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10 Rules to improve your English grammar.

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Over the years I have spent teaching English in Germany I have developed an awareness of the most common grammatical errors that German speakers are likely to make, irrespective of their English level. All of these errors can be traced back to the influence of German grammar on students formation of sentences in English. They are typically entrenched in students everyday language, and as a result require targeted effort to unlearn the incorrect grammar and learn the correct.

Here I present 10 rules that will help you to understand what the errors are most likely to be, and each rule corresponds to further materials that I have produced that are designed to help the student to effectively stop making them.

1. Don't say: "I have been hiking on the weekend".

Never use the Present Perfect to describe past actions when you want to say when something happened, always use the Past Simple - I went hiking last weekend. Link to further Materials.

2. Don't say: "I went there before 6 years".

The German word vor translates to ago, not for or before. Ago is always placed after the duration of time, and they are both placed at the end of the sentence – I went there 6 years ago. Link to further Materials.

3. Don't say: "I’m living in Munich since 2012."

Always use the Present Perfect to express how long an action has been going on for. This rule applies to any sentence that would be expressed in German using Präsens and "seit" (Ich lebe seit 2012 in München...) – I have lived in Munich since 2012 . Link to further Materials.

4. Don't say: "I have worked here since 8 years".

"seit" has two translations; "since" to show a starting point (since 2012) or "for" to show a duration of time – I have worked here for 8 years. Link to further Materials.

5. Don't say: "My colleague is speaking good English".

Don’t use the Present Continuous to describe characteristics or to state general facts, instead use the Present Simple – My colleague speaks good English.

6. Don't say: "Tomorrow I go to Stuttgart". Never use the Present Simple for future plans, instead use the Present Continuous – Tomorrow I am going to Stuttgart / Tomorrow I am going to go to Stuttgart (*both forms mean the same thing). Link to further Materials.

7. Don't say: "I will go on holiday Monday".

Don’t use the Future Simple to express future plans that were made before the point of saying them. Use the Present Continuous instead - I am going on holiday next Monday or I am going to go on holiday next Monday. Use the Future Simple for plans made during the conversation, or to emphasise promise – Of course I will send you a postcard when I’m there... Link to further Materials.

8. Don't say: "We see us next week".

Be careful with overusing reflexive pronouns, English uses them much less frequently than German - I'll see you next week, or We'll see each other next week. Link to further Materials.

9. Don't say: "If I would have time, I would go there next week".

Never use will or would in the “if” clause in a conditional. Either use the Present Simple and will in the outcome clause for “real” conditional sentences – If I have time, I will go there, or the Past Simple and would for “unreal” - If I had time, I would go there next week. Link to further Materials.

10. Don't say: "I am used to work on weekends".

Sentences with the meaning of Ich bin daran gewöhnt always need to be constructed using the form to be used to verb+ingI am used to working on weekends. Link to further Materials.


These rules cover a very small range of materials that I have produced for German speakers to improve their English, have a look at the rest of the materials on my website here - English for German Speakers: Links to all Materials.

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