Like


Every language has its own gap-filler words. These words are essentially meaningless but are used to aid the smoothness of the conversation. These useless words are also known as vocalized pauses. In English, these are usually ‘ah’, ‘well’ or ‘you know’.

In North America, especially among young people in the US, it is common to use the word ‘like’ as a particle. This use of the word ‘like’ became popular with the rise of Valley speak, which was a stereotypical manner of speaking that originated in Southern California in the 1970s. Valley speak was characterised by phrases like being, I don’t know, like, totally hooked on using the word ‘like’.

So, what exactly is wrong with using ‘like’ as a particle?

Firstly, when quoting someone, we use verbs to express the action we want to describe: yelled, whispered, answered, exclaimed, insisted, et cetera.

  • Incorrect: “He was like, ‘Where are you going?’ and she was like, ‘None of your business!'”
  • Correct: “He asked, ‘Where are you going?’ and she yelled, ‘None of your business!”

Secondly, do not use ‘like’ to approximate. When you are giving a quantity that you are not sure of, you might use the word ‘like’ to indicate that you are guessing or approximating. In this case, it can easily be replaced by the words: about, approximately, roughly, et cetera.

  • Incorrect: “She’s, like, five feet tall.”
  • Correct: “She’s about five feet tall.”

Thirdly, do not use ‘like’ before adjectives and adverbs. You might also find yourself using other gap-fillers such as ‘so’ or ‘really’.

  • Incorrect: “She’s, like, really irritated.”
  • Correct: “She’s irritated.”

Hardcore English Grammar (iv)


The following collection of grammatical errors are fine examples of a number of complex and indeed very complex mistakes in English grammar. The corrections are based on Swan’s Practical English Usage (2005).

– PREPARATORY IT
“In this theory is explained how it is possible that these languages are still spoken and very different from each other.” = In this theory it is explained how it is possible that these languages are still spoken and very different from each other.
(446) & (178.2) Wrong ellipsis. Preparatory it as (provisional) subject; it at the beginning of the clause, the (finite) clause as subject at the end.

– PROVISIONAL THERE
“At first the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons lived together in a fairly friendly way so there were borrowed a lot of words from Scandinavian.” = At first the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons lived together in a fairly friendly way so a lot of words were borrowed from Scandinavian.
(587) Provisional or introductory there is only used as subject to say something exists somewhere; it is mainly used with lexical be, but never in the passive.

– CONDITIONAL IF
If we play tennis, I am sure I would win.” = If we play tennis, I am sure I will win.
(256-263) First conditional – to describe an event likely to happen now or in the future: if + present tense, will + infinitive.

“Many problems that married couples face could end if they would reinstate a ‘dating attitude’ in their relationships.” = Many problems that married couples face could end if they reinstated a ‘dating attitude’ in their relationships.
(256-263) Second conditional – to describe non reality in the present or future: if + past tense, could/would + infinitive.

“I realise that if I would have had these children under my wings for a longer period of time, I would have known who is fast and who is slow.” = I realise that if I had had these children under my wings for a longer period of time, I would have known who is fast and who is slow.
(256-263) Third conditional – to describe a past situation that did not happen: if + past perfect tense, would have + past participle; no would in the main clause.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Hardcore English Grammar (iii)


The following collection of grammatical errors are fine examples of a number of complex and indeed very complex mistakes in English grammar. The corrections are based on Swan’s Practical English Usage (2005).

– ELLIPSIS
“The current sports centre is on campus grounds and introduced for the benefit of students.” = The current sports centre is on campus grounds and was introduced for the benefit of students.
(178.2) Wrong ellipsis. Only a repeated word with identical function and wordclass can be left out. In this case, the verb is is a copula; the verb was is an auxiliary.

– INVERSION
“Sylvia spoke only English in her first years and only when she went to nursery school, she really learnt speaking Dutch.” = Sylvia spoke only English in her first years and only when she went to nursery school, did she really learn to speak Dutch.
(302) Negative inversion. After initial negative adverbial ‘only …’ the auxiliary should be placed before the subject. In case there is no auxiliary, use do.

– MISRELATED PARTICIPLE
“Being in America, a ‘pizza party’ sounded very promising to hungry and weary travellers.” = When they were in America, a ‘pizza party’ sounded very promising to hungry and weary travellers.
(411.4) Misrelated participle. The subject of the adverbial -ing participle clause should be the same as the subject of the main clause.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Hardcore English Grammar (ii)


The following collection of grammatical errors are fine examples of a number of complex and indeed very complex mistakes in English grammar. The corrections are based on Swan’s Practical English Usage (2005).

– PASSIVE
“Mr Hamilton is resembled by none of his four sons.” = None of his four sons resemble Mr James Hamilton.
(412.4) The verb resemble (stative verb) cannot be used in the passive.

“Nature Seekers, a local conservation group, was donated $200,000 for the rescue of the turtles.” = $200,000 was donated to Nature Seekers, a local conservation group, for the rescue of the turtles.
(415) The indirect object of the verb donate always takes to, it cannot be used in the passive.

“That global warming is not a problem is believed by some scholars.” = It is believed by some scholars that global warming is not a problem.
(417.1) A clause as direct object cannot become the subject in the passive, but the passive is possible with preparatory (provisional) it.

“The fugitives were helped find a boat by some of the fishermen.” = The fugitives were helped to find a boat by some of the fishermen.
(418.3) After help a noun phrase + bare infinitive is possible, but in the passive the to-infinitive must be used.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Hardcore English Grammar (i)


The following collection of grammatical errors are fine examples of a number of complex and indeed very complex mistakes in English grammar. The corrections are based on Swan’s Practical English Usage (2005).

– CLEFT SENTENCE
“Hours before dawn, it are the women of the household that get up to milk and feed the animals.” = Hours before dawn, it is the women of the household that get up to milk and feed the animals.
(131.1) In a cleft sentence, a singular it + singular is/was is used; this is a structure used to emphasize a sentence element, here: ‘the women’.

“England faced invaders around 787. First, it were isolated gangs that plundered the country.” = England faced invaders around 787. First, it was isolated gangs that plundered the country.
(131.1) In a cleft sentence, a singular it + singular is/was is used; this is a structure used to emphasize a sentence element, here: ‘isolated gangs’.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Very Advanced Mistakes (v)


Source: Swan. M. 2005. Practical English Usage Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press (2011).

Practical English Usage lists over a hundred common mistakes in the English language. Even very advanced students of English can make mistakes – nobody’s perfect! Swan (2005) has listed a number of them.

“Will you go and see me when I’m in hospital?” = Will you come and see me when I’m in hospital?
(134.4) We use come for movements to the place where the speaker or hearer is. We use go for movements to other places.

“May you go camping this summer?” = Do you think you’ll go camping this summer?
(339.3) May is not normally used to ask about the chance of something happening, except in indirect questions.

“My cousin works for the NATO.” = My cousin works for NATO.
(2.3) Articles are usually dropped before acronyms.

“My wife will be angry unless I’m home by 7:00.” = My wife will be angry if I’m not home.
(601.2) Unless means ‘except if’. Unless is not used when the meaning is more like ‘because … not’.

“We were poured water on.” = We had water poured on us. / Water was poured on us.
(416.2) If there is already a direct object, the second object (after the preposition) cannot become a passive subject.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Very Advanced Mistakes (iv)


Source: Swan. M. 2005. Practical English Usage Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press (2011).

Practical English Usage lists over a hundred common mistakes in the English language. Even very advanced students of English can make mistakes – nobody’s perfect! Swan (2005) has listed a number of them.

“I wish you felt / would feel better tomorrow.” = I hope you feel better tomorrow.
(630.3) Wish + that-clause is not generally used for wishes about things that seem possible in the future. We often use hope in this sense.

“The train may be late, as it happened today.” = The train may be late, as happened today.
(581.1) Than and as can replace subjects in clauses (rather like relative pronouns).

“When I wrote my letters, I did some gardening.” = When I had written my letters, I did some gardening.
(424.1) We can use the past perfect with after, as soon as etc to emphasise that the first action is separate, independent of the second, completed before the second started.

“When I had opened the door, the children ran in.” = When I opened the door, the children ran in.
(424.1) We can use time conjunctions (e.g. after, as soon as, when, once) to talk about two actions or events that happened one after the other. Usually that past perfect is not necessary in these cases, because we are not ‘going back’ from the time that we are mainly talking about, but simply moving forward from one event to the next.

“Stefan can never return back to his country.” = Stefan can never return to his country. / go back to his country.
(87.3) When the verb itself already expresses the idea of ‘return to an earlier situation’ or ‘movement in the opposite direction’, back is not generally used.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Very Advanced Mistakes (iii)


Source: Swan. M. 2005. Practical English Usage Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press (2011).

Practical English Usage lists over a hundred common mistakes in the English language. Even very advanced students of English can make mistakes – nobody’s perfect! Swan (2005) has listed a number of them.

“What live in those little holes?” = What lives in those little holes?
(532.3) When who and what are used to ask for the subject of a clause, they most often have singular verbs, even if the question expects a plural answer.

“Some people are interested, but the majority doesn’t care.” = Some people are interested, but the majority don’t care.
(526.2) Many singular quantifying expressions can be used with plural nouns and pronouns; plural verbs are normally used in this case.

“It mustn’t be the postman at the door. It’s only 7 o’clock.” = It can’t be the postman at the door. It’s only 7 o’clock.
(359.2) Must is not often used to express certainty in negative clauses. We normally use cannot/can’t to say that something is certainly not the case, because it is logically or practically impossible, or extremely improbable.

“A third of the students is from abroad.” = A third of the students are from abroad.
(389.2) Decimals below 1 are often directly followed by plural nouns.

“Except Angie, everybody was there.” = Except for Angie, everybody was there.
(194.1) We generally use except for before noun phrases.

See other: Notes On English Grammar