10 more mistakes made by German speakers who are learning English

This is the second part in a series about the mistakes that German speakers make when they speak or write English. You can read part one here

1. I am waiting for you since 2 o’clock

This isn’t right because you started waiting at some point in the past. Therefore in English, this action has to be in the present perfect tense “I have been waiting” to show that the action started in the past and is still going on now. “I have been working on this document since I got here this morning.” These sentences should never be in the present tense.

2. I have been working here since three years

This time, the tense is right, but you can’t use “since” when you’re talking about a period of time. “Since” is used for saying when something started.

The correct choice here is “for”, because this talks about a period of time. How long did it take? How long have you been doing something? “I have been working here for three years.”

You shouldn’t use “since” in this sentence because you are talking about a period of time, not the time when something started.

“For” can be used to talk about finished actions in the past, such as “I went to Sweden for a week last year”, but “since” isn’t used in this way.

3. It were

“It were” doesn’t exist. If you are talking about something in the past, use “it was”. If you are using “were”, because you are talking about a plural, use “there were”.

It was a beautiful day yesterday.
There were a lot of people outside.

4. I look forward to see you on Thursday

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday
Or
I am looking forward to seeing you on Thursday.

Either of these are fine. However, you can’t say “look forward to see you”. Remember that the verb that follows “look forward to” has to be in the gerund or –ing form.

5. Can you learn me how to do that?

You can learn something. I can teach you something. However, I can’t learn you something.

In the same way, I can lend you something and you can borrow something from me.

Kirsty working with students

6. Handy number

We talk about our phones, sometimes our iPhones, sometimes our mobiles – but we never use the word “handy” for this device.

“Handy” means convenient. We live near the shops, which is handy if I don’t buy enough milk. I can quickly go to the shop nearby instead of driving to the supermarket.

7. I told to him

You can say something to someone or explain something to them, but you tell them. You never tell “to” them.

8. We’ll see us next week

This is wrong because it should be “we’ll see each other next week”.

9. Tag questions

I may do an article specifically about these, but basically these are used if we think that something is true and we want the other person to confirm it.

If the first part is positive, the second part has to be negative:
You’re coming to the meeting tomorrow, aren’t you?
You replied to the email about the seminar, didn’t you?
All the students passed the exam, didn’t they?

If the first part is negative, the question part has to be positive:
You don’t like fish, do you?
You haven’t replied to my email yet, have you?
You won’t be available on for a meeting on Thursday, will you?

You can’t just add the word “or?” at the end of a statement to get this effect.

10. Compound nouns

We have less of them in English than in some other languages, such as German. For example, mailing list, kitchen table and Christmas present are never written together. We do have some compound nouns, such as bathroom, postman and motorbike, but be careful about joining words together to form huge compound nouns.

More from English with Kirsty

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If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in my book, “Feel confident using your business English”.

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