Hi there,
Can anyone explain to me the difference between error and mistake because looking up at the dictionary I don’t find any difference.

Thanks in advance

1. I had never heard that there was a difference between a mistake and an error until a certain trainer of mine brought it up. A mistake is a wrong response that if you thought about it you would realize is wrong. An error is a wrong response because you have no knowledge about what the right answer is. A student, if given a second chance, has the potential to correct a mistake, whereas a student has no potential to correct an error until he or she learns what is correct.

In a nutshell, errors you make because you don’t know better, and mistakes you make despite the fact that you know better.

2 A mistake is a random performance slip, and can be really self-corrected, whereas an error is a systematic deviation made by learners who have not yet mastered the rules of the target language.
For example, the word “forum” appears several times in a piece of writing, but “forom” shows twice among these words. At this time, we cannot say the author makes an error, instead, we have to say he or she just makes a spelling mistake for carelessness or something else!

3 Mirriam Websters seems to say that mistake leans more on a smaller scale, as if it’s no big deal; and error points to significant boo-boos in the bigger scheme of things:
ERROR suggests the existence of a standard or guide and a straying from the right course through failure to make effective use of this . MISTAKE implies misconception or inadvertence and usually expresses less criticism than error .

Encarta seems to say that mistakes can happen whether or not you know better:
mistake an incorrect, unwise, or unfortunate act or decision caused by bad judgment or a lack of information or care;
He expects people to make occasional mistakes and plans accordingly.
He soon learned he’d made a big mistake in marrying Bertha.
error something unintentionally done wrong;
If not detected, this error would have had disastrous consequences.
The leadership had made a serious error of military judgment.


“unintentional” mistake: something unintentionally done wrong, e.g. as a result of poor judgment or lack of care

“The report blames the crash on human error.”


5. Mistakes, sometimes also known as human errors, have no place in physics measurements. Examples of mistakes include: reading one number on a mesuring device and recording another, measuring diameter of a cylinder and recording it in a place reserved for height in the data chart, and mixing apples and oranges in general.

In science and statistics, an error (or residual) is not a “mistake” but rather a difference between a computed, estimated, or measured value and the true, specified, or theoretically correct value. An error is a bound on the precision and accuracy of the result of a measurement. These can be classified into two types: statistical error (see above) and systematic error. Statistical error is caused by random (and therefore inherently unpredictable) fluctuations in the measurement apparatus, whereas systematic error is caused by an unknown but nonrandom fluctuation. If the cause of the systematic error can be identified, then it can usually be eliminated. Such errors can also be referred to as uncertainties.

All measuring devices (balances ,metersticks, Vernier calipers, micrometers, etc.) have limitations known as leastcounts. For example: leastcounts for a meterstick, a Vernier, and a micrometer are 0.1 cm, 0.01 cm a d 0.001 cm respectively. This means that measurements made by a meterstick will have an error of +-0.1 and measurements made by a Vernier will have an error of 0.01 cm. These errors cannot be eliminated completely because of the limitations of the measuring devices, i.e., results of all measurements have an uncertainty equal to the leastcount of the measuring device used. The uncertainties in the measurements of all the variables in an experiment are divided by the respective values of the variables. All these fractional errors are numerically added and the result provides a range (X+-delta X) within which the experimental result should fall.

6. In Language 2 there’s a big difference between error and mistake. I was looking up for the difference on the net and I found a very interesting site. Here I copy what I found ( I did not write it)

These are alluded to in Chapter 3 of Gass, Susan M. and Larry Selinker. 2001. Second Language Acquisition, An Introductory Course. Here, a distinction is made between an error and a mistake from an SLA perspective, where

“Mistakes are akin to slips of the tongue. That is, they are generally one-time-only events. The speaker who makes a mistake is able to recognize it as a mistake and correct it if necessary. An error, on the other hand, is systematic. That is, it is likely to occur repeatedly and is not recognized by the learner as an error” (p. 67)

7. Mistake (you know it’s wrong)
For example, you know how to spell the words they’re and their, but in writing an email one day you type “Their nice people.” It’s grammatically wrong, of course, and you know that, but you don’t realize it’s wrong at the time because you are busy typing and thinking, and not focused on spelling.

Error (you don’t know it’s wrong)
Soup is right. As specialist linguistics terms (Corder, 1967), errors result from lack of knowledge, while mistakes are performance phenomena, such as writing it’s for its.
The terms are used to differentiate these concepts.
1. He go to school. (Error. The student has not learnt the 3rd person form)
2. He goes to scool. (Mistake. The student knows the correct spelling, but wrote it wrongly)

kon: it’s a mistake if, once it’s pointed out to you, you immediately realise you’ve made a mistake.

However, in colloquial English, a mistake is an error.


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