Here we shall discuss errors in the use of PARTS of SPEECH for the benefit of those students whose mother-tongue is not English. However, all may be prone to such mistakes.
1. INCORRECT (INC): My children cannot endure my separation.
CORRECT (COR): My children cannot endure separation from me.
Explanation (Exp): It is not ‘someone’s separation’ but ‘separation from someone’.
2. INC: May I now take your leave?
COR: May I now take leave of you?
Exp: To ask to be away from someone is not to take something which is in his possession.
3. INC: Will you lend me your pencil, please? – Take, please.
COR: Will you lend me your pencil, please? – Take it, please.
Exp: In correct English usage, the verb ‘take’ must be followed by a suitable object i.e. a noun or pronoun as it is a transitive verb.
4. INC: Whom do you think will be dismissed first?
COR: Who, do you think, will be dismissed first?
Exp: If you ignore the parenthesis ‘do you think’, it should be easier to know why ‘whom’ is wrong. ‘Who will be dismissed first’, not ‘Whom’.
5. INC: One should always remain loyal to his country.
COR: One should always remain loyal to one’s country.
Exp: The indefinite pronoun ‘one’ must always agree with one of its parts: ‘oneself’, ‘one’s’, ‘one’, etc.
6. INC: I request your favour of considering me for a transfer.
COR: I request you the favour of considering me for a transfer.
Exp: Another typical error – not ‘your state of mind’, but ‘the state of your mind’.
7. INC: You are fairer than me.
COR: You are fairer than I.
Exp: The complete sentence would read ‘you are fairer than I am’.
8. INC: He is twenty years old, isn’t it?
COR: He is twenty years old, isn’t he?
Exp: In the second part of the sentence, the object of the Verb ‘is’ is ‘he’ not ‘it’.
9. INC: Sana, having finished her paper, she left the examination hall.
COR: Sana, having finished her paper, left the examination hall.
Exp: This is an example of a pronoun used where it is not required.
10. INC: He has read almost each book of the college library.
COR: He has read almost every book of the college library.
Exp: Each is a determiner which is used to refer to every one of the two or more things and cannot be used with almost.
11. INC: Every one of the two pencils is missing.
COR: Each one of the two pencils is missing.
Exp: ‘Each’ is used when each one (of two or more) is taken separately one by one. ‘Every’ is always used for more than two things, in a group or set. But both ‘each’ and ‘every’ are invariably singular. e.g. ‘Every (each) one of the nine apples was rotten’.
12. INC: He is suffering from a strong cold.
COR: He is suffering from a bad cold.
Exp: Also a ‘bad headache’, a ‘bad stomach’.
13. INC: You must secure at least passable marks.
COR: You must secure at least pass marks.
Exp: The word ‘passable’ has a different meaning – it means ‘tolerably good’. For marks sufficient to pass an examination, we must say ‘pass marks’, not ‘passing marks’ which is however, another common error.
14. INC: I am forty years.
COR: I am forty years old.
Exp: Either drop the word ‘years’ and simply say ‘I am forty’, or use the complete expression, ‘I am forty years old, or ‘I am forty years of age’.
15. INC: He brought me milk, butter and honey, the latter being Pakistani.
COR: He brought me milk, butter and honey, the last being Pakistani.
Exp: ‘Latter’ is used only where two things are mentioned.
16. INC: This feat was marvellous well performed.
COR: This feat was marvellously well performed.
Exp: Do not use an adjective to qualify an adverb.
17. INC: This car is superior than that.
COR: This car is superior to that.
Exp: Always use the preposition ‘to’ after ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’. Similarly say ‘preferable to’, not ‘preferable than’.
18. INC: She sang very well, isn’t it?
COR: She sang very well, didn’t she?
Exp: The expression ‘isn’t it?’ is often used indiscriminately. In all such sentences, the tense and person used in the main statement must be retained in the auxiliary as well. The auxiliary in this case ‘didn’t she’ implies ‘didn’t she sing very well?
19. INC: I have read an interesting book yesterday.
COR: I read an interesting book yesterday.
Exp: If the action was completed in the past at a particular time (‘yesterday’), we should use the simple past tense, not the present perfect.
20. INC: Ali told me that he may proceed on leave.
COR: Ali told me that he might proceed on leave.
Exp: A typical example of the wrong use of the sequence of tenses. If the principal clause is in the past tense, the subordinate clause should also be in the past tense.