Common mistakes with verbs and adjectives

Study the following sentences. They contain some of the most common mistakes of ESL students.

Incorrect: Don’t angry me.

Correct: Don’t make me angry.

Incorrect: Please happy me.

Correct: Please make me happy.

Different verbs and adjectives are followed by different structures. You can upset a person, but you can’t angry him or her.

Go riding

Incorrect: Let’s go for riding.

Correct: Let’s go riding.

Correct: Let’s go for a ride.

Note the structures:

Go for a ride / go for a walk / go for a swim / go for a drive

Go riding / go walking / go swimming / go driving


Incorrect: I pity on her.

Correct: I pity her.

We don’t use a preposition between the verb pity and its object.


Incorrect: If you search the keys, you will find them.

Correct: If you search for the keys, you will find them.

Incorrect: They searched the boy, but couldn’t find him.

Correct: They searched for the boy, but couldn’t find him.

To search the boy is to examine him physically. To search for the boy is to try to find him.

Ask and ask for

Incorrect: He asked a raise.

Correct: He asked for a raise.

To ask someone to tell us something, we use ask without for.

To ask someone to give us something, we use ask with for.


Incorrect: I shall inform them this.

Correct: I shall inform them of this.

Inform takes the preposition of between the indirect and direct objects.

By and on

Incorrect: He walked ten miles by foot.

Correct: He walked ten miles on foot.

We can go by a car or a bus, but we walk on foot.