The Incorrect Use of Verbs in Senior High School Students’ Compositions--- A Research Proposal Based on Corpus


The Incorrect Use of Verbs in Senior High School Students’ Compositions--- A Research Proposal Based on Corpus


辽宁省大连市枫叶初中 , 116000

Abstract: The focus of this paper is the errors of using of verbs including using the wrong tenses, misuse vt. with vi., the verbal phrases errors and so on. With the help of Chinese Learners’ English Corpus, CLEC)(GuiShichun, YangHuizhong 2003) and more than 100 middle school students’ compositions from Maple Leaf Middle Students. Hopefully, it will benefit English writing teaching.


Writing competence is one of the most important and also difficult among the four competences. Chinese middle schools students tend to have a high frequency in using verbs, thus there are lots of verb errors existing in their compositions. Verbs play really vital roles in writing. They are just like the skeleton in a sentence. What’s more, there are obvious differences in using verbs between Chinese and English. It is no wonder that incorrect use of verbs are frequent in Senior High School students’ compositions. With the analysis and conclusion of the incorrect use of verbs, the following question is supposed to be answered:

  1. Among all kinds of verb errors, what is the main verb error for middle school students?

Research method

Corpus and statistical analysis software are mainly used. Besides, questionnaire and interviews are also used. The interviewees are from Dalian Maple Leaf International School, Grade 7 students 90, Grade 8 students 90, Grade 10 students 90 and some English teachers from Maple Leaf, both international and bilingual.

Table 1 CLEC Corpora distribution


Word frequencies

ST2 (Senior High students)


ST3 (University non-English major students)


ST4 (University non-English major students)


ST5 (University English major students)


ST6 (University English major students)




In this paper, my focus is mainly on ST2 in order to think about the improvements in middle school English teaching, especially in writing and vocabulary.

Research results

With MY FINDER retrieval, ST2 verb errors are as table 2.

Table 2 ST2 verb errors distribution

According to table 2, Senior High school students have the highest verb error ratio in CLEC. As the tables shows, the main verb error type is tenses and vt..

VP 动词短语


Verb error ratio 错误率


VP 1 及物动词


VP2 动词词组


VP3 主谓一致


VP4 不定式


VP5 时态错误


VP6 情态


Misuse of present tense


Misuse of present perfect tense


Misuse of past tense


Misuse of future tense


Misuse of present progressive tense


Misuse of past progressive tense


Misuse of past perfect tense


Questionnaires and interviews are both one of the most effective and direct methods to collect dependable data for research. After all, students and teachers are at the forefront of English teaching, so they can give us the reliable feedback to confirm the research conclusions. The questions are about students’ true feeling about using the verbs, the main difficulties using verbs in compositions, what the main causes are to have verb errors. I will explain the questions to the interviewees to ensure they are totally understand all the questions. Also the questions are translated in Chinese. They are supposed to answer the questions anonymously within set time.

I will conduct the interviews to international and bilingual teachers with the aim to make clear of common verb errors in students’ essays from teachers’ perspectives, and teachers common and effective teaching strategies on solving these problems.

Possible causes to the verb errors

Actually, explanations of verb error causes is regarded as an vital aspect in English teaching, especially English writing and vocabulary teaching, which is really challenging and complicated to figure out. Based on the analysis from CLEC, and the possible results from questionnaires and interviews(the author is also one of the teachers), the key cause maybe Chinese English, which means mother tongue interference. We all know there are many obvious differences between English and Chinese, so when students write a sentence, their mother language will come first, mixed the English they learn, they will always have the following verb errors:

  1. I very like English.

  2. Good good study, day day up.

  3. You tell me why.

Tense errors are also because of mother language interference. The tense system definitely differs from Chinese, therefore, students will be inevitable affected. This kind of error is also middle school students’ most frequent errors.

Suggestions for future English writing teaching

As the author of this paper as well as an middle school English teacher, based on the findings and the possible causes, here are my suggestions for future English teaching.

Firstly, more native and authentic input. As I mentioned above, mother language interference may be the first cause to verb errors, thus, middle school students need more changes to listen and communicate with native speakers to sense their language features in person. In reading class, teachers had better select more authentic stories and passages. Authentic reading materials have authentic words and slang, which are pretty important for students to understand and master. Enough authentic input contributes to ideal output. In this way, during the process of English learning, students are immersed in authentic English, which has a best influence on their English learning. This is the importance of environment.

Secondly, as far as I’m concerned, to spoon-feed students is not a good teaching method. Students themselves should be the center of learning. When we recite something mechanically, how can we use them correctly in different situations! Therefore, students should explore the rules by themselves first, and teachers offer some guidance. In this way, I suppose students can have a better understanding so that they may not have some simple or silly mistakes.

Last but not least, face-to-face composition editing is essential. Nowadays, mostly, teachers will give a score for students’ compositions. Then the writing editing process is finished. How can students make progress? They will hand in a same level composition next. Some teachers may tell students’ problem in the compositions, such as not enough details, no clear topic sentence or not clear structure. In my opinion, students should be clear about their problems and most important, they should know how to solve the problems and improve. In the face-to-face editing process, teachers can point out the problems and tell them how to improve in detail. For example, in this composition, students have many verb errors, teacher can help students to sum up these errors to remind them when they write next time, pay attention to the same errors.


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