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Ten avoidable English errors
TVS Thiagarajan, Jayakumar Pillai
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July 06, 2007

It is not only fresh graduates and non-English speakers who make grammatical mistakes. In fact, professionals in offices, including journalists, commit certain errors over and over again.

'Anyways', 'prepone' and 'cope up', all come to mind.

The problem is that many bloopers become accepted socially and feature in our day-to-day interactions. Every time someone copies an error without consulting a dictionary, the problem gets worse.

TVS [Get Quote] Thiagarajan
, 45, sent these five gaffes:

Wrong: He is a simpleton

People use this expression without knowing its meaning. 'Simpleton' does not mean 'simple'; it means 'idiot'.

Correct: He is a simple man.

Wrong: Each individual data tells a different story.

Data is the plural form for datum, a singular noun. Words ending with 'um' usually have an 'a' in the plural form: (stratum/strata)

Correct: Each individual datum tells a different story.

Wrong: He is one of those who performs well

Even authors make this mistake. They see 'he' and immediately use the singular form. But, because 'he' is part of a group, you use the plural verb.

Correct: He is one of those who perform well

Wrong: I came an hour back.

When we indicate the past, instead of 'back', we must use 'ago'.

Correct: I came an hour ago.  

Wrong: She has went to the store.

Many people do not know the conjugation of English verbs. With the verb 'to go', the conjugation is: 'go, went, gone'. You say 'go' in the present, 'went' in the past, and 'gone' in the past participle. Past participle is used only with auxiliary verbs like 'have' or 'has'.

Correct: She has gone to the store.

Jayakumar Pillai
sent an additional five bloopers, including one you've got to read to believe!

Wrong: Peoples and childrens do not listen

People and children are plural by themselves. Do not add an 's' to either of these words.

Correct: People and children do not listen.

Wrong: Even after a laps of three months, I was still granted a visa.

The word here is 'lapse', to denote passage of time.  'Lap' means either the flat area between one's stomach and knees (the child slept on my lap) or the circuit of a track/race course (the event had total 12 laps, but he got out in the second lap itself).

Correct: Even after a lapse of three months, I was still granted a visa.

Wrong: Please speak politically
Wrong: The branch manager is out of order.

The customer service agent made both of these blunders in one call. She obviously meant:

Correct: Please speak politely.
Correct: The branch manager is out of office.

Wrong: He have no sense

'He' is singular, so the verb is singular as well, 'has'.

Correct: He has no sense.

Last but not the least, a letter forwarding a demand draft concludes: 'We shall appreciate if you will acknowledge safe receipt of this communication and settlement accordingly in due course.'

I don't even know where to begin. What I do know is that brevity is important.


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 alternatives 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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