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5 English mistakes commonly made by Poles

12 Apr 2011
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Mistake? Or genius!? Photo by Tuija Aalto

While teaching English in Poland and having language exchanges with Polish people over Skype, I've noticed that there are a few English mistakes that a lot of Poles seem to make.

While other nationalities certainly make these mistakes too, because of my familiarity with Polish, in most cases I can point to some characteristic of the Polish language that the speaker could be transferring to English.

Don't worry, none of the mistakes I'm going to discuss are critical! Native speakers will still understand, even if you make a few of these mistakes. :-)

Read more to see five mistakes that Poles commonly make when speaking or writing English!

do vs. make

Like many languages, Polish only has one word that means both "do" and "make" (robić). It's always challenging when your native language only has one word, but the language you're learning has two or more corresponding words! English speakers learning Polish will encounter this as well: in English, we have just one word for "know" but in Polish there are two (wiedzieć and znać).

The basic difference is:

  • We use "make" when the object is created as a result; for example: "make dinner."
  • We use "do" for activities in general; for example: "do taxes," or "do homework."

Confusion arises because both words are used in many expressions which don't follow these rules. You simply have to memorize them! For example:

  • make a mistake
  • make a decision
  • do someone a favor
  • do harm

learn vs. teach

"Trevor learns teaches us English!"

This is very similar to do vs. make. In Polish there is a word for "teach" (uczyć), but the word for "learn" (uczyć się) could be interpreted as "teach oneself."

There are actually dialects of English where people do use "learn" like the example above! But this is not standard English.

advices/informations

Both Polish and English have countable and uncountable nouns (meaning some words have plural forms and some do not). Sometimes these are the same words; for example, these words are uncountable in both languages: water (woda), music (muzyka) and coffee (kawa). But sometimes words that are countable in Polish are not countable in English.

The two most common examples I hear used incorrectly are "advices" and "informations." In Polish, these words are used very frequently in the plural form (porady and informacje). But in standard English, they can only be used in the singular form: "advice" and "information."

"He running" / "He done it"

I've noticed that some Polish people sometimes drop the helper verb in sentences that require one. In Polish, there are no helper verbs.

But I think the problem stems from contractions in English. It can be difficult to hear a native speaker say the helper verb at all!

Sentence With contraction Can sound like
He is running He's running "He running"
He has done it He's done it "He done it"
John had already been there John'd already been there "John already been there"

"From where are you coming?"

The correct version is: "Where are you coming from?"

(Note [2011-09-13]: As pointed out in the comments by Mark Shepherd, in some dialects keeping the preposition in front of the question word is always acceptable.)

Some Poles don't like to end sentences with prepositions. In Polish, you always put the preposition in front of the object it affects. But in English, in questions, sometimes you move the preposition to the end of the sentence.

Do you know any other common English mistakes? Write a comment!

Anonymous's picture

Do you mean that I can't write "thanks for this informationS?"

Wow, I am in a little shock.

David Snopek's picture

Yep! In standard English, "informations" is never correct. Regards, David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 11:50
Anonymous's picture

Is sentence "pieces of information/advice" correct?

Posted by: gri (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:09
David Snopek's picture

Yes! You can say, for example: "I'll give you two pieces of information" or "two pieces of advice".

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:13
Anonymous's picture

I thought so, because I'm almost certain that I've listen to some podcast, where this problem was touched. I can share with you that podcast, but I don't want to offence you, by putting here link.

I'd like to ask you a question about commas. Should I put one of these before e.g. "that" (pol. że; patrz pierwsze zdanie)?

I think, that maybe "won't" and "want" can be confusing too.

Correct my mistakes if you'll be so kind.

Posted by: gri (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:21
David Snopek's picture

Don't worry, putting a link in a comment won't cause offense so long as it's relavant to the conversation! :-)

No, you don't have to put a comma before "that" (like you do with "że" in Polish). The rules for commas in English are totally different than in Polish and I have to admit that I make lots of mistakes with them. ;-)

As far as you mistakes in the comment above:

  • I've listen -> I've listened
  • touched -> touched on
  • with you that podcast -> that podcast with you
  • offence you -> offend you
  • putting here link -> putting the link here

But those are all very small mistakes! You are doing very well. :-)

Best regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:33
Anonymous's picture

So, here it is: http://teacherluke.podomatic.com/ The one before last, named "Common Errors/Typical Mistakes"

I try to use commas in common sense, and I must admit that is a part of some serious lack of my knowledge ;)

Thanks for pointing me my mistakes, and good word:)

Someone mentioned about pronunciation: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/pron/ Pretty good material from the BBC - British accent of course.

There are tons of listen-to (can I say that?) material on iTunes. Some of it is really good - pretty much everything from the BBC is nice, clear spoken etc.

I think I'll look through your site - looks interesting.

"Tough", "through", "though" are also problematic to me - mainly by spelling - this "-ough-" thing is weird. How can it be: "Tough" [taff] and "though" [doł]?:)

Can you hint me some synonym to "pretty" in meaning like here "You've got pretty nice job here!"

Also, does anyone even use "got" anymore?

Sorry for so long post. Again, can you correct my possible mistakes?

Posted by: gri (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:51
David Snopek's picture

Thanks for the links! They look very nice. :-)

"listen-to material" might be "listenable material"? I'm not entirely sure what you want to say.

Yes, the pronunciation of words with "ough" is very inconsistent. You simply have to memorize how they are pronounced. I mentioned these words in a recent post BTW:

http://www.linguatrek.com/blog/2011/09/is-spelling-easier-for-non-native...

You could also say: "You have a rather nice job". I can't think of any other synonyms.

Yes, lots of people use "got"! Such as: "I got a raise", "I got home late last night", etc..

Sure, here are the mistakes I noticed:

  • in common sense -> with common sense
  • mentioned about pronunciation -> mentioned pronunciation
  • problematic to me -> problematic for me
  • mainly by spelling -> mainly because of spelling
  • can you hint me -> can you give me

Hope that helps!

Regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 16:10
Anonymous's picture

Better late than never...

"You have quite a nice job here!" (or "you've got quite a nice...")

I would say that pretty means in this case "a bit", like maybe half the strength of "very" e.g.

"He is very handsome!" = looks 10/10
"He is pretty intelligent" = brains 7/10

Posted by: Arleen (not verified) | Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 16:51
Anonymous's picture

David, I just wanted to say that I think that the ending a sentence with a preposition in English is actually incorrect, so Polish and English would share that quality, however, in speaking, we, english natives, leave prepositions at the end of the sentence which has recently been accepted. This is not though consistently correct if you look back to older English or any scholarly writing.

For Example:

Incorrect--"Who are you speaking to?"
This is what one would most likely say, but it is not correct since "who" is either a subject or a direct object. It is also improper to end the sentence with to

Correct---"To who are you speaking?"
This is the correct form as I have employed the correct indirect object, and I have not ended my sentence with a preposition. Despite the sentences validity, this would sound overly formal for a conversation among friend and even potentially pretentious. Nonetheless, it would be normal and respectable, in my opinion, if coming from a foreigner.

Posted by: Tyler Hardy (not verified) | Friday, July 11, 2014 - 12:37
Anonymous's picture

It's an amazing post in support of all the web users; they will get advantage from it I am sure.

Anonymous's picture

Now I can remember only one mistake: Poles have a tendency to use "actually" instead of "currently", because of polish word "aktualnie". :)

Posted by: petrus (not verified) | Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 15:13
Anonymous's picture

Eventually in English means finaly - in Polish there is word "ewentualnie" which means "or, as another (less obvious) possibility ...". Like "He should go by bus which is cheap, ewentualnie by train."

Poles often use eventually in English in its Polish meaning. I

I've been also told that Poles often ommit "the" and "a" in sentences or use one when another is required - which is easy to understand, because there's no "the" nor "a" equivalent in Polish.

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 09:39
David Snopek's picture

Good example! Native speakers of English make the same mistake but in reverse! :-) I've heard people say "ewentualnie" when they meant "w końcu".

I left "the" and "a" out of this article because I think all nationalities make mistakes with them in English, even when their language has equivalent words. For example, in Spanish there is "el/la" and "un/una" but even they make similar mistakes in English. I think "the" and "a" are just plain hard!

Regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 11:55
Anonymous's picture

I've heard that one of the biggest mistakes, which Poles make, is that Poles say "mep", "plen" instead of "maep", "plaen".

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 11:15
Anonymous's picture

And now think of the way Poles pronounce the word "comfortable". If you didn't notice that - write it down and ask them to read. I'd say it's pretty common :)

Posted by: Tomek (not verified) | Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 13:37
David Snopek's picture

Yes, I've noticed that with several other nationalities too. That word is just spelled badly! :-)

Posted by: David Snopek | Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 14:26
Anonymous's picture

Yes. Very often we (The Poles) spell that word like "comfort-table". It's very hard to us to say it in proper way :) Please forgive us :)

Posted by: Krzysiek (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:33
David Snopek's picture

Actually, I don't think it's a matter of the word being hard to pronounce. Because it's actually quite easy! It's just that many non-native speakers simply don't know that the pronunciation is so different from the spelling.

If the word had been spelling "comfterble" (the way it's actually pronounced) I don't think anyone would have any problems!

So, no forgiveness necessary. Maybe it's the non-native speakers who need to forgive the people responsible for creating English spelling. ;-)

Best regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:19
Anonymous's picture

Pierwszy raz spotykam sie z maep i plaen. O czym tu mowa?

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 16:42
David Snopek's picture

Myślę, że autorowi tego komentarzu chodziło o symbol fonetyczny "æ" (wygląda trochę jak "ae"), ktory reprezentuje dźwięk "a" w słowach "plan" i "map" po angielsku. Oto jest artykuł o tym dźwieku na Wikipedii po polsku i po angielsku.

Pozdrawiam serdecznie,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, May 30, 2011 - 06:07
Anonymous's picture

komentarza :)

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Monday, January 23, 2012 - 14:59
David Snopek's picture

Dzięki za poprawkę. :-) Pozdrawiam serdecznie, David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, January 23, 2012 - 18:20
Anonymous's picture

I have been surfing on-line greater than 3 hours nowadays, but I never discovered any interesting article like yours.
It is pretty price enough for me. Personally, if all web owners
and bloggers made good content as you did, the net
might be much more helpful than ever before.

Posted by: new moon posters (not verified) | Saturday, June 9, 2012 - 21:13
Anonymous's picture

Chodzi o wymowę. Słowa takie jak "plan" oraz "map" nie wymawia się ani przez A ani przez E (wymawiane jak w polskim), to brzmi jak połączenie tych dwóch samogłosek ;)

Posted by: Krzysiek (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:35
Anonymous's picture

Dziękuję za odpowiedź. Tak na marginesie powinno być " tego komentarza".
Pozdrawiam.

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Monday, May 30, 2011 - 18:35
David Snopek's picture

Aha! Dziękuję za poprawkę. :-)

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, May 30, 2011 - 21:02
Anonymous's picture

I wish my english was so "bad" as your polish! ;-)

Regards!

Fabulous job you have done for us!

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Friday, October 28, 2011 - 18:05
David Snopek's picture

Thanks for the kind words! :-)

Best regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Friday, October 28, 2011 - 20:02
Anonymous's picture

Yes I totally agreed with you.Few monts ago-when I found him on YT -I feel in love in this dude- because of his imagination,big big heart for us - other "poor" people trying to learn foreign language;)))And his sunny,bright personality ;-))how nice he is, isn't?....in a few simply words of his advance - he is giving us a big KICK on our hard way of learning ;-))

Posted by: Boshka (not verified) | Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 07:14
Anonymous's picture

Ja tak z innej beczki ( tzn. zupełnie nie na temat). Interesuje mnie jak powiedzieć po angielsku "jesień życia". Czyli wiek w którym starsi ludzie są na emeryturze i cieszą się jej urokami.
Z góry dziękuję za odpowiedziedź.

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 14:55
David Snopek's picture

Cześć!

Nie jestem pewien, że to znaczy dokładnie tak samo, ale kiedy ktoś jest na emeryturze, mówi się, że to są ich "golden years" ("złote lata").

Pozdrawiam serdecznie,
David.

PS: Dziękuję bardzo za wyjaśnienie frazy "z innej beczki". :-) Słyszałem to już wiele razy a nie byłem pewien co to znaczy.

Posted by: David Snopek | Friday, June 3, 2011 - 06:46
Anonymous's picture

Monty Python's "And Now For Something Completely Different" jest przetłumaczone na "A teraz coś z zupełnie innej beczki". Dla fanów Monty Pythona to zdanie jest kultowe :)

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 07:44
Anonymous's picture

A wymyślił je nieodżałowany Tomasz Beksiński. Gdyby nie on i jego nieprzeciętne umiejętności przeniesienia bardzo specyficznego humoru Pythonów pewnie nigdy latający cyrk i filmy tej grupy nie zdobyły by w u nas takiej popularności.
Widziałem odcinki w innych tłumaczeniach i to już zdecydowanie nie było to...

Pozdrowienia.

Posted by: adameq (not verified) | Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 02:08
Anonymous's picture

Moim osobistym zdaniem prawdopodobnie większość Polaków ma problem z poprawna wymowa angielskich samoglosek jak również dwuch sepleniacych dźwięków jakich nie ma w polskim. Mowa o th w takich wyrazach jak: the, this, third, fifth czy that, those etc. Pamietam, będąc w Polsce gdzie uczyłem się angielskiego, za skarby swiata żadna osoba ani książka nie potrafiła efektywnie wyjaśnić jak poprawnie zbudować ten dźwięk, podczas gdy po przyjeździe do USA znajoma Amerykanka nauczyła mnie wszystkiego w 2 minuty. Większość studentów mowila tank you, sank you lub fank you. Nikt nie potrafił powiedzieć thank. Problem z samogloskami w angielskim dla odmiany jest taki, ze reprezentują one wiele bardzo podobnie brzmiacych dla Polaka dźwięków których subtelnych różnic polskie ucho nie wylapuje. Polskie A, E, O czy I wypwiada się zawsze tak samo, podczs gdy angielskiem samogloskom odpowiada na ogol kilka różnych dźwięków. Aby wyjaśnić. Slyszac rodowitego amerykanina wypowiadajacego grass i cup słyszę ze w obu wyrazach A brzmi jakoś inaczej, niemniej nie potrafię krystalicznie precyzyjnie zarejstrowac i w konsekwencji zreprodukowac różnicy. Mój mózg rejestruje A w obu wyrazach jako ten sam dźwięk - polskie A. Wyrazy wypowiedziane przeze mnie bedą brzmieć w konsekwencji: grAs, cAp, no i oczywiście nie zadko usłysze: Mike, in this country we saying graaaaass, baaaaaasss not grus. Ktoś wspomniał już o AE - kolejny dzwiek jakiego polski nie ma. Istnieją równiez inne klopotliwe dla polaka dzwieki jak wybuchowe K np w cat (szczegolnie brytyjski angielski), czy SH ktore zupelnie nie odpowiada polskiemu SZ. Analogicznie bardzo niewielu obcokrajowcow potrafi poprawnie wymowic polskie SZ, czesto używając dźwięku bardziej przypominajacego Ś niz SZ.

Posted by: Michał H (not verified) | Sunday, July 3, 2011 - 01:52
David Snopek's picture

Dziękuję za komentarz!

Dźwięk TH jest problemem dla większości narodów uczących się angielskiego ale również dla Polaków. :-)

Oto są dwa dobre filmiki na YouTube'ie o tym, jak wymawiać ten dźwięk:

To prawda, mamy sporo samogłosek, o wiele więcej niż w języku polskim. To może cały nowy artykuł! Dziękuję za pomysł. :-)

Ja sam mam problemy z różnicą między SZ i Ś (jak wyraźniej słychać w moich filmikach) ale moim zdaniem, robię to odwrotnie. Wydaje mi się, że dobrze wymawiam SZ i najczęściej wymawiam Ś tak samo jak SZ. Ale oczywiście jest trudno sam to ocenić. ;-)

Pozdrawiam serdecznie,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, July 4, 2011 - 07:06
Anonymous's picture

"Ale oczywiście jest trudno sam to ocenić. ;-)"

Powinno być "samemu to ocenić" :)

Posted by: Krzysiek (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:40
David Snopek's picture

Dziękuję bardzo za poprawkę! :-) Pozdrawiam, David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:20
Anonymous's picture

...A wielu Polaków ma problem z ortografią. DWÓCH bo DWOJE. A za "Moim osobistym" polonistka też by mnie objechała :).

Posted by: Informatyk (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:05
David Snopek's picture

Właśnie napisałem artykuł o tym, że ortografia jest trudniejsza dla native speakerów danego języka:

http://www.linguatrek.com/blog/2011/09/is-spelling-easier-for-non-native...

Jak o tym sądzisz? :-)

Pozdrawiam,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:23
Anonymous's picture

"Co o tym sądzisz?" or "Co sądzisz?"/"Jak sądzisz?" (rare)

And I think that you are quite right.

Posted by: Anonymous (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:40
Anonymous's picture

"Jak o tym sądzisz?" - powinno być tak jak w angielskim "CO o tym sądzisz? / WHAT do You think?"

Bardzo dobrze się czyta Twojego bloga i Twój polski ! :) Pozdrawiam.

Posted by: Krzysiek (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:40
David Snopek's picture

Dzięki za poprawkę. :-)

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 14:42
Anonymous's picture

Many of polish people do this mistake: I have a right.
Correct: I am a right.

If I did mistake please correct me ;)

Posted by: Anonymous666 (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 07:29
David Snopek's picture

Almost correct! :-) It should be: I am right. (Without the "a")

Thanks for sharing! I had forgotten about this mistake.

Regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 10:07
Anonymous's picture

Because our polish word "mieć" (have in english) ... In polish we say "Mam rację" - that is a reason of our mistakes ;)

Posted by: Krzysiek (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:42
Anonymous's picture

Hello!
Is it correct to say "I had forgotten"? I thought that Past Perfect is used when we do something after doing something in the past :) Isn't correct "I have forgotten" in that particural example?

Posted by: Michal (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 15:54
David Snopek's picture

Both can be correct, it depends on what the speaker means. "I have forgotten" means that it concerns something that is relavant NOW (ie. I still can't remember now). "I had forgotten" means that it concerns something that was relavant in the past (ie. I had forgotten but now I remember).

Hope that helps!

Regards,
David.

Posted by: David Snopek | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 16:19
Anonymous's picture

Actually you made mistake twice. When you wrote "do this mistake" and "If I did mistake" (see first example in article) :-)

Am I right this time?

Posted by: mario_orcus (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 15:58
Anonymous's picture

Some polish ppl think that plural form of hair is hairs..

Posted by: pele (not verified) | Monday, September 12, 2011 - 09:22

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