Incorrect English sentences. Help us find them!

Dear users, we were told that we would be able to delete those English sentences which are incorrect. We cannot do that ourselves, we need to prepare a list of those and give it to the developers. We will try to find as many as we can, but if any one of you finds one or more, please, write them down here. Please make it very concise, just comment with the sentence itself. If you want to add explanations, answer to your own comment with the sentence alone. I will give an example below.

Also if someone submits an "incorrect" sentence, and you think it is correct, answer to that comment, and explain your position.

You can also vote up, if you think the sentence is indeed incorrect, and vote down, if you think it is fine.

January 8, 2014

117 комментариев

He died of a cancer. Deleted

January 8, 2014

The use of the indefinite article is incorrect. Should be She died of cancer.

"Of the cancer" is just plain wrong. It should be "of cancer". "Of a cancer" is "sort-of" correct if you mean "he died of a disease that was a variety of cancer" but it should not be in a language course.

And what's better "He has brain cancer / cancer in the brain" ?

Brain cancer = Рак головного мозга.

Also see

Their pork eats rice.

The use of the word pork is incorrect. We use it to describe the meat that comes from the animal called pig. Should be Their pig eats rice.

I like minimum salt. (adjectives 1)

I've never heard anything like this in my life.

I think this would only work with 'a' -- "I like a minimum of salt (in my food)."

Another option: I like a little salt. (in my food)

The food does not fit in this plate.

My guess that they created this sentence not as with "on this plate" but "fit in" + "this plate".

Write for me your personal address, please.

This one is not necessarily incorrect, but it sounds very awkward. I would just move the 'for me' -- "Write your personal address for me, please."

The judge had established the order. (Discussed here:

No article needed for this usage of 'order' -- it is an abstract concept. The usage of 'order' with an article, such as a court order, does not go with the verb 'establish' -- "The judge had given/ruled on/issued the order."

We're / We are in January. (Дата и Время)

While this sentence is correct, it is not how native speakers would speak; we say "It's / It is January." (Or perhaps "This is January.")

Yes, it sounds French, that is how they say.

I thought, it's just a colloquial expression used in speech, sort of "Just in case someone has forgotten, we are in January already". If not.. were those sentences really written by a native speaker?

I think you're right -- I have heard things like "Oh right, we are in January already" when dealing with appointments. But never on its own (without the already).

As to being written by the native speakers: my guess is, no. They seem to come from some text corpus, and the text corpus wasn't very good. Some of them in the German=Russian course seem to have been translated from English, but not very well. (The constructions are not native german constructions, but rather sound like 1:1 translations from english, the same way we are trying to keep as close to the original english sentences as possible -- maybe artefacts left over from creating the English=German course the same way we are now creating the Russian=x courses). A few others seem to be from some rather old texts (there are some "aged" expressions in there).

So if we are lucky most of the corpus is from texts by original speakers. If we are not, some of the sentences are translated from whatever language has been the very first one in the set (I assume, spanish).

If I were creating a Russian course, I would employ a number of artificial sentences, of course... For grammatical purposes. But why use awkward translations from other languages? For English? I bet even some of the programmers in the staff have English as a mother tongue.

The course mostly looks as if it was indeed written by a native; the use of many words not in their main meanings supports that suggestion. So typical for any person to forget that many words in their language mean vastly different things depending on the context :)

To 1.- because Duo seems to have been originally created as a "no budget production".

To 2.- this is also what it would look like if it is taken from a largely random text corpus ^^ ("Mostly written by a native" with randomly weird sentences in between).

"They have been to America last month."

This should say "they have been to America" or "they were in America last month" - same issue as with the restaurant that had opened yesterday.

Yes, "they have been to America recently" or "they were in America last month" are both correct, but not "they have been to America last month".

"I eat tomato."

"I have never eaten tomato" — same issue here?

Yes. You'd have to use 'a' - "I have never eaten a tomato." You could use the plural (...eaten tomatoes), but it would sound quite odd. (I would say "I've never had a tomato.")

And what about "Your students have given us new hope"? I see it from usage that "hope", as many, many abstract nouns — is normally used with no articles. However, sometimes it is used with them. And there is also "A New Hope" (the old Star Wars trilogy). Would it even be correct to use "have given us a new hope" here?

Using articles with abstract nouns, as you said, is very uncommon. It wouldn't be correct in the 'students' example. I think Star Wars gets away with it because the new hope is Luke. He only other instance of using an article with hope is in The Great White Hope.

I'm not sure what the problem is with this one; we use this phrasing all the time: I eat cake, meat, chicken, steak, eggplant, coleslaw... But there are a few that come to mind that we don't say: I eat sandwich, cherry, donut... and "I eat tomato." just doesn't ring true for me.

Agreed. I think the problem is that "tomato" is a count noun, not a mass noun. So you can say "I eat tomatoes" but not "I eat tomato". The opposite would hold true for "water", which is a mass noun but not a count noun, so you can say "I drink water" but not "I drink waters".

That certainly seems so. This is interesting it me - something I've never thought of before. It seems that the vast majority of food - or, at least, what I can think of - falls into this category while at the same time being considered countable. I bake a pie. I eat pie. She's making two pies. Other than a few things, such as sandwiches, lollipops, popsicles, biscuits, waffles... and ribs or chicken wings... I can't think of a lot of food that can't be used as a mass noun when preparation or habitual eating is the context. Hamburger is a good one - "I eat hamburger" immediately distinguishes itself as the meat, not the sandwich. I thought it might be that really new foods or dishes were not included, but "I eat chicken cacciatore" or "I eat caesar salad" sound fine to me...

wow, I didn't know that. And it is quite important. Thank you for sharing.

I think I have it. If you eat the food (typically) in its entirety, you must use the plural when saying "I eat/buy/cook/etc." meaning that you do so in general. So, I eat chicken/pie/broccoli, but not for Sandwiches, apples, oranges, candy bars, chicken wings, ribs, waffles, marshmallows, pancakes, cookies, bananas...

That sounds right. And would explain why you wouldn't normally say "I eat watermelons" or "I eat pineapples".

"The shoes of the girls are black."

While this sentence is of course correct, it is not regular, native usage, and is exactly the kind of construction I would not want to use if I were learning English. "The girls' shoes are black."

Agreed. And it's not as if Russian speakers should have any great problems with learning how to use the English possessive/genitive case.

"I eat meat, but not the meat in the menu."

"I want for him to do his work."

Thank you Foma, for this one and all others. I'm just amazed how many incorrect senteces we have.

"What you will present at the conference?"

Should be "What will you present at the conference?"

We have so many questions of this kind. It is just impossible to delete all of them :(((

A new restaurant has opened yesterday.

Present perfect and yesterday in one sentence.

This isn't technically incorrect, but I think the context that would be required is so convoluted that it should probably be changed to "A new restaurant opened yesterday."

The only way I can see this exact phrase coming up is if the "has" is used for emphasis exactly to contradict something: "That would only be true if a new restaurant opened yesterday." "A new restaurant has opened yesterday." --And even then, I think someone would say "A new restaurant did open yesterday."

The rule for British English is that you can only use the present perfect to refer to an event taking place in a defined time period which is not yet closed. Hence you would say "I have seen him today" not "I saw him today", "I have eaten there this year" not "I ate there this year" and "I have never [in my life] been to France" not "I never [in my life] went to France".

The past simple, in contrast, is used to refer to events taking place during a defined time period which is closed. Hence, you would say "I saw him yesterday" not "I have seen him yesterday", "I ate there last year" not "I have eaten there last year", and "Mozart never went to Las Vegas [during his life, which is over]" not "Mozart has never gone to Las Vegas [during his life, which is over]".

Consequently, under the rules for British English, "A new restaurant has opened this week" would be fine, as would "A new restaurant opened yesterday", but "A new restaurant has opened yesterday" is definitively wrong.

Statistical evidence taken from the Internet overwhelmingly indicates that - in this case at least - the rules for correct use the present perfect in British English also hold true for current, online, international usage. Google searching yields 10 hits for "a new restaurant opened yesterday" and only 1 (this Duolingo discussion) for "a new restaurant has opened yesterday". Furthermore, "it opened yesterday" yields approximately 1,300,000 hits, while "it has opened yesterday" yields approximately 10 hits, most of them apparently written by Italians. This Google NGram also indicates that historical written usage accords with correct British English:

"The winter is a season."

While I won't say it's incorrect, I think it's much better without the "the."

"I am in eight grade.""

Is it really used like that, with a cardinal number?

No. It should be "I am in the eighth grade".

It is possible that the decisions change every two weeks?

The course uses questions with a statement-like word order a bit too often. Does it even sound natural in the sentence that long?

The collection is at museum. Should be in the museum

I go say hello.

(in Verbs: Present)

Поддерживаю решение удалить: Если вы знаете, как этим в английском пользоваться, вам учить английский на дуолинго поздно. (Yet another casual or advanced learner's sentence -- "What do you usually do when you're in Moscow?" - "I go say hello to my parents.")

Go say hello to your mom!

The difference is slight, I admit, but while you can say Go say hello to your mom in the command form, you most likely will say I go and say hello to my mom..

Such sentences are proving to be confusing to the beginners.

What about "I go to say hello to my mom"? Is it correct?

Если вы имеете в виду "я иду сказать своей маме привет" было бы "I am going to say hello to my mom." А так как это же предложение слово в слово обозначает "Я буду говорить своей маме привет", принято ставить после "going to" цель передвижения, допустим "туда", если не имеется в виду фразальное будущее. (См также "voy a" в испанском). То есть сказали бы наверное "I am going to my mom, to say hello" (to her).

Формально правильно, но это значит, что вы регулярно ходите куда-то, чтобы сказать своей маме Здравствуй. И здесь интуитивно я чувствую, что было бы лучше уточнить куда. I usually go there, to say hello to my mom.

I am at the beach hotel.

The phrase "beach hotel" just seems really awkward to me -- "I am at the hotel on / at / by the beach." sounds much more normal.
  • 2041

Maybe because 'beach' sounds like another b* word, it may be misunderstood on audio test. So Foma's proposal looks reasonable.

I've just never seen or heard the phrase "beach hotel" in English.

То, что вы имеете в виду, произносится где то между "бытщ" и "бэтщ", где то может и около "битщ" но всегда коротко. То, что там действительно написано, произносится "биич", тоесть растянуто и с очень явным "и". Ошибится трудно если вы эти слова когда либо в правильном произношении слышали.
  • 2041

[biʧ] vs [biːʧ] разница только в долготе і

В фонетическом написании да. В Калифорнии только если вы не слышите разницу между ə и i.

Эти "и" по качеству сильно различаются. Я бы сказал, тут разника не столько в долготе, сколько в "напряжённости". "Короткий" (как обычно говорят) звук более лёгкий и средний. "Длинный", это такое махровое "и", всем И И.

It rains over us.

"From where is your friend?" — is it a natural way to ask such a question?

I believe it is technically correct. However, the natural way would be "Where is your friend from?"

I do know it is technically correct. The question is, if this usage is correct enough to teach.

No, natives wouldn't use that word order.

Added to the delete list

The red string is for the engine.

The sentence makes no sense, but it is correct english.

We just get responses for it daily -- people are befuddled as to what does this sentence mean.

P.S. A further clarification -- in my view, we should identify not only those sentences that are flat out wrong grammatically, but also those that make little sence in English to begin with, and thus lead to the frustration on the learners' part when they grapple with possible (and nonsensical) translations.

If you set yourself the task of removing all of the absurd sentences from Duolingo you're going to have to do a lot of work. Also, I've always thought that encountering absurd sentences along the lines of "Their octopi are entirely naked" was part of the fun of Duolingo. But then perhaps I've just watched too much Monty Python.

We are not going to remove all absurd sentences. We love them too. Don't worry :)

Our issue is not with the funny, deliberately absurdists sentences that are clearly translatable. We are talking about those ostensibly "normal" sentences where the meaning is not possible to grasp, and that frustrates the users (both experienced and novices).


I absolutely agree on the value of these quirky sentences that you indeed have to translate accurately -- they help to build you to build up your vocabulary!! Which NOT to say, however, that every such sentence devised by Duolingo is guaranteed to be 100% success hit.

So, again, in my view there is a practical difference between the sentences when can be translated relatively unequivocally (tu oso bebe cerveza, or somos tortugas come to mind ;) ), and those that just stump and frustrate the user.

We're not a boot camp, and not a cram school. We have a choice of methods. If we can teach the same words to the user while making it A) a light-hearted, positive experience or B) random and frustrating, why by not all means try to always deliver A)? That's what I mean.

I think some of the sentences are introduced on purpose, to make the person not grasp the meaning, but actually have to translate the sentence in pieces. From the point of view of learning a language that is not necessarily a bad thing, because it prevents the user from "cheating" (ie simply guessing what the sentence would be in Russian from understanding a few words). If you have contact to the devs I'd go ask them whether sentences like that are deliberate or not.

Personally, I would keep this one.

He is a ten.

(Under Numbers).

She is a ten! Is a perfectly fine sentence.

Although, it should be more like, She is a nine and a half. Because there's no perfection! :P

Hey, just because you haven't met her doesn't mean they don't exist! :P

Or maybe she's really awesome, then you'd say "Man, she goes up to 11!"?


Then the real question would be why would she go out with me? :)

А не должно быть She is ten, she is nine and a half?

Нет, это был бы её возраст, (а в десять такое рановато.)

"He is a 10" это оценка, то есть "он - десятка"

По камушку каждому! :) :D

I doubt you can explain that to beginners :)

Maybe in the flirting bonus section, then. :D I think context would be clearer that way.

We don't even have that.

She did not use to drink wine.

Извиняюсь, вы правы, должно быть "She never used to drink wine" or colloquially "She didn't used to drink wine". В этом употреблении "use" всегда должно быть "used" (см. "Garner's Modern American Usage").

Yes, that's what I had in mind. She never used to drink wine would appear to be the proper way to say it.

According to the Oxford English dictionary, "use to" is correct here, but only because the auxiliary very "do" is being used:

'Except in negatives and questions, the correct form is "used to": "we used to go to the cinema all the time", not "we use to go to the cinema all the time". However, in negatives and questions using the auxiliary verb "do", the correct form is "use to", because the form of the verb required is the infinitive: "I didn’t use to like mushrooms", not "I didn’t used to like mushrooms".'

Here's the American opinion on this - from Garner's (mentioned above), Page 836. There is apparently some controversy about this: Garner's Modern American Usage, Page 836

This would be common colloquial usage, once it was corrected to 'used' - people say "(S)He didn't used to do that." pretty often, even if it sounds horrible.

"The key for success is preparation." — shouldn't you use "key to success" here?

"These children are without food and sometimes even without parents."

Foma says it is OK grammar-wise — but quite a queer way to express the idea, mashing together parents and food.

"I have her fork in my plate."

Should be "...on my plate." It's in lesson 10 of Предметы.

Thanks, adding it to our Delete list.

He does minimum work.

I happened to stumble across this thread. I hope the process for removing sentences is easier now than when it was posted!

"minimal" would be the expected word here

He offers me to work with him.

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