An Investigation of Syntactic Errors in Chinese Undergraduate EFL Learners’ Compositions: A Cohort Study

Meihua Liu, Ying Xu


This paper reports on a study of syntactic errors in English essays composed by Chinese university students. Thirty undergraduate non-English majors across disciplines produced 90 essays on three tasks during eight weeks, and answered a self-developed questionnaire at the end of the course. Analyses of the data resulted in the following main findings: (1) Among the ten types of syntactic errors, errors in tense and voice were the most frequently occurring type of errors,  (2) the errors generally tended to decrease across tasks, (3) the syntactic errors of various categories were generally inversely correlated with the students’ writing performance, and (4) the errors were caused by diverse reasons, of which carelessness and the differences between Chinese and English were considered the most crucial.



Syntactic error; writing performance

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