Saturday, 1 February 2014

Checklist of 12 common sentence mistakes

Examples for English speakers learning Italian 

Sentences start with capital letters
This is an easy one, since it matches English and most languages.  However, it is one of the most common mistakes made by beginner language learners.  Hence, this is an important teaching point at the beginning of every writing assignment to help eliminate careless errors.

Word endings match in gender and number
This is more challenging for beginning learners of Italian. As English speakers, this is a challenge to remember and check properly as it is not part of the English language.

Verb conjugations for correct pronoun and tense
This is similar to English.  Verbs vary in both English and Italian.  However, there are more variations in Italian.  Because Italian has so many verb conjugations, Italian often dropped the pronouns before the verb.  This leaves the pronoun as implied for the listener/speaker.  So occasionally, the reader needs to determine the context, where the verb offer the only clue as to the pronoun dropped.
For example, “to have” varies between the two languages: bold shows variations
I have
io ho
you have
tu hai
he / she has
lei / lui ha
we have
noi abbiamo
you have
voi avete
they have
loro hanno

Use of capitals of time words days and months, language and nationalities etc.
In English, days of the week, months of the year, languages and nationalities all require a capital letter even when they are not at the start of the sentence. In Italian, the days of the week, months of the year, languages and nationalities never require a capital, unless they are at the start of the sentence.  In contrast, countries always require a capital letter.  So, beginners take time to remember only capitalize countries and not languages or nationalities.

Word order of nouns and adjectives
In English, word order is consistent: ALL adjectives followed by nouns. In Italian, there is a general rule: MOST adjectives follow nouns, because there are exceptions.
For example: ‘I have a black dog’  In Italian: ‘Io ho un cane nero.’
Here, the colour ‘black’ follows the noun ‘dog’ But some key adjectives break with this pattern.
See: ‘I have a beautiful dog’ In Italian: ‘Io ho un bel cane.’

Sentences end with full stops
Just like the English language, ALL sentences end with full stops.  It is surprising how easy this is, yet it is frequently forgotten when writing in a foreign language.

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