Very Advanced Mistakes (i)


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.

“No doubt the world is getting warmer.” = There is no doubt that the world is getting warmer.
(377) No doubt means ‘probably’ or ‘I suppose’, not ‘certainly’. To say something is certain, we can use there is doubt that (formal), without any doubt (formal), certainly, definitely.

“I can’t think of anybody whom to invite.” = I can’t think of anybody to invite.
(498.13) When a noun or pronoun is the object of a following infinitive, a relative pronoun is not normally used.

“My father, whom we hope will be out of hospital soon, …” = My father, who we hope will be out of hospital soon, …
(498.15) It is often possible to combine relative clauses with indirect statements and similar structures, e.g. I know/said/feel/hope/wish (that) …, especially in an informal style. In this structure, people sometimes use whom as a subject pronoun. This is not generally considered correct.

“Would you follow me wherever I would go?” = Would you follow me wherever I went?
(580.6) Would, like will, is avoided in subordinate clauses; instead, we generally use past verbs.

“We all have to live in the society.” = We all have to live in society.
(68.1) We do not use the with uncountable or plural nouns to talk about things in general – to talk about all books, all people or all life for example. Instead, we use no article.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

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 advanced students of English make mistakes. Swan (2005) has listed a number of them.

“I nearly wish I’d stayed at home.” = I almost wish I’d stayed at home.
(43.2) We can use almost to mean ‘similar to, but not exactly the same’, and to make statements less definite. Nearly is not used like this.

“One speaks Italian in my town.” = We / They speak Italian in my town.
(496.3) One generally has a singular meaning: ‘any individual’; it is not used to refer to whole groups.

“The girl wants an own room.” = The girl wants her own room.
(4051) We only use own after a possessive word. It cannot directly follow an article.

“Couldn’t you help me?” = Could you help me? / You couldn’t you help me, could you?
(368.3) We do not usually use negative questions to ask people to do things. This is done with ordinary questions, or with negative statement + question tag.

“I’ll try to know when it starts.” = I’ll try to find out when it starts.
(313.5) Know is not normally used to talk about finding something out: to know something is to have learnt it, not to learn it. To talk about getting knowledge we can use for example find out, get to know, learn, hear, can tell.

“I love this so beautiful country.” = I love this country – it’s so beautiful.
(538.3) In an informal style, so can be used like very to give new information, when the speaker wishes to emphasise what is said. This structure is rather like an exclamation.

“It’s getting winter.” = It’s getting to be winter.
(223.6) Get + infinitive can suggest gradual development.

“Our flat is decorated this week.” = Our flat is being decorated this week.
(412.2) We normally make passive forms of a verb by using tenses of the auxiliary be followed by the past participle of the verb. The passive present progressive (continuous) verb form consists of am/are/is being + past participle.

“The Mont Blanc is 4808m high.” = Mont Blanc is 4808m high.
(70.17) Names of mountains vary. Most have no article.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

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 advanced students of English make mistakes. Swan (2005) has listed a number of them.

“I’ll see you a few days later.” = I’ll see you in a few days.
(315) With a time expression, we generally use later to mean ‘after that time’, and in to mean ‘after now’.

“All along the centuries, there have been wars.” = All through the centuries, there have been wars.
(45) The preposition along is used with nouns like road, river, corridor, line: words that refer to a things with a long shape. To talk about periods or activities, we prefer through.

“I want a completely other colour.” = I want a completely different colour.
(54.5) Other is a determiner or a pronoun; it is not used exactly like an adjective. So it cannot normally have an adverb before it, or be used after a link verb.

“Let’s go and have coffee to Marcel’s.” = Let’s go and have coffee at Marcel’s.
(80.1-2) At and in are generally used for position; to is used for movement or direction. If we mention the purpose of a movement before we mention the destination, we usually use at/in before the place.

“That’s mine – I saw it at first!” = That’s mine – I saw it first.
(84) We use at first to talk about the beginning of a situation, to make a contrast with something different that happens/happened later. In other cases, we usually prefer first.

“Switzerland is among Germany, France, Austria and Italy.” = Switzerland is between Germany, France, Austria and Italy.
(105.2) We usually say that somebody or something is between several clearly separate people or things. We prefer among when somebody or something is in a group, a crowd or a mass of people or things which we do not see separately. Among is normal before a singular (uncountable) noun.

“According to me, it’s a bad film.” = In my opinion / I think it’s a bad film.
(8) According to X means ‘in X’s opinion, ‘if what X says is true’. We do not usually give our own opinions with according to.

“It was a too good party to miss.” = It was too good a party to miss.
(14/595.4) After as, how, so, too and this/that meaning so, adjectives go before a/an. This structure is common in a formal style.

“Whole Paris was celebrating.” = The whole of Paris was celebrating.
(40.5) Instead of whole we can generally use the whole of. Before proper nouns (names) and pronouns we always use the whole of, not the whole. All (of) is also possible.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Pardon My French


“Pardon my French” is a common English language phrase ostensibly disguising any (English) profanity as French. The phrase is uttered in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity or curses in the presence of those offended by it under the pretence of the words being part of a foreign language.

The oldest documented use of the term can be found in an 1830 edition of the The Lady’s Magazine:

“Bless me, how fat you are grown! – absolutely as round as a ball: – you will soon be as embonpoint (excuse my French) as your poor dear father, the major.”

Dunglish


Dunglish is an interlanguage of Dutch and English sometimes known as Dutch English. It is a language term for the typical mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English. Here are some examples of serious Dutch English linguistic accidents:

“I can stand my little man”
– Dries van Agt (former Dutch prime minister)

Transliteration of ik kan mijn mannetje staan, a Dutch idiom meaning roughly “I can stand up for myself”. The inevitable misunderstanding needs little explaining.

“Golden showers”
– Frits Bolkenstein (former leader of the Dutch Liberal Party)

Bolkestein repeatedly referred to economic prospects as “golden showers”, as he was clearly unaware of the term’s quite obvious sexual connotation.

“The Dutch are a nation of undertakers”
– Joop den Uyl (former Dutch prime-minister)

The Dutch verb ondernemen is literally the English verb to undertake (as onder is under, and nemen is take). The Dutch noun ondernemer is thus literally undertaker; in English however, the French loanword entrepreneur is used. (In Dutch, the word begrafenisondernemer means funeral director.)

“Goodbye”
– Pieter Gerbrandy (former Dutch prime-minister)

Gerbrandy once had a meeting with Churchill in London. Gerbrandy entered the room and shook Churchill’s hand, saying: “Goodbye!” Churchill responded: “This is the shortest meeting I have ever had.” Gerbrandy had erroneously translated the Dutch goedendag meaning “good day”, which in Dutch can be both used as a greeting and a valediction.

“I fok horses”
– Joseph Luns (former Dutch foreign secretary)

One of the best quoted examples of Dunglish was said to have taken place between the Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns (a man whose main foreign language was French, the language of diplomacy prior to World War II) and John F. Kennedy. At one point Kennedy inquired if Luns had any hobbies, to which he replied “I fok horses” (the Dutch verb fokken meaning to breed). Likely taken aback by this strangely obscene reply, Kennedy asked “Pardon?”, which Luns then mistook as the Dutch word for horses (paarden) and enthusiastically responded “Yes, paarden!”

See other: Admin’s Choice Posts

Advanced Mistakes (i)


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 advanced students of English make mistakes. Swan (2005) has listed a number of them.

“I’ll ask you in case I need help.” = I’ll ask you if I need help.
(271.3) In case and if are normally used in quite different ways. ‘Do A in case B happens’ means ‘Do A (first) because B might happen later’. ‘Do A if B happens’ means ‘Do A if B has already happened’.

“I object to tell them my age.” = I object to telling them my age.
(298.2) To is actually two different words. It can be an infinitive marker, used to show that the next word is an infinitive (e.g. to swim, to laugh). It can also be a preposition, followed for example by a noun (e.g. She’s gone to the park, I look forward to Christmas). (298.1) When we put a verb after preposition, we normally use an -ing form (‘gerund’), not an infinitive.

“I like the 60s music.” = I like the music of the 60s. / … 60s music.
(69.3) Some expressions are ‘half-general’- in the middle between general and particular.

“ten thousand, a hundred and six.” = ten thousand, one hundred and six.
(389.11) We can say an eighth or one eighth, a hundred or one hundred, a thousand or one thousanda million or one million, etc. One is more formal. A can only be used at the beginning of a number.

“‘Who’s that?’ – ‘He’s John.'” = ‘Who’s that?’ – ‘It’s John.’
(428.9) We use it for a person when we are identifying him or her.

“I don’t like to be shouted.” = I don’t like to be shouted at.
(416.1/80.3) The objects of prepositional verbs can become subjects in passive structures. We have looked at the plan carefully. – The plan has been carefully looked at. Note the word order. The preposition cannot be dropped.

“It’s ages since she’s arrived.” = It’s ages since she arrived.
(522.2) In British English, present and past tenses are common in the structure It is / was … since …

“The police is looking for him.” = The police are looking for him.
(524.7) Cattle is a plural word used to talk collectively about bulls, cows and calves; it has no singular, and cannot be used for counting individual animals. Police, staff and crew are generally used in the same way.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Intermediate 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. Listed below are a number of mistakes that intermediate students of English often make according to Swan (2005).

“He’s married with a doctor.” = He’s married to a doctor.
(449) The most common combination is: marriage to; get/be married to (not with).

“Can you mend this until Tuesday?” = Can you mend this by Tuesday?
(602.6) We use until to talk about a situation or state that will continue up to a certain moment. We use by to say that an action or event will happen at or before a future moment. (117.1) By can mean ‘no later than’. Compare: I’ll be home by five o’clock. (= at or before five).

“There’s a hotel in front of our house.” = There’s a hotel opposite our house.
(402.1) We put the adjective opposite before a noun when we are talking about one of a pair of things that naturally face or contrast with each other.

“I like warm countries, as Spain.” = I like warm countries, like Spain.
(326.1) We can use like or as to say that things are similar. Like can be a preposition. We use like, not as, before a noun or pronoun to talk about similarity. Compare: like + noun/pronoun.

“Please explain me what you want.” = Please explain to me what you want.
(198/449) After explain, we use to before an indirect object.

“When you come take your bike.” = When you come, bring your bike.
(112.1) We use bring for movements to the place where the speaker or hearer is, but we use take for movements to other places.

“My brother has got a new work.” = My brother has got a new job.
(148.3) Work is an uncountable noun, whereas job is a countable noun. (66.1) We do not normally use an indefinite article with plural and uncountable nouns.

“He’s Dutch, or better Belgian.” = He’s Dutch, or rather Belgian.
(491.4/104.2) People often use or rather to correct themselves.

See other: Notes On English Grammar

Intermediate 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. Listed below are a number of mistakes that intermediate students of English often make according to Swan (2005).

“Most of people agree with me.” = Most people agree with me.
(356.1-2) Most can mean ‘the majority of’. We do not use the before most with this meaning. We do not generally use of after most when there is no other determiner (e.g. article or possessive). Before determiners (e.g. a, the, my, this) and pronouns, we use most of.

“I looked at me in the mirror.” = I looked at myself in the mirror.
(493.2) A common use of reflexive pronouns is to talk about actions where the subject and object are the same person.

“We waited during six hours.” = We waited for six hours.
(167) During is used to say when something happens; for is used to say how long it lasts.

“I like eating chocolate milk.” = I like eating milk chocolate.
(385.1) Many common ideas in English are expressed by noun + noun compounds. In this structure, the first noun modifies or describes the second, a little like an adjective. Compare: milk chocolate (a kind of chocolate), chocolate milk (a kind of milk).

“Come here and look at that paper.” = Come here and a look at this paper.
(589) We use this/these for people and things which are close to the speaker. We use that/those for people and things which are more distant from the speaker, or not present.

“We go there every Saturdays.” = We go there every Saturday.
(193.1/6) Every is a determiner. We normally use it before a singular noun. If the noun is a subject, its verb is also singular. Every is used before a plural noun in expressions that refer to intervals.

“Which is the biggest city of the world?” = Which is the biggest city in the world?
(139.7) After superlatives, we do not usually use of with a singular word referring to a place or group. But of can be used before plurals, and before lot.

“I’m thinking to change my job.” = I’m thinking of changing my job.
(588.3) After think, -ing forms can be used, infinitives are not usually possible unless there is an object. However, think + infinitive can be used when we talk about remembering to do something, or having the good sense to do something.

“Can you give me an information?” = Can you give me some information?
(148.3) Information is an uncountable noun. (62.1) We put no article with a plural or uncountable noun. (67.2) We prefer some/any when we are thinking about limited but rather indefinite numbers or quantities – when we don’t know, care or say exactly how much/many.

See other: Notes On English Grammar