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English errors: 'We are like this only'
Praveen Madhukar Naik
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June 13, 2007

If English isn't your first language, translating directly from your mother tongue can lead to your making mistakes.

As advertisements and informal speech continue to blend English with local languages, it's becoming even harder to figure out its proper usage.

Praveen Madhukar Naik, a software engineer from Bangalore, finds English bloopers a source of constant amusement or frustration, depending on his mood. He collects examples from both inside and outside of the office; today, we publish his list of gaffes stemming from errant translations.

1. Misuse of the word 'all'

~ My students have forgotten what all I taught them.

~ I would like to thank all of you all.

~ Rajesh and all are coming here.

We add 'all' unnecessarily, probably for added emphasis. In reality, however, it's incorrect. All has a very specific purpose, such as 'I work all hours of the night.' These sentences should read:

~ My students have forgotten what I taught them.

~ I would like to thank you all. 

~ Rajesh and the others are coming.

2. The wrong way to pose a question.

~ You are going, na?

~ He knows the answer, no?

~ You want the ticket, anh?

~ Raju was ill, isn't it?

In most Indian languages you only have to introduce a word like 'anh' or 'na' to change a statement into a question. But this is not the case in English.

~ You are going, aren't you?

~ He knows the answer, doesn't he?

~ You want the ticket, don't you?

~ Raju was ill, wasn't he?
3. The problem of emphasis

~ We are like this only.

~ She only sang the song.

In most Indian languages, there exists a word for adding emphasis to another word. For instance, in Hindi, you might say, 'Tumhe aaj hi jaana hai (Don't leave today itself)'. The word hi draws focus to the word aaj.

In English, however, there is no such word. The word 'only' is used in rare cases for emphasis, such as: 'But we have only just started!' For Westerners listening to Indian English, our overuse of the word 'only' is a source of constant amusement.

For the above sentences, for example, you could try:

~ This is how we are.

~ She sang the song.


MORE English bloopers

We thank our readers for the witty emails detailing common English bloopers they've come across! Keep them coming in, and we'll keep publishing them. Three times a week, we'll provide articles featuring your responses.

If you'd like to share common bloopers you come across when people speak/ write in English, do mail your list of common bloopers, along with their correct alternative to -- we'll highlight them right here as a helpful guide to those trying to improve their English. Also make sure you include your FULL 00NAME, AGE, OCCUPATION and the CITY you are based in.

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