Common Grammar Errors in Writing of First Year Students in Faculty of English Language Teacher Education

Full text


Vietnam National University, Hanoi

University of Languages and International Studies

Faculty of English Language Teacher Education

Common grammar errors in

Writing of first year students

in Faculty of English

Language Teacher


Supervisor: Ms. Can Thi Chang


Students. Tran Thi Hong.

Bui Thi Duyen.

Group. 09E13.


Hanoi, March 2010

Table of contents.

Acknowledgements Page

A. Introduction:

1. Reasons for choosing the topic………..5

2. The process of our research………...6

3. Methods of study………...6

B. Body

Chapter I: Literature review.

I.1. Nature of errors………9

I.1.1. Definition of errors………9

I.2. Common grammar errors………10

Chapter II: Common grammar errors of first-year

in Faculty of English Language Teacher Education.

II.1. Aims of the study……….12

II.2. Subjects of the study………...12

II.3. Design of the study………..12

II.4. Analysis of the Students Survey Questionnaire………...12

II.4.1. An overview………..12

II.4.2. Common written errors………13


II.4.3. Students’ attitudes towards written errors………14

II.4.4. Cause of written errors………..……16

II.4.5. Teachers’ ideas about error correction………...18

II.5. Analysis portfolios………19

II.5.1. Comma usage……….19

II.5.2. Verb tenses……….20

II.5.3. Conjunctions………...24

II.5.4. Run-on sentences………24

II.5.5. Articles: a/an/the………...25

Chapter III: Strategies and recommendations to correct errors

III.1. Identification of errors………...27

III.2. Classification of errors………....27

III.3. Techniques for correcting errors………..28

III.3.1. Writing and checking portfolios………...28

III.3.2. Effective use of dictionaries………..30

III.3.3. From effective reading to successful writing…………....32

III.3.4. Using Internet to correct errors……….33

III.3.5. In class activities………...34

C. Conclusion





First and foremost, we would like to express our warmest thanks to our supervisor, Ms. Can Thi Chang Duyen, for her valuable guidance, corrections and suggestions throughout our preparation for this research paper.

Next, we would also like to take this opportunity to give our special attitude to our classmates who have always encouraged and supported us during our study.

Last but not least, we want to show our sensational thanks to our respectful teachers and classmates in classes E5, E8, E11, E13 for their marvelous contributive ideas and help.

Finally, we all hope that this small study can be given comments, corrections and feedbacks from teachers and other interested people so that it could be useful to 1styear



1. The reasons for choosing that topic.

Of the four language skills, writing is the most challenging one for learners, especially for freshmen. In fact, there are some kinds of writing which are new to students coming from the countryside. It demands good grammar, vocabulary and natural talent. In our opinion, it also has great effects on other skills such as speaking, reading and listening. No one can do reading comprehension exercises without any knowledge of grammar, structure and vocabulary. No one can speak English well if he/she does not have any interesting ideas and know how to express them

After studying at ULIS for 3 months, we realize that first-year students often make many different writing mistakes, mainly in grammar. They find it difficult to express their ideas in English. In fact, we know a girl who is very talkative and has good communication skills, but she is rather bad at writing. All these problems encouraged us to do research on writing field.

Furthermore, our writing skills are rather poor so we usually get low marks. At present, when writing this outline, we are very scared of making stupid mistakes. We really would like to know the reasons why such the mistakes are often made although they were pointed out by our teachers. Sharing the same ideas with us, other students are worried about their writing . Most of us are not self-confident. Therefore, we want to do a small research with the aim to raise our knowledge of writing skill.

Moreover, we find it very useful to do research. Firstly, we can improve our writing skills and gain a lot of experiences. We believe that we will know how to


search and classify information as well as knowledge during the time of doing research. Secondly, through surveys and interviews, we can discover the ability of each student and find the most suitable ways to help them improve their skills.

We all hope that our small contribution can help ourselves and other students to improve writing skills. In particular, we will be more self-confident in writing assignments and tests without any stupid mistakes.

Finally, we think that when we become real teachers, this research will help us a lot to transmit knowledge to students. We can lead them to the lessons in professional ways.

2. Process of our research:

1 Search information (useful information) about common mistakes on the internet and books.

2 Deliver surveys, questionnaires and interview some students, groups and teachers. 3 Appraise the results received from surveys and interview…(with the help of


4 Give solutions and the ways to overcome.

5 Write research paper and get some pieces of teachers’ advice.

3. Methods of study.

During the preparation for this research, we applied three main methods as follow:  We reviewed books and Internet for background knowledge of grammar

and several useful ideas to correct them.

We conducted a survey on “Common grammar errors in writing of first-year students” from QH2009 in Faculty of English Language Teacher Education and collected their portfolios to identify their common errors.

 We collected ideas and contributions from our teachers and friends for the reasons why they made mistakes and useful strategies to improve them.



Chapter I: Literature Review.

A short grammar

Three little words you often see

Are Articles, A, An and The.

A Noun is the name of Anything As school or garden, Hoop and Swing.

Adjectives tell the kind of Noun

As Great, Small, Pretty, White or Brown.

Instead of the Nouns the Pronoun stands His head, Her face, Your arm, My hand.

Verbs tell something to be done

To Read, Count, Laugh, Sing, Jump or Run

How things are done the adverbs tell As slowly, Quickly, I U or Well


Conjunctions join the words together As men And woman, wind And weather.

The Preposition stands before

The nouns as in or Through the door.

The interjections show surprise As Oh! How pretty, ah, how wise.

The whole are called nine parts of speech Which Reading, Writing, Speaking teach.

(A traditional anonymous view of language teaching at the beginning of 1900s (Geoff Dean (2003), Grammar for Improving writing and reading in the secondary school, Text type, Cambridge)

Grammar is a common term which is used in language teaching and learning. However, it is difficult to define what grammar is, as there are many different definitions. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Grammar is “the rule in a language for changing them into sentences” (1995, p.51). The similar definition is given in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English where it defines grammar as “the rules by which words are change their form and combined into sentences”.

As for linguists, they also have their own ways to understand grammar. In Basic Grammar, Schiach (1995) defines grammar as a set of rules that describe how language works. English grammar describes how English works.

According to Celce-Murcia and Hilles (1988,p.16) claimed that “we can think of languages as a type of rule-governed behavior. Grammar, then, is a subset of those rules governs the configurations that the morphology and syntax of a language assume”. So linguists and dictionaries give out many different definitions of the term “grammar”. Yet they all share one common idea, which considers grammar in combination, not separation.


I.1. Nature of error.

I.1.1. Definition of error.

There have been many studies concentrating on the issue of foreign language errors

and how to deal with them. These studies are mostly done by famous scholars in the world such as Edge (1989), Gower (1983), Hubbard (1991), etc. Depending on their own point of view and their own areas of research, these authors give different notions about errors. So it is essential for us to consider some definitions of errors from different sources.

“ Error is an act that through ignorance, deficiency or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done ”.

( Webster, 1976 ).

“ Error is the use of a linguistic item in a way which a fluent or native speaker of the language regards as showing faulty or incomplete learning ”.

(Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistic, 1992).

The above definitions of errors provide us with a deep insight of the nature of errors in the process of learning language. Errors are not a simple record of what learners fail to do because of incompetence or indifference. They are referred to as evidence of choice or strategy among a range of possible choices or strategies, providing evidence of an individual style of using the language and make it work. In other words, errors are evidence of learners’ strategies they build in the target language.

On the other hand, the definition of errors is always given in connection with that of mistakes. These two terms are often assumed to have a similar meaning and they are used


to replace each other. However, there is a significant distinction between errors and mistakes. A mistake is a slip of the tongue or pen. Normally, learners can use a particular item of language correctly but when writing a composition, they might use it wrongly because of their carelessness, sickness or quick writing. In order to correct mistakes, learners are able to do by themselves, either completely unprompted or with the guidance of teachers and other learners. Meanwhile, an error is much more deep-rooted. Learners might believe what they are writing is correct, or not know what the correct form should be, or know the correct form but cannot get it right.

I.2. Common Grammar Errors

Grammar errors sneak into almost all writing. Some writers like to think they do not make mistakes — but their editors know better. The following errors are among the most common: 1. Split infinitives 2. Adverb usage 3. Subject-verb agreement 4. Pronoun agreement 5. Pronoun case 6. Apostrophe usage 7. Dangling modifiers 8. Double negatives 9. Sentence structure

10. Comma and semicolon usage

It should be stated that “error” is a bit subjective at times. English purists might want to freeze elements of the language, but the dynamic nature of English something that makes it interesting. What is unacceptable today might be part of U.S. Standard English or International (U.K.) English in a generation.


1 Common Grammatical and Stylistic Errors

1. Noun-verb mismatch, e.g. "A herd of horses are better than a flock of sheep" ("herd" is singular). "The City feels that this is a bad idea". (A city can't feel). "This paper will describe..." (Paper can't describe; only people can)


2. Adjective used as adverb, e.g. and especially "I did good in this course" 3. Split infinitive, e.g. "I urge you to not support this Bill".

4. Misplaced modifier, e.g. "We need to stop dumping waste into the environment which kills the fish". To avoid this mistake, put the modifier as close as possible to the noun it is modifying. Repaired: "We need to stop dumping waste, which kills the fish, into the environment".

5. Dangling (or misplaced) participle A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical SUBJECT of the sentence. Wrong: "As the largest reptiles ever to have lived, small mammals could not compete with the dinosaurs". This suggests that small mammals were the largest reptiles ever to have lived. Repaired: "Being small and defenseless, small mammals could not compete with the dinosaurs". 6. Ending a sentence with a preposition, e.g. "This is something we need to work on". 7. Starting a paragraph with a conjunction that should refer to the previous sentence, e.g. "Furthermore,...", "However,..."

8. Run-on sentences (two complete sentences joined by a comma rather than a period or semicolon) "The lab is a dangerous place, you should wear a lab coat". (could be repaired by the addition of "so".

9. Incomplete sentences, including those with no verb, e.g. "These animals could be harmed by various things. Pollution, for example."

10. Mixing up the "notorious confusables" (e.g. their vs. there). 11. Compound adjective not hyphenated.

12. Use of pleonasms, redundancies and tautologies (needless repetition of words over and over again multiple times)

13. A series of statements without any connections to improve the flow.

14. Commensuration incommensurables, e.g. "Reproduction in Hydra is unlike sponges" (Should be: "Reproduction in Hydra is unlike that in sponges").

15. Comparative with no comparator, e.g. "Species that reproduce asexually exhibit a relatively uniform distribution of endoblasts". "The cells at the bottom of the clone were larger".



typical. In our mind, first year students usually make some mistakes: 1 Verb tenses.

2 Conjunctions 3 Run-on sentences. 4 Prepositions.

5 Plural and singular nouns/ verbs

Chapter II: Common grammar errors of first year students in

Faculty of English Language Teacher Education

II.1. Aims of the study.

The previous chapter gives us an overview of the revolution of linguists’ attitude

towards errors and error corrections in teaching and learning process.

This chapter continues to study the attitude of students, who have a direct contact with errors and error corrections so as to find out what they think about making errors and how they cope with them.

We hope that from the analysis and some solutions offered readers will find out the best way to write well without any errors.

II.2. Subject of the study.

The subjects who participated in this study include 100 first-year students of Faculty

of English Language Teacher Education at University of Language and International Studies, who have learned English for at least five years. Moreover, each of them has beaten from 4 to 10 candidates on average to pass the entrance examination to the university. Therefore, they have a good background of English.

II.3. Design of the study.

In this study, there are nine questions to realize which skill(s) ( listening, speaking,

reading and writing ) first-year students find it most difficult, and the reasons for making errors, and how they expect to have good methods to get progress in writing.


II.4. Analysis of the Student Survey Questionnaire

II.4.1. An overview.

a) Assessment of first-year students’ aptitude in English writing skill.

Choice Listening Speaking Reading Writing

Percentage (%) 70 13.5 10 13.5

Table 1 : First-year students’ aptitude in English

When asked to specify the level of the four skills of first-year students, most of the students think that they are bad at Listening (70%), Speaking and Writing share second position with only 13.5%.

The data divulge the fact that the English writing skill of most first-year students at ULIS is of good level. It is comprehensible because all of them have learned English for at least 5 years; especially, they have already passed a very competitive entrance exam to the university.

b) The rate of recurrence of students’ making errors.

29 69 2 0 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

Always Sometimes Rarely Never

Chart 1: Rate of recurrence of students’ making errors.

In reply to question 3 “How often do you make errors when writing English?” in Student Survey Questionnaire, 29% of the students asked always make errors, 69% sometimes, 2% rarely and no one never make errors.

From the above result we find out that although students’ aptitude in English writing skill is asserted to be good, errors are unavoidable in written work.


II.4.2. Common written errors

When asked to circle types of errors that they usually make students agree that they make errors in word/structure choice most frequently and errors in spelling last frequently

Chart 2: Common grammatical mistakes of the first-year students

More surprisingly, according to the analyzing some portfolios of our friends, errors in grammar turn out to be made most regularly.

On the one hand, in teachers and students’ thoughts, most students’ English is of pre-intermediate level, that is, all these students have just got proficiency in basic and advanced English grammar and vocabulary. Moreover, tertiary curricular including those for first-year students are designed mainly to develop students’ communication capacity, which is hardly taught at high school. Therefore, both teachers and students think that expressions and correct usages of English words are the more important problem than grammar and spelling.

On the other hand, owing to so much concentrate on expression, students seem to be too careless with their grammar and spelling, which results in numerous errors of these types.

II.4.3. Students’ attitudes towards written errors.

Question A (%) B (%) C (%) D (%)

6 27 20 52 1

7 0 17.5 28 54.5

Table 2: Question 6, 7 in Student Survey Questionnaire

Question 6: How do you feel when you make errors?

Spelling Expression Grammar


A. Disappointed.

B. Ashamed because sometimes my errors look stupid

C. Not worried about errors because I learn a lot from them and I will write better next time.

D. Other feelings……….

Question 7: What is your reaction when receiving your writing with comments? A. Only look at the given marks

B. Look at the marks and the errors indicated by the teacher C. Carefully examine all errors and self-correct them

D. Carefully examine all errors, compare with other classmates’ work and correct them together

Referring to the question of students’ attitudes towards their written errors, although there are still students that feel ashamed and disappointed with their errors (20% and 27% respectively), more than half of them (52%) are not worried about errors. The survey data generally reflect a very optimistic tendency in students’ thoughts. They believe that these errors provide them with many chances to revise the learned knowledge and to experience new knowledge. Through learning from errors, apparently they will try their best to write better next time.

Discussing the reaction of students when getting back their written work, nearly 2/3 of the survey students would carefully examine all errors, compare with other classmates’ work and correct them together. However, a rather large number of students choose the answers b and c, that is, they look at the marks and the errors indicated by the teacher or carefully examine all errors and self-correct them. Commendably, no one choose a, that is, only look at the given mark. It means that first-year students have positive attitudes in finding and correcting errors in order to improve their own writing skill.

It can be concluded from the data that there are still contrastive trends in students reacting to written work. This can be originated from the different in students’ proficiency mentioned in question 2: the better students’ background of English is, the more positive their reactions will be.


II.4.4. Causes of written errors.

Choice A B C D E


(%) 2.5 9.5 45 65 4

Table 3: Question 5 in Student Survey Question Question 5: The reason(s) why you make errors:

A. Poor teaching in class B. Difficult topics

C. Differences between Vietnamese and English D. Lack of vocabulary and bad grammar

E. Other reasons:………

In response to question 5 “The reason(s) why you make errors”, 65% of the students consider that the lack of vocabulary and bad grammar lead their errors in writing English, 45% think the reason is the difference between Vietnamese and English. Some say that when they studied at high school, the standard of some teachers is limited. Therefore, the knowledge in grammar they learned is not completely accurate. This leads to those errors in their written work.

From the table above, we can see that 2.5% of the students choose (A), that is poor teaching in class 9.5% for (B), that is difficult topics. In fact, in few classes, students are not very active and ebullient. They do not want to express their opinion, which makes the grammar lesson more boring. Consequently, students forget almost what teachers have said in class.

According to the results from our analysis in some portfolios, mistakes in spelling and grammar are generally attributable to carelessness. The types of errors are actually produced as follows:

Firstly, when doing written work, students may have written down their English abstractedly, thus create slips of the pen. For example, they write “he don’t” instead of “he doesn’t”, “cloths” instead of “clothes”, etc.


They do not know how to divide time reasonably. They often spend 2/3 of their time on the first part and only 1/3 on the rest-writing an essay. As a result, they always rush for time at the end of the exam; they write mechanically, not being conscious of what they are writing. In this condition, errors are easy to appear and to leave uncorrected when handed in to teachers.

Moreover, there are some other reasons that students often make:

Not ready yet: There is a lot of evidence to suggest that language learners, like native speaker children, pick up grammar points and stop makingmistakes with them in a very predetermined order. For example, third person mistakes (I do/ he does) tend to persist in both..

Don't realize it's the same grammar: Although it may be surprised when students who have finally stopped saying "He has to goes" still say "He must goes" because both should be infinitives, it may be that the students consciously or subconsciously don't put the two pieces of grammar together as one. Concentrate on another point like their pronunciation, word choices as well as expression.

Overuse one point for good reasons: In both native and non-native speakers, the process of learning a new grammarpoint seems to often include a period of overextending its use. For example, even people who know the Simple Past well will start using the Past Perfect in situations they would have used (correctly) the Simple Past until the day they studied the new tense.

Don't think that grammar point is important: Consciously or subconsciously, non native speakers tend to put a low priority on stopping mistakes with language that does not convey a lot of information- i.e. if they can make that mistake and still be understood putting more effort into it can wait until later.

That point is more difficult for them than it seems: The reason why students pick

up some grammarpoints more quickly than the teacher expects and others more slowly is often connected to their first language. Even teachers who know the language the students speak can be miss out on particular aspects of this, such as students who speak a particular dialect or different language at home, or grammatical forms that only educated speakers of that language would be familiar with.


It's an attempt to be informal: It may be that in the student's native language grammatical forms are dropped when they are speaking informally, in a similar way to "No way!" or "Long time no see" in English. Common examples that students sometimes reproduce in English include dropping the subject or using a different tense.

Accuracy is not their priority.

Have that kind of personality.

II.4.5: Teachers’ ideas about error corrections.

We collected some ideas from teachers of Faculty of English Language Teacher Education about the way to correct grammar writing errors as well as the way to improve writing skill of first-year students.

Most of the teachers agree that the best way is to raise the knowledge of students about grammar. Ms. Xuan Hoa supposed that teachers should provide students with more supplementary exercises with some popular forms in class such as sentence building, error correction, multiple choices, etc. Therefore, students can not only revise categorical grammar they learned at their high school but also get new structures and realize their common errors. Then they can write better next time without making such errors.

Some teachers emphasize that portfolios should be continued applying in writing curriculum. No one can deny the positive effects of writing portfolios. According to peer corrections, students can realize strong points and weak points in each work and then avoid them in their own ones. Believing that with the teachers’ instruction, first-year students can quickly make progresses.

Besides, teachers should help students to change their attitude to the importance of writing portfolio. In fact, there are many students unwillingly finishing their pieces of writing and as a result, they cannot get anything from this method. Especially, they neglect the lessons about grammar focus in Writing Focus because they do not find it useful.

Meanwhile, Ms. Thanh Phuc appreciates using reading materials to help writing. She believes that texts are a great source of grammar for students.

In a word, to help students avoid writing grammar errors, teachers should offer more activities ang exersises in class as well as encourage them to self-study at home.


II.5 Analysis portfolios

According to the results of the portfolios we collected, we would like to address some common grammar mistakes of first-year students encountered during their process of learning this skill:

II.5.1. Comma usage.

II.5.1.1. Some examples from students’ portfolios

Ex1: According to my plan, I would spend 2 hours a day practicing my speaking,

writing skills and more than 3 hours improving my listening, reading skills because I as bad at listening, reading.

Correction: According to my plan, I would spend 2 hours a day practicing my

speaking and writing skills and more than 3 hours improving my listening as well as reading skills because I as bad at listening and reading.

Ex2: I would like to join in many activities, especially, charity activity. Correction: I would like to join in many activities, especially charity activity.

→ Students usually insert commas between two items, adjectives that describe size, shape, and color.

II.5.1.2. The usage of comma:

10 Separate 3 or more items in a list. 11 Separate part of a compound sentence.

12 Separate a special word or phrase from the rest of a sentence.

13 Avoid placing a comma between adjectives that precede a noun if they sound strange with there order reversed noun with “and” between them. In general, don not use a comma between adjectives that describe size, shape, age, color and materials.

14 Use commas to set off a nonessential adjective clause. A comma provides additional information about a noun. Consider an extra clause, it does not change the meaning of a sentence but adds to it.

15 Use commas to set off interjections (such as: oh and well), parenthetical expression (on the contrary, on the other hand, in fact, by the way, to be exact and


after all), and conjunctive adverbs (however, moreover, and consequently).

16 Use commas to set off the parts of a reference that direct the readers to the exact source

Refer to John’s the Pearl, pages 37-47.

17 Use commas to set off words or names used in direct address. Please don’t forget to call me tomorrow, Anna.

18 Use commas to separate the various parts of an address, a geographical terms or a date.

Tuesday, April1, 1996, was the day I won the scholarship.

If only the month and the day or the month and the year are given, do not use comma July 4 July 1976

II.5.2.Verb tenses.

II.5.2.1. Some examples from students’ portfolios

I usually play badminton at 5 p.m but today I walk along the street with my friends. → I usually play badminton at 5 p.m but today I am walking along the street with my friends.

II.5.2.2. The use of verbs.

_ There are three times that can be indicated by verb tenses in English:

• present (or "non-past" -- the "default" time)

• past

• future

_ These times refer to the relationship of the "story" to the speaker (or writer). _ There are three "aspects" that can be expressed:

• simple (the "default" aspect -- the time of focus)

• perfect (completion -- before the time of focus)

• progressive (or continuous) (duration -- in progress at the time of focus) (one verb phrase can indicate both perfect and progressive aspect) _ These aspects refer to the relationship between the events inside the "story." _ These three times and three aspects (four, including perfect progressive) can be combined to express nine (or twelve) "verb tenses:"


_ The verb tense is also affected by the meaning of individual verbs (lexical aspect), by time expressions, and psychological factors, but the basic idea is as described above.

 English verb tenses – forms of theVerb

_ There are theoretically 6 forms of the verb in English: V (“no-s” form) We like pizza.

I eat pizza.

I am/ They are hungry.

(simple tense) Vs ("s"-form) He likes pizza.

She eats pizza. He is hungry

Ved ("past" form) They liked pizza. She ate pizza.

He was/they were hungry.

(simple past) V (simple or "dictionary" form) like eat be (require auxiliaries to form finite verb phrases)

Vin g

( "-ing form" or present participle) liking eating being Vdt n

( past participle) liked eaten been


For most verbs, the "no-s" form and the simple form are identical in form. All verbs form the "s-form" and the "ing-form" predictably from this simple form. For "regular" verbs, the past and past participle forms are the same, and are formed by adding "ed" to the simple form. So, if you learn the spelling rules for adding "s" "ed" and "ing" to the simple form of verbs, and memorize three forms of "irregular" verbs:

the simple form * * the past form * * the past participle

(For a few verbs, the "no-s", "simple", past, and past participle are all the same! The verb be has two different "no-s" forms, a different simple form, and two different past forms.)

 Form of the verbs and Auxiliaries.

Simple negatives and questions and all passive, progressive, and perfect verb phrases are formed by combining one of the following three auxiliary verbs or a modal auxiliary verb with either a simple verb form, a present participle, or a past participle. The auxiliary shows the time (and number) and the combination of the auxiliary and the verb form show the aspect:



(main verb) + adj +noun + prep.phrase (or place)



(main verb) + noun





(main verb) + noun (auxili ary) + Ving (pres.particip. ) = progre ssive (auxiliar y) + V = simp le tense s (auxili ary) + Vdtn (past part) = perfect + Vdtn (past particip.) =passi ve

Therefore, each verb (including be, do and have when they are main verbs) can form the following verb tenses:

I/He/They _______ pizza.





have eaten*** has eaten** am eating is eating are eating have been eating

has been eating



had eaten*** was eating were eating had been eating


will eat

will have eaten*** will be eating will have been eating

BE as a main verb (I/He/They _______ hungry. (F=E) SIMPLE F | E--> | PERFECT F | E <---->E PROGRESSIVE* PRESENT**




have been has been am being is being are being have been being

has been being




had been was being were being had been being


will be

will have been will be being will have been being


** in relation to the speaker/writer

*** some verbs have REGULAR past and past participle forms (+ed) and others have IRREGULAR past and past participle forms, which must be memorized.

F = focus

E = event or situation described II.5.3.Conjunctions:

II.5.3.1. Some examples from students’ portfolios

Ex1. So, I found it difficult to pronounce these words

→ Therefore, I found it difficult to pronounce these words II.5.3.2. The use of conjunctions

- A conjunction can be used a to link two main clauses in a sentence. Ex. Tom had no food, and he had to pay the rent.

- Coordinating conjunctions join words or groups of words that have equal grammatical weight in a sentence.

And, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

- Correlative conjunctions work in pairs to join words and groups of words of equal weight in a sentence:

Both…and, either…or, just as…so.

Neither…nor, not only…but also, whether…or

19 Subordinating conjunctions: joins two clauses or ideas in such a way as to make one grammatically dependent upon the other: after, although, as, as far as, as long as, as

soon as, as though, because, before, considering (that), if, as much as, in order that, provided, since, so that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, while…

II.5.4. Run-on sentences.

II.5.4.1. Some examples from students’ portfolios.

Ex1. Judy leads a charmed life she never seems to have a serious accident

→ Judy leads a charmed life; she never seems to have a serious accident II.5.4.2. Run-on sentences.


sentence. There are three basic kinds of run-on sentences:

+ The most common type of run-on sentence is a comma splice. A comma splice occurs when two main clauses are separated by a comma instead of a period of a semicolon. A comma splice is corrected by replacing the comma with an end mark and starting the new sentence with a capital letter or by adding a coordinating conjunction + A second type of run-on sentence occurs when two main clauses are written with no punctuation between them. To correct this kind of run-on sentence, separate the main clauses with a mark of end punctuation or with a semicolon. Another way to correct the error is by adding a comma and a coordinating conjunction between the main clauses. + A third kind of run-on sentence occurs when the comma is left out before a coordinating conjunction that joins two main clauses. Correcting this error by simply adding a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

II.5.5. Articles: a/an/the

II.5.5.1. Some examples from students’ portfolios.

Ex1. My close friend’s birthday is coming without a gift that I should prepare for her

→ My close friend’s birthday is coming without the gifts that I should prepare for her II.5.5.2. The usage of articles.

- What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.

20 Classification: “A/An” is used to classify people, animals or things.

21 Quantity: The most common use of “a/an” is the sense of “only one” when we are not specifying any particular person or thing. “A/An” is also used before a countable noun mentioned for the first time; the speaker assumes the listener does not know what is referred to.

In short, there is no difference in meaning between “a” and “an”. When using “a/an”, there are two basic facts should be taken into consideration:

+ A/An has an indefinite meaning

+ A/An combine only with a singular countable noun. In detail:


an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant; an egg; an apple; an

idiot; an orphan

• a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user (sounds like 'yoo-zer,' i.e. begins with a consonant 'y' sound, so 'a' is used); a university; a unicycle

• In some cases where "h" is pronounced, such as "historical," use an: An historical event is worth recording.

• In writing, "a historical event" is more commonly used.

22 The use of “the” for classifying: Some nationality adjectives are used after the when we wish to refer to “the group as a whole”

23 The use of “the” for specifying: When we use “the”, the listener or the reader can already identify what we are referring to, therefore the shows that the noun has been specified by the context or grammatically.

Locations which are “one of a kind” always requires the (the earth, the sea, the sky, etc.). We can use “the” to name parts of a whole.

24 The use of “the” in time expression: “The” is used in time sequences (the

beginning, the end), parts of the day (in the morning), with the seasons, in dates, in fixed time expressions( at the moment)

25 The use of the with the unique items: organization(the United Nations), historical events(the French Revolution), ships (The Titanic), political parties(The Labor Party), official titles(the Queen), public bodies(the Army), the press(the New Yorker), titles(the Odyssey), beliefs(the angels), climate(the weather), species(the dinosaurs).

26 Others: superlatives(It’s the worst film I’ve ever seen), musical instruments( the piano), fixed phrases( the sooner the better), fixed expressions(do the shopping).

In short, when using “the” it should be noted that:

• “ The” normally has a definite reference.

• “The” can combine with singular countable, plural countable, and uncountable nouns.

Chapter 3:Strategies and recommendations to correct errors.


would like to introduce some useful strategies to correct grammartical writing errors and writing skill in general.

III.1. Identification of errors.

Among all major steps of error correction progress, the very first indispensable step is error identification, which can be based on the criteria as follows:

Firstly, errors can be identified in the activity of composing that presents the erroneous form as a possible solution to the problem of making meaningful statement; in other words, errors can be identified correctly according to their sources.

In addition, error analysis bases itself on a linguistic paradigm that is incapable of accurately describing or explaining the way language words. It was assumed that knowledge of grammatical rules and vocabulary allowed a person to create an infinite number of sentences or utterances, but this is actually not the case.

Moreover, errors should be recognized in the context in which they are put. That is because errors are caused partly by multifunction in language process. Consequently, without being identified in context, errors can’t be identified by researchers as well as language learners.

III.2. Classification of errors.

Classifying errors is a difficult task. It depends on the purpose of authors in their studies. Up to now, scholars all over the world have presented a variety of methods of classifying errors:

Errors can be superficially classified as those of:

- Omission: Cow is a useful animal (The cow is a useful animal). - Addition: She came on last Monday (She came last Monday). - Substitution: He was angry on me.

- Disordering: He asked her what time was it.

In conclusion, there are a great deal of ways in which errors can be assigned to classes and one should use whatever system or combination of systems is the most useful and enlightening according to the purpose of his or her analysis.


As can be seen very clearly above, errors are unavoidable in the process of learning English especially in writing. The question is how to deal with them. Concerning the problem, many authors have so far suggested techniques for correcting errors, which are worthwhile for teachers of English to take into consideration.

Firstly, in their work “Teaching English as a foreign language” Brough et al pointed out five key steps for correcting, including:

a. The first step is to establish what errors are. The question to ask is whether what learners intend to express is the same as what they actually write.

b. The second step is to establish the possible sources of errors to explain why they happen.

c. The next step is to decide how serious errors are.

d. The fourth is to allocate errors to a level of linguistic system: spelling, morphology, syntax and lexis, etc.

e. The last step is to correct errors.

Meanwhile, Gower and Walter point out these steps: a. Indicate that errors have been made.

b. Show learners where errors are. c. Indicate what sort of errors they are.

d. Give learners a chance to correct errors by themselves.

e. If learners still can’t get them right, hold their attention and get other learners to help.

f. If those steps fail, teachers will correct errors.

III.3.1 Writing and checking portfolios.

There are many advantages of using portfolio’s to assess student work. “Student

portfolios by design focus on writing and active learning” (Trepagnier, 2004, p.197). Instead of a room full of passive learners focused on earning a good grade, students will be engaged active learners. The portfolio process can also introduce the process and benefits of peer review as well. Leslie Ballard an advanced composition teacher used a portfolio process as an alternative to a timed essay final and observed “student’s found that looking critically at others’ writing made them more critical of their own.” (Ballard, 1992, p.47).


By definition, a portfolio is a purposeful selection of student work that exhibits a student’s efforts and achievement. According to KDE’s Kentucky Writing Development

Teacher’s Handbook, the goals of the writing portfolio assessment are to:

• Provide students with the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to become independent thinkers and writers.

• Promote each student’s ability to communicate to a variety of audiences for a variety of purposes in a variety of forms.

• Document student performance on various kinds of writing which have been developed over time.

• Integrate performance assessment with classroom instruction.

• Provide information upon which to base ongoing development of a curriculum that is responsive to student needs.

Writing portfolio is a collection of papers written by students based on which teachers can make assessment on how well their students write and how well they have developed writing skills through the whole process. This method has been applied in writing curriculum for many years and has been proved useful to improve students’ writing skill. Some features of this method:

1. Writing several drafts for the same topic: students have to write the first versions at home until they find satisfied with it.

2. Self-checking: put themselves in the place of the readers and themselves some questions:

a) Which parts are unclear? Why? How can they be made clearer?

b) Are any words used wrongly or inappropriately? What other words could be used?

c) Which parts are the most interesting? Why? d) Is the order of ideas clear or confusing? e) Are any parts unnecessary?

f) Is there too much repetition? Are there any replacements to avoid such repetition? (Using pronouns, synonyms, omissions…)



h) Is the writing free of errors (grammar, word choice, punctuation, spelling etc..)

i) Is the writing style appropriate for the situation, the purpose and the audience?

3. Peer checking: When checking portfolio for classmates students can use the same questions for self-checking. This will enhance students’ revisions and editing skill as well as develop critical thinking amongst students. They can learn good points from their friends and know how to avoid the mistakes their friends have made.

4. The Value of Looking Back:

One thing we have learned again and again from reading students' reflective essays is that they can learn from themselves. For example, one student in a geography writing link wrote the following: (Writing Portfolios: What Teachers Learn from Student Self-Assessment, Kim Johnson-Bogart)

I like my second essay the best out of all my work because the subject I wrote about

means so much to me. I included my very first journal entry along with my second essay because I feel it was the first time I ever discussed my feelings toward the problem of Indian reservations on paper. My views about the issue in this entry are very different than when I finished the essay. I feel it is an important piece because it shows how my feelings have changed and also, I think, matured. (Zoe)

III.3.2. Effective use of dictionaries:

Another long-term technique to acquire grammar errors is by using dictionary. The more effectively a dictionary is used, the more clearly to understand the usage of one word. Therefore, English learners need a good dictionary that allows them to use words themselves, to expand their knowledge of grammar and to improve their ability to express them.

If a dictionary is to be used for productive purposes, to have in writing and perhaps seeking, then it needs to contain a great deal of information. This information includes syllabification, meaning, grammar, collocations and advises on common errors involved with a particular item.


Especially, dictionary can be used to correct errors in writing and eventually prevent such errors (Scholfied, 1981). The procedure is simple, but the learning required to perform it is considerable. Teacher underlines suitable errors in the learner’s written work. Learners look up the items in the dictionary to collect them. As the learners practice, they can look words while they are writing. The teacher needs to choose the errors carefully and must make sure that the dictionaries deal with them. Typical errors would include word building, meaning, collocation, grammar and spelling. The value of this activity is that it does two things at the same time. It teaches vocabulary and gives effective, realistic practice in dictionary use.

Ex: So /səu/ conj

1. (Indicating the result of something) and that is why; with the result that; therefore.

The shop is closed, so I couldn’t get any milk.

These glasses are expensive, so please be careful with them. 2. (Indicating purpose) with the intention that; in order that.

I gave you a map, so you wouldn’t get lost. She whispered to me, so no one else would hear. 3. used to introduce the next part of a story

So now it is winter again and I’m still unemployed.

4. used for introducing a statement after which one comments in a critical or contrasting way

So I had a couple of drinks on the way home. What is wrong with that?

5. used for introducing a topic of conversation

So, what have you been doing today?

6. used for introducing a statement that concludes something

So, that’s the end of tonight’s show.

7. used for introducing a conclusion drawn from something previously mentioned.

So there’s nothing we can do about it?

8. used for introducing a conclusion a statement expressing what is forced by the circumstance.


9. used before a question that follows from what was said previously. I’ve just been on a long trip. So how was it is?

10. used when stating that two events, situation, etc are similar

Just as large companies are having a cut back, so small businesses are being forced to close.

III.3.3. From effective reading to successful writing.

The following detailed series of steps can be introduced gradually to learners. Although most attention is focus on grammar, some attention is given to meaning. The information learners can get by following this strategy is particularly useful for advanced students who have to write reports or assignments after reading. By examining the grammar of technical terms and other useful vocabulary in the reading materials, they have a greater chance of using that vocabulary correctly in their writing.

When a new word in a book or a passage is found, follow these steps:

1 Step 1: Look carefully at the word in the sentence. Decide if it is a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb in that sentence.

2 Step 2:

(i) If it is a noun,

• See if it is countable or uncountable. It can be done by looking to see if it is plural or if it has “a” or “each”, etc, in front of it.

• See what adjective it has in front.

(ii) If it is a verb, see what type of word comes in front of it and what type of word comes after it.

(iii) If it is an adjective, see what noun follows it.

(iiii) If it is an adverb, see where it is in the sentence. Is it after a verb or in front of it or at the beginning or end of the sentence?

3 Step 3: See if it is possible to break the word into parts that have different meaning. What are the meanings of these parts?

4 Step 4:

(i) Look for the word in the dictionary. If the dictionary gives an example of the word in a sentence, see if the grammar is the same as the grammar discovered. If the


dictionary tells about the grammar of the word, look at that carefully and compare it with the grammar discovered.

(ii) Find the meaning of the word. 5 Step 5: In the notebook, write:

(i) The word (if it is a singular countable noun, write “a” in front of it) (ii) Its grammar

(iii) Its meaning.

(iiii) The sentence or the part of the sentence containing the word, plus the sentence you found in the dictionary.

(iiiii) A new sentence containing the word

III.3.4. Using Internet to correct errors.

Below are the names of some useful websites:

Correct Grammar Mistakes Tool - Easily Write Correct English!

Grammar Error Correction Tool - Improve Your Writing in Seconds! [Computers-and-Technology: Software]. There are many ways that can help students improve their writing and Grammar Error Correction Tool is one of them. As most of them use English writing in order to communicate with each other, it is necessary that they keep improving their writing skills.

"The Better Grammar" Software - Everyone Must Have One! [Computers-and-Technology: Software]. Can an advanced "The Better Grammar" Software transform our writing assignments correct and professional? How does it work? The use of advanced word processing and language processing solutions is constantly increasing in the past few years.

"Grammar in Letter" Checker - Quick Review & Important Tips! [Computers-and-Technology: Software] By using an advanced "Grammar In Letter" Checker you can easily improve your writing skills in just a few clicks. Many of us already use basic conventional word processors; however most of these solutions are limited by their ability to analyze digital content by means of sentence construction and advanced grammar. Want to know more about improving your English writing?


[Computers-and-Technology: Software]. If you want to improve your writing skills you better try using an advanced English Sentences Correction Tool today. English language is widely used by most of us when communicating with each other especially via the Internet. The following article will show you how you can easily transform your English writing accurate, rich, and professional.

(Article Source:

III.3.5. In class activities.

For the Entire Class

1. Assign papers with drafts that must be revised. Because the cognitive difficulty of a task can often force students to focus intensely on content and organization in early drafts, those early drafts may not reflect a student's full mastery of grammar and style.

2. Once teachers have instituted a policy of revision, set high standards and hold students accountable for progress from draft to draft. In particular, stress the need for editing and proofing before the final paper is submitted. Some instructors give students several minutes of class time to proof their papers one final time before handing them in. To convey those high standards teachers might share with students models of good writing and include grammatical correctness as part of your grading criteria.

3. Address the most common grammatical problems during class. Consider breaking students into groups and making each group responsible for coming up with a creative way to explain one common grammar problem and how to avoid it to the rest of the class. Teachers might also cover grammatical issues quickly but consistently throughout the semester by discussing, at the beginning of each class session, the "sentence of the day." Each day, choose a sentence from students' papers that illustrates a grammatical point teachers want to convey, put it on the board, then take several minutes to discuss the sentence. Teachers might ask students to identify the error and revise it or to discuss what is effective in a particular sentence.


4. Teachers distribute to and discuss with students a sheet identifying the most common errors seen and explaining how to correct them.

For Individual Students:

5. Teachers mark errors on papers judiciously. As Bean explains, traditional procedures for marking student papers may exacerbate grammatical errors. When instructors correct all of the errors in students' papers, students are not forced find their own mistakes and learn to correct them. Teachers might identify the type of error (fragments, possessives, "too" vs. "two" vs. "to") or demonstrate the density of error in one paragraph or on one page, then require students to do the revising themselves; frequently students' errors fall into distinct patterns.

6. In individual conferences, teachers ask students to read their texts aloud while teachers listen and look at their texts. Often students will "read" grammatically correct sentences even though the sentences are grammatically incorrect on the page. In these cases, encourage students to proofread more methodically by putting their finger on each word as they read aloud.

7. Teachers have students make their own self-editing checklist. Because most students consistently make the same errors if teachers and the student are able to identify those errors, the student can proofread especially carefully for those errors.

For Particularly Challenging Students:

1. If there are a great many problems in a paper, consider meeting individually in a conference with that student. Rather than guessing why a student made certain errors and/or filling the page with red ink, teachers can ask the logic behind those decisions and help the student reformulate his or her understanding of grammatical rules.


2. Teachers might also consider adopting a portfolio system for grading that allows students to demonstrate the progress they have made over a semester and to be graded on their best work.


As aforementioned, some grammar as well as solutions to those problems when the first year students at HULIS write. We do hope that those results can partially help students overcome mistakes and errors easily and learn more effectively and grippingly.. In spite of the researchers’ effort, this study still has some limitations that need to be improved in further studies. It was conducted in a small scale of questionnaire feedbacks. Therefore, its data and information may not cover every aspect and situation of the issue. Moreover, the participants of this study were the first year students at university of languages and international studies. Despite those, we highly appreciate any constructive comments and feedbacks from our august readers.


1. Brown, K & Hood, S. (1989). Writing matters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2. Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistic, 1992.

3. Geoff Dean (2003). Grammar for improving Writing and Reading in the

secondary school, Text type, Cambridge.

4. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Longman.

5. Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 6. Schiach (1995). Basic Grammar.

7. Stephen, M. (1986). Practice writing. Longman.

8. 9. 10. 10. http://www. 11. 12. id=52&c_type=category&c_id=34 13. http://www.usin...ow-well.html


Hello everyone! We are Bui Thi Duyen and Tran Thi Hong, group QH09E13, Faculty of English Language Teacher Education, University of Languages and International Studies, Hanoi. This survey questionnaire is designed for “Common grammar errors in writing of first-year students”. Your assistance in completing the following questions is highly appreciated. Hopefully, you will support us.

1. How long have you been learning English? ……….. 2. Of the four skills, which skill(s) are you bad at?

A. Listening C. Reading B. Speaking D. Writing 3. How often do you make errors when writing English? A. Always C. Rarely B. Sometimes D. Never 4. What kind of errors do you usually make?

A. Grammar C. Expression

B. Spelling D. Word/ Structure choice 5. The reason(s) why you make errors: A. Poor teaching in class

B. Difficult topics

C. Differences between Vietnamese and English D. Lack of vocabulary and bad grammar

E. Other reasons:……… 6. How do you feel when you make errors?


A. Disappointed

B. Ashamed because sometimes my errors look stupid

C. Not worried about errors because I learn a lot from them and I will write better next time.

D. Other feelings: ………... 7. What is your reaction when receiving your writing with comments? A. Only look at the given marks

B. Look at the marks and the errors indicated by the teacher C. Carefully examine all errors and self-correct them

D. Carefully examine all errors, compare with other classmates’ work and correct them together

8. From your point of view, what is the most useful technique(s) of error corrections? A. Self-correction

B. Peer correction

C. Whole class correction D. Teacher corrections

E. Remedial work (giảng lại phần kiến thức nhiều người mắc lỗi). . F. Others:………

9. Your recommendations to overcome grammar errors in writing:

……… ……… ……… ……… ……… ……… ……… ……… ……….. THANK YOU VERY MUCH! ☺