Error Correction Exercise to Help Students with Learning ESL

ESL stands for English as a Second Language. It is used to describe non-native speakers of the language. It may be hard for someone who’s grown up speaking English to believe that English is not an easy language to learn. In fact, languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, and even German are easier to learn for people who’ve grown up in a completely different language.

This is because the grammar and pronunciation rules in the English language are not as straightforward as in most other languages. Therefore, extra attention needs to be paid to students who are trying to learn, especially at a beginner’s level.

Error Correction Exercises For Your Class

1. Sentence Correction:

Rewrite the following sentences with correct grammar and punctuation:

a) me and my friend likes to play basketball

b) she don’t have a car so she walks to work every day

c) i is going to the movies tomorrow

d) There is many books in the library

e) you plays the guitar very good

f) my sisters husband is engineer

g) I has two cats and they likes to play

h) i don’t likes eating vegetables

i) he cans swim very well

j) I needs to buying a new phone

2. Fill in the Blanks:

Complete the following sentences with the correct form of the verb in parentheses:

a) I _______ to the store after school. (go)

b) They _______ for the bus at the corner. (wait)

c) She _______ her homework every night. (do)

d) We _______ a movie last night. (watch)

3. Correct Word Order:

The words in these sentences are mixed up. Write them in the correct order:

a) plays / guitar / the / He / every night

b) never / have / I / seen / that movie

c) restaurant / in / We / a / are / eating

d) books / like / I / reading

Types of ESL Correction Exercises

  1. Sentence Correction Worksheets: Provide students with worksheets that have incorrect sentences. The errors can range from verb tense, subject-verb agreement, incorrect word order, and missing or incorrect prepositions. The students have to identify and correct the errors.
  2. Find the Errors: Create a short story or paragraph with deliberate mistakes. Make sure there are a variety of errors such as spelling, punctuation, wrong word usage, capitalization, etc. Students should read the text and mark or correct the errors.
  3. Peer Review: Assign students to write a short essay or composition on a given topic. After they’ve completed their writing, pair them up and let them exchange and review each other’s work for any grammar or spelling errors.
  4. Error Dictation: The teacher reads a sentence with an error, and the students have to write it down and correct the error. The teacher then corrects the sentence, explaining the error and the rule that applies.
  5. False Friends Exercise: Give students a list of false friends (words that sound similar in their native language but mean something different in English) and ask them to write sentences using those words correctly.
  6. Grammar Auction: Write sentences on the board, some correct and some incorrect. Students are divided into groups and given a set amount of “money.” They then “bid” on the sentences they believe are correct. If they’re right, they win points, but if they’re wrong, they lose their bid money.
  7. Correct the Conversation: Write out a short conversation script filled with errors, then have the students act out the script while correcting the mistakes. This will help improve both speaking and listening skills.
  8. Missing Word: Write sentences on the board but leave out a word (an article, preposition, etc.). Students have to fill in the blank with the correct word.
  9. Picture Description: Show a picture and ask students to describe what they see. Listen to their descriptions and note their errors. After everyone has spoken, correct their errors and ask them to repeat their description.

Error Correction Exercises [Updated]

When non-native speakers start learning English, they tend to make some very common mistakes regarding nouns, prepositions, and tenses. This is inevitable as they try to apply the language rules of their native language to English.

Therefore, a good way to build the proper foundation for ESL is by spotting these common mistakes and correcting them with proper explanations. There are a variety of exercises that can be used for this purpose, including error correction exercises for tenses, prepositions error correction exercise, and exercises to spot the error in nouns. 

A Red Pen Being Used to Correct a Paper

The purpose of error correction exercises is to make it easier for these mistakes to be spotted and corrected. Here are some sentences that incorporate these common mistakes along with their correct grammatical versions with explanations as to why they were wrong in the first place. These exercises are helpful for advanced ESL error correction.  

  • We regret informing you that your request has been denied.

Correction: We regret to inform you that your request has been denied.

The reason people make this mistake is that swapping the word regret with some other verbs may make sense of the sentence. Additionally, regret is usually used with a gerund (-ing form of a verb that functions the same as a noun). Therefore, it is easy for people – even those who are profluent in English – to make this mistake. However, when bad news is communicated (especially in writing), regret + infinitive is used.

  • The interview was broadcasted live over the internet.

Correction: The interview was broadcast live over the internet.

It is a common rule in the English language to add –ed to convey past tense. Therefore, most people would use broadcasted while talking about a program that has already been aired. However, broadcast is an irregular verb. This means that it doesn’t change in the simple past and particle form. Other common irregular verbs that don’t change while being used in past tense include cut, set, let, put, shut, bet, etc.

  • If you would’ve asked me, I would have given you my honest opinion.

Corrections: If you had asked me, I would have given you my honest opinion.

Remove the if from this sentence, and the grammar rules that apply to the sentence will change completely. However, when you talk about a hypothetical past, the if clause takes the past perfect. This means that the would, should, could, might, don’t belong here. Instead, these need to be used in the result clause. The inverted form of the third conditional can also be used here. This means that ‘Had you asked me, I would have given you my honest opinion’ also works.

  • He told me that he had never been in Japan before.

Correction: He told me that he had never been to Japan before.

This is another common mistake that would make sense to a lot of people. Technically, when you think about visiting a place, you imagine yourself to be in it. You were in that restaurant or in Paris. However, when you need to communicate the places you’ve visited, you say been to, not been in. Note that you would use in when talking about a specific room, as that isn’t an entire place in itself.

  • The Great Auk has gotten extinct due to human activity.

Correction: The Great Auk has become/gone extinct due to human activity.

Get is often used to communicate something that has transformed or changed in some way. For instance, get scared, get angry, get depressed are some of its correct uses. However, it can’t be used to convey a change of status. Get famous, get available, and get extinct make grammatically incorrect sentences—all of these need to be changed with turn, become, gone, to make sense.

  • At first I studied engineering in college, but I ended getting a marketing degree.

Correction: At first I studied engineering in college, but I ended up getting a marketing degree.

End, by itself, is used to describe a definitive end of something. If you are trying to convey something that would eventually happen or something that happened after other things happened, you’ll have to use end up instead.

  • The group of seven students discussed it between themselves.

Correction: The group of seven students discussed it among themselves.

This is a common mistake because, had the number been two instead of seven, using between would have been correct. However, when the number increases, it is required to use among instead. Between is used when one is talking about two distinct items (or students in this case). Among is used for anything more than that. Note that amongst will also be correct, but its use is far less common in the modern language.

  • Our plan was to expand this year, but we ended up having less people now than we did last year.

Correction: Our plan was to expand this year, but we ended up having fewer people now than we did last year.

This is a common mistake, not only because of a lack of awareness of grammar rules but also because the use of less before nouns (cars, resources, people) is becoming more acceptable lately – even in formal writing. However, the rules indicate that less should be used before singular or uncountable nouns (patience, determination, sugar, oil, and even time when talking about it indefinitely). In contrast, while talking about countable nouns, fewer should be used. This exercise can be used to spot the error in nouns. 

  • Never before I had tried scuba diving.

Correction: Never before had I tried scuba diving.

Subject-verb inversion is used when starting a sentence with a negative adverb. So if you’re conveying something that you’ve never, seldom, hardly done, put the subject – i.e., yourself after the verb.

  • Could you assist me with how can I get in touch with the manager?

Correction: Could you assist me with how I can get in touch with the manager?

This is the opposite of the previous rule. Unlike when starting with a negative adverb, if you are asking an indirect question, the subject-verb inversion is not used. Indirect questions include any sentence that begins with could you tell me…, do you know…, I was wondering if…, etc.

  • Do we have some tea or coffee to offer the guests?

Correction: Do we have any tea or coffee to offer the guests?

It is common to say ‘would you like some tea?’  to the guest while offering them a beverage. Therefore, it may seem acceptable to use some while asking if you have some tea. However, with inquisitory questions or negative statements, any is used. The reason some is acceptable in ‘would you like some tea?’ is that it isn’t inquiring about the existence of tea. Instead, it is offering a choice.

  • He said he’ll call me back in an hour.

Correction: He had he would (or he’d) call me back in an hour.

If an original sentence was being spoken, then he’ll would have been correct. However, here, a statement that someone else made is being repeated. In such cases, will becomes would and won’t becomes wouldn’t. If the event is still going to occur in the future, it may be acceptable to use will.

  • We figured out there was a gas leak because it smelled really bad inside the house.

Correction: We figured out there was a gas leak because it smelled really bad inside the house.

While describing a modification in the states of being – smell, look, feel, taste, etc – you have to use bad, not badly. Similarly, when describing something that is modified for the better, you’ll use good, not well.

Learning a new language is difficult. However, the right guidance can make a lot of difference. If your students are at an intermediate level of learning English as a second language, expand their knowledge by giving them the incorrect sentences above. Ask them to spot the issue in these sentences and evaluate how they perform. If they fail to find the problem, explain it to them, so they don’t make similar mistakes in the future.

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