Usage problems in (Dutch) students’ essays

I’m currently reading a pile of students’ essays on the use of WordSmith Tools in the analysis of two eighteenth-century English novels. They make very interesting reading, and no two are alike.

This time, though, in view of the discussions about usage and usage problems on this blog, I decided to keep track of the kind of usage problems I encountered in their writing (which btw tends to be very to fairly good).

So far, I’ve listed the following:

  • to dig even deeper (for “more deeply”)
  • computer programme (for “program”)
  • this research (for “analysis”: is this an Americanism?)
  • amount of similarities, a high amount of French words (for “number”)
  • it are these differences (possibly a typically Dutch error)
  • the reason is because (for “that”).

How common are these features among native-speaking students? Mine are in their second year. What other features of this kind do readers of this blog encounter?

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4 Responses to Usage problems in (Dutch) students’ essays

  1. Meneer D says:

    Interesting. What is wrong with ‘deeper’? Meneer D tends to use that as well.

  2. Kate Wild says:

    I would agree. ‘Dig deep’ and ‘dig deeper’ seem fine to me, and are common in corpora (more common than ‘dig deeply’ or ‘dig more deeply’ in BNC and COCA). I was wondering, is that because ‘deep’ can be a flat adverb, or is it because ‘deep’ here is an adjectival complement: that is, you’re not digging in a deep manner, but digging so as to be at a deep point (compare ‘run deep’, ‘go deep’, etc.)?

    I sympathise with the students over ‘computer programme’, as I often have to check myself with that one too!

  3. Anya says:

    Every year I end up with roughly the same list of mistakes that students make and however many times I point them out to them, they continue to make them (both native-English speakers and Dutch students). The list includes the ones you mention above and also the following (most of them relate to spelling):
    less instead of fewer
    confusing pair: effect/affect
    ‘lead’ when they mean the past tense or participle ‘led’
    advice (noun)/advise (verb)
    quiet/ quite
    untill (they confuse till (two ‘l’) with until (one ‘l’)
    ‘more easy’ (instead of easier or more easily)
    ‘a research’ when they mean ‘a study’ or ‘research’

    Alison Edwards at Cambridge University is creating a corpus of ‘Dutch English’ as part of her PhD research. See

  4. Alison says:

    Delayed reaction as I just see this now … but I’d agree, less/fewer and number/amount are ones that are typically confused, both by native-speaking students and Dutch students. Marking Dutch students essays I often used to find adjectives used instead of adverbs, as in ‘This study will look thorough at the issue of x’. Possibly because there is no differentiation in Dutch between adverbs and adjectives, though some would claim there’s a trend towards loss of adverb marking in English, though only some of them (e.g. ‘real bad’)… I’ve actually just posted on common Dutch ‘errors’/’features’ (depending on your perspective!) over at:

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