Common Errors in the Use of Verbs – Part II

October 29th, 2009 in Common Mistakes, ESL

Incorrect: He has stole my pen.
Correct: He has stolen my pen.
Incorrect: John has often beat me at tennis.
Correct: John has often beaten me at tennis.

After the auxiliaries has, have and had, we use the past participle form of the verb.

Incorrect: They didn’t invited us.
Correct: They didn’t invite us.
Incorrect: He did came.
Correct: He did come.

After did, we use the present tense form (bare infinitive) of the verb.

Incorrect: Neither he came nor he wrote.
Correct: Neither did he come nor did he write.
Incorrect: Seldom I go to the hills.
Correct: Seldom do I go to the hills.

The adverbs neither and seldom have negative meanings. When sentences begin with a negative word we use the inverted word order with do/did.

Incorrect: Never I have seen such a mess.
Correct: Never have I seen such a mess.

When sentences begin with a negative word, we use the inverted word order. When there is an auxiliary verb in the sentence, we put that auxiliary verb before the noun (subject). When there is no auxiliary verb, we put do/did before the subject.

Incorrect: He said that he saw him last year.
Correct: He said that he had seen him last year.


Here the error lies in the failure to use the past perfect tense when the time of one past tense verb is more past than that of another.

Incorrect: If I shall do this, I shall be wrong.
Correct: If I do this, I shall be wrong.
Incorrect: If I did this, I shall be wrong.
Correct: If I do this, I shall be wrong.


When the main clause is in the future tense, the subordinate clause should be in the present tense.

Incorrect: He had to leave his rights.
Correct: He had to abandon (or relinquish) his rights.


We ‘leave a place’ or ‘leave something at some place’ or ‘leave someone to do something’. We do not ‘leave our rights’ or something like that.

Incorrect: I take my food.
Correct: I have my food.

‘Take my food’ is not wrong, but English people do not normally use this expression.

Incorrect: I take your leave.
Correct: I must leave now. OR I must say goodbye.

I take your leave is not wrong, but is extremely formal.

Incorrect: They cut Charles I’s head.
Correct: They cut off Charles I’s head.

When the cutting divides what is cut into pieces, use cut off, cut up or cut into.