How to choose the right tense and sound like a native English speaker

How to be choosing the right tense and be sounding like a native English speaker

It’s often the “little things” that make a difference in whether you sound like a native English speaker or writer.

You can do everything else correctly – your words and spelling – but you get one “little thing” wrong and it makes your written or spoken words sound wrong.

For example, the other day as I was checking out a very cool vintage store,  two things caught my eye.

First of all, this cool retro chair caught my attention:

retro chair

And something else – a tell tale sign on the sign on that chair – a sign that the writer was from an ESL background (English as a Second language).

Can you see the tell-tale sign (a classic ESL mistake)  on the sign on the cool chair?

I’m a real word nerd and I notice these little things. I mainly help ESL business people improve their Business English – and this mistake is common in business writing.

vintage chair sign

Yes, it’s using the wrong tense – rather than the simple present tense:

Please don’t sitthe writer uses don’t be sitting.

This mistake is very common in Hindi   where speakers and writers often overuse  the present progressive (the -ing  words in  progress) when in English the present simple is used.

I am not knowing how to be speaking Hindi  – but my research is telling me that the simple present tense is not being used in the native language.

That last sentence deliberately used unnecessarily complex and unnatural sounding tenses.

It should have read:

I don’t know how to speak Hindi – but my research tells me that the simple present tense is not used...

So if you are an ESL writer or speaker – look out for your -ing words and consider if a simpler, more natural tense is a better choice.

Sometime the -ing words are appropriate if you are in the process of performing an action.

But, don’t be using the -ing tenses unnecessarily and…

Please – Don’t be sitting in the cool retro chair.


Also, the comma is used incorrectly – that’s known as a comma splice.

I know I can sound like a nit-picking word nerd ( and I can be) – but I also have a hip and fun, retro-loving side!

And yes, I have a “thing” for retro chairs – like the Mad Men– style Corona Chair!

mad men chair!

mad men chair

If you (or your organisation) would like help improve your Business English – please contact me. I am based in Brisbane and mainly work all over Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

word nerd CU

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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.


tony biancotti


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