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  1. #1
    daemon99 is offline Member
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    Usage of mistake/error

    1) Non-native speakers of English normally make a mistake in using the word "doubt".
    2) Non-native speakers of English normally make a mistake while using the word "doubt".
    3) Non-native speakers of English normally make a mistake when using the word "doubt".

    Can someone please tell me which of the above sentences sound(s) natural? Do they mean the same? Can I replace mistake with error in the above sentences without losing the meaning?

  2. #2
    IHIVG's Avatar
    IHIVG is offline Member
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    Re: Usage of mistake/error

    Quote Originally Posted by daemon99 View Post

    1) Non-native speakers of English normally make a mistake in using the word "doubt".

    2) Non-native speakers of English normally make a mistake while using the word "doubt".
    3) Non-native speakers of English normally make a mistake when using the word "doubt".

    Can someone please tell me which of the above sentences sound(s) natural? Do they mean the same? Can I replace mistake with error in the above sentences without losing the meaning?
    Yes, you can. For the most part, 'error' and 'mistake' mean the same. Usually 'mistake' is less severe, so you'd be more likely to use it in the sentences like above, but I wouldn't say that 'error' is wrong.

    (3) and (2) are identical.
    (1) means that they make a mistake in the actual word 'doubt' -- it could be wrong spelling or it could be placed in the wrong context, while
    (3) and (2) don't particularly specify where a mistake could occur -- it could be, for example, in punctuation or in other words of the sentence in which the word 'doubt' appears.

  3. #3
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    Re: Usage of mistake/error

    Unless there is one particular mistake they all make, such as spelling it "dout" or something, then you should say, "...speakers make mistakes in/when/while using..." You could also just say, "...mistakes using..." They all mean about the same thing.

  4. #4
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Usage of mistake/error

    Note also that in linguistics, in the sub-field of Second Language Acquisition, a mistake is made when the person knows the correct form but gets it wrong anyway; an error is made when the person does not know the correct form. (Corder, 1967).

    If I write, "He put the canary back in it's cage", that's a mistake, because as soon as you point out that it should be "its", I will recognise the mistake.
    If a learner wrote that, and could not see an mistake, that would count as an error.

    In normal English, mistakes and errors are the same thing, but occasionally you might come across this distinction if you're reading about Error Analysis of L2 learners.

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