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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

Last updated on: July 19, 2011 18:09 IST

Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Preeti Shirodkar

Watch out for some of these typical mistakes that most Indians make while speaking/writing in English.

Every culture is known by certain unique traits, whether in the area of personality, beliefs, practices or even language use, which add both quirkiness and charm to varied ethnic and social groups.

However this uniqueness can also prove counterproductive, if it steps beyond the confines of differences, to result in miscommunication or a complete breakdown in the communication process. And, avoiding this pitfall would not prove particularly difficult, if one were aware of where the dark spots lie.


Preeti Shirodkar is an Associate Professor in Language Studies at Mumbai Education Trust.

Image: Watch out for these errors while communicating in English

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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: It is becoming much more easier to access the internet in India

Correct: It is becoming much easier to access the internet in India

Used often for emphasis, the double comparative is not merely grammatically incorrect but can also confuse the listener.

Wherever English words change in form/nature, while illustrating comparison, they need to be used by themselves. For example: easy, easier, easiest or good, better, best.

However in cases where this does not occur/such possibilities do not exist, one can use 'more' and 'most' as modifying words, to show comparison. For example: beautiful, more beautiful and most beautiful.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: Could you please repeat what you said again?

Correct: Could you please repeat what you said?

The very word 'repeat' means to say something again. Similarly the word return means to give back. Therefore these words need to be used singly and not with other qualifying words, as that makes the phrase redundant.


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Incorrect: I am missing you more and more everyday

Correct: I am missing you more deeply/fervently everyday

At times words are repeated to add value or show the value of something/someone/some emotion/ some event. However these need to be replaced by content words that actually add the desired emphasis/value to what one desires to say. These are qualifying words that serve to modify the word that needs to be emphasised.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: It's no use telling him; he is like that only

Correct: It's no use telling him; he is like that

'Only' in the phrase 'like that only' is an addition that is most often used to add emphasis. However, it is a grammatically incorrect construction. Therefore care needs to be taken to not use 'only' in such contexts.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: My birthday is coming next month

Correct: My birthday falls in the next month

The phrase 'is coming' is used to indicate an object/person, which is currently approaching you. For example, 'The car is coming in our direction at a really high speed'.

To indicate events/occasions that are likely to/scheduled to occur in the future, but refer to an event of regular occurrence, one uses 'falls in'. Therefore, while one can use 'falls in' for birthdays/anniversaries etc., one would not use it to refer to a meeting/marriage date etc.


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Incorrect: Could you hold on, another phone is coming?

Correct: Could you hold on, I am getting another call?

Also correct: Could you hold on, another phone is ringing?

Since the word 'coming' implies approach, it cannot be used in the context of the telephone. A person may be coming, but the phone rings. It is thus important to ensure the suitability of the verb to the subject to which it refers.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: Our office party is there next week

Correct: Our office party has been scheduled for next week

Though used randomly, 'there' essentially indicates a place that can be pointed to/has been referred to.

For example, while saying 'I have kept it there' one usually points to the place or is connecting 'there' to a place that has been mentioned earlier. To illustrate, 'The stapler is kept in the stationery box. You should look for it there.'


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Incorrect: Anything you are telling

Correct: That can't be true

Also correct: I can't/don't believe it.

Used to express disbelief, this phrase is incorrect and can leave a person fluent in English greatly puzzled as regards its meaning. It is thus better to use the more general 'That can't be true' to express greater disbelief or 'I can't/don't believe it', if one finds it hard to belief what's being said.


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Incorrect: Are you going to come to office tomorrow?

Correct: Are you coming to office tomorrow?

'Going' and 'coming' are in fact opposite actions. If used together the words can confuse the listener, as regards the nature of the action. It is thus important to choose one from among them, depending on the action one is referring to.


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Incorrect: Is it your happy birthday today?

Correct: Is it your birthday today?

'Birthday' refers to an event/occasion, while happy describes its nature.

So, whereas, while wishing someone one would say/write 'happy birthday', while referring to the event/occasion, one just uses the word 'birthday'.

Moreover, one needs to keep in mind that while wishing a person 'happy birthday' that the birthday should be happy is a wish, but one would be incorrect to refer to a birthday as essentially happy (i.e. it is your happy birthday), as it may not necessarily be so as for various reasons one's birthday may prove to be a sad day.


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Incorrect: I am telling you, no.

Correct: I am telling you.

Though people often use 'no' at the end of the end of the sentence for emphasis, the word 'no' in fact involves a denial, so its random usage can be confusing, as it may reflect a contradiction of what one has said earlier.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: I except your offer

Correct: I accept your offer

Often confused and used one instead of the other, 'except' and 'accept' are words that are greatly varied in meaning. While 'except' refers to 'other than', 'accept' refers to 'agree to'.

So too, it would prove equally disastrous to say I 'expect' your offer, in case of a job offer, as you sound presumptuous, as it would imply that the offer should go to no one other than you, since 'expect' means 'to believe that someone will do something or something will happen' ('will' being the key word).


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: Can you help me improve my communication skill?

Correct: Can you help me improve my communication skills?

Communication involves varied skills like listening, reading, writing, speaking and non verbal communication and hence unless one is referring to one specific aspect of communication, one talks of 'communication skills' and not 'communication skill'.


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Incorrect: Can you sit on the coach and wait for him?

Correct: Can you sit on the couch and wait for him?

People often mispronounce or even misspell 'couch' as 'coach'. While coach refers to a carriage in a train or one, which is horse drawn, couch refers to a sofa/settee. Therefore using one for the other can be highly misleading.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: I and Meghana will come and see you

Correct: Meghana and I will come and see you

Courtesy demands that one refers to oneself at the end (last) in the list of people one covers. Therefore it sounds rather precocious, egoistic and discourteous to begin by referring to oneself, though it is not grammatically wrong in the basic sense of language use.


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Incorrect: Find my attached resume

Correct: Find attached my resume

The word 'my' qualifies (tells you more about) 'resume', i.e. it is your resume and not that of anyone else and so the word 'my' should come before 'resume' and not before 'attached', where it has no relevance in this context.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: I enjoyed like anything

Correct: I thoroughly/really enjoyed myself

'Like anything' is often used to indicate highly, greatly, but is an improper usage. It is better to use a qualifying word to describe the intensity of one's feeling/experience.


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Top 18 English mistakes desis make!

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Incorrect: Can you put off the light?

Correct: Can you switch off the light?

'Put off' essentially refers to 'be turned off by something/someone'. For example, 'I was put off by her high handed approach'. Therefore while referring to turning off something, it is better to use the phrases 'turn off' (more informal) or 'switch off' (more formal).

Some errors may only affect sticklers for perfection in language use, others may merely cause amusement, but yet others can be disastrous, as they can lead to misunderstanding, resulting from miscommunication. Avoiding them can only enhance one's image (whether by reflecting how sound one is or by preventing miscommunication) and so may reflect a cause that one would do well to take up.

Notwithstanding the ones covered, that basically encompass language use, there are many that embody mispronunciation (like 'pain' for 'pen' or 'mate' for 'met'), which though equally disastrous would be more easily overlooked as cultural peculiarities.


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