BBC English Masterclass: Advanced Learner Mistakes


Hi guys! Dan for BBC Learning English here.
In this session, we’ll be taking a look at advanced learner mistakes. Are you ready?
Here we go! So, sometimes in English, we use a WH word
clause as the object of a verb. For example: ‘He realised what he was doing,’ – or – ‘I
can’t believe what you have done.’ Now, advanced learners generally make two mistakes here.
The first is that they invert the auxiliary verb and the subject, like you would do with
a normal question. Let me show you. ‘He realised what was he doing,’ – and – ‘I
can’t believe what have you done.’ Remember that these whos, whats, wheres, whens
and whys are not question words, but relative pronouns, and so the clause which comes after
follows normal sentence order. Come and see. So: Not ‘He realised what was he doing,’ but
‘what he was doing.’ Not ‘I can’t believe what have you done,’ but ‘what you have done.’ Now, this problem is simpler with a tense
which has an auxiliary and main verb form, but the second problem is that learners forget
to use an affirmative verb form when talking about the present or past simple. For example:
‘I don’t know where did he go last night,’ – or – ‘They want to see what does he do.’
Now, remember these are not questions. When we make an affirmative sentence with the present
or past simple, we only use one verb – and these clauses act the same. So: ‘I don’t know
where did he go last night,’ becomes ‘I don’t know where he went last night.’ And ‘They
want to see what does he do,’ becomes ‘They want to see what he does.’ Have you got it?
Good! ‘The life is beautiful!’
‘What makes me sad is the poverty.’ Ok guys, this one is an old one, but still
a tricky one. Many advanced learners still use the definite article when talking in general
about a plural or uncountable noun. Remember that in English, when we are talking in general
and we mean all of a thing, we don’t use ‘the’. ‘Life is beautiful’
‘What makes me sad is poverty.’ That doesn’t mean we can’t use ‘the’. But when
we do, it means we are being specific and only referring to one thing. For example:
‘I’m reading about the life of Michael Jackson.’ Having said that, if you want to generalise
about a SINGULAR COUNTABLE noun, then using ‘the’ as the definite article is the correct
thing to do. So: ‘Life would be much less interesting without the tiger’ (or tigers…general)
‘The car is probably the most important invention in mankind’s history.’ (or cars…general)
Have you got it? Good!

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