example

I agree with what you said.

I Going vs. I’m Going

Here, you need to use the verb ‘to be’ because you are creating a continuous tense.

Example

I am going to see my dad at the hospital tonight.
I’m going to the beach this afternoon.
right or wrong x or check mark graphic
Some phrases above have different meanings and can be used in different ways. Some phrases are being used incorrectly. Think about what you say when using these phrases. The best way to improve is to recognize your mistakes and learn from them.



Ashlee has been involved in the ESL world for over ten years and has now planted her roots in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nothing gives her more pleasure than watching students and candidates reach their language and IELTS goals.

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