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English Bloopers: Everyone is working very hardly!
Manoj Chhaya, Shitanshu S., Kishor Arur
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June 25, 2007

Learning a new language means learning not only its vocabulary and grammar but also all its peculiarities and complexities. 

Even simple grammar items like articles and prepositions confuse many of us, even though who studied in English medium schools.

Today, we'll look at how small changes can make a big difference when it comes to accuracy. 

Manoj Chhaya, a 25 year old English lecturer from Gujarat, shows how pesky articles can be with this list:

~It's a NIIT [Get Quote] initiative.
~My brother is a MBA student.
~He is a honest man.

~This is an university.
~Postment must wear an uniform.
~This is an unique opportunity.


The errors are not so apparent. They may look correct to those who learned articles by the 'vowel letters' rule. This rule explains that articles are decided by the first letter of a word. Only if it is one of the five vowels (a, e, i, o u), the word takes the article 'an'.  However, what is decisive is not the letter but the sound. 

In 'a NIIT initiative', the sound of the letter 'N' is -- en -- and so the correct sentence is 'an NIIT initiative'. On the other hand, in 'an university', the sound of the letter 'U' is -- yoo -- and so the correct sentence is 'a university'.

~It's an NIIT initiative.
~My brother is an MBA student.
~He is an honest man.

~This is a university.
~Postment must wear a uniform.
~This is a unique opportunity.

Shitanshu S., 28 from Mumbai, pointed out a common mistake while using 'since' and 'for'. 

~ I have been living in Mumbai since last 10 years.
~ I have been waiting for you since 2 hours.

"Since" is used with a specific event(e.g. a particular time, particular date or event).
"For" is used with a period of time (e.g. no. of hours, days, weeks, years).
Therefore, it should be:

~ I have been living in Mumbai for the last 10 years.
~ I have been waiting for you for the last 2 hours.

Kishor Arur, 48, in corporate management and from Chennai, sent these two hilarious anectdotes:

1. Yesterday, a supervisor in our factory came up to me and said "Sir, everyone on the shop floor is working very hardly". What he probably meant to say was "Sir, everyone on the shop floor is working very hard.", It's also possible he meant "Sir, everyone on the shop floor is hardly working."

2. A panda walks into a restaurant and orders a sandwich. Upon finishing his snack, he pulls out a gun, fires two shots into the air, and heads for the door. "Why did you do that?" asks the startled waiter. "I'm a panda; look it up!" says the panda, tossing a badly punctuated copy of a wildlife manual over his shoulder.

The waiter finds his answer on reading the entry in the manual, "Panda: large bear-like animal found mainly in China. Eats, shoots, and leaves."

The correct entry, in case you haven't worked it out, should not have any commas.


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 NAME, AGE, OCCUPATION and the CITY you are based in.

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