Everyday situations are a minefield of common English errors. Here, we rectify some of them so you can learn to avoid making the same mistakes.
WRONG: “Please excuse me. I have to leave now to put my children TO SLEEP.”
RIGHT: “… I have to leave now to put my children TO BED.”
(EXPLANATION: It is a criminal offence to put a person “to sleep”. In Singapore it carries the death penalty.)
WRONG: “I SEND our son Joey to school everyday.”
RIGHT: “I DRIVE/TAKE our son Joey to school….”
(EXPLANATION: To “send” someone means that you are not accompanying that person on the journey.)
WRONG: “Please SWITCH your mobile phone to silent mode.”
RIGHT: “Please PUT your mobile phone on silent mode.”
WRONG: “Children, please OFF the lights when you leave the room.”
RIGHT: ” … Please SWITCH OFF the lights …”
WRONG: “I will APPRECIATE if you can keep your voice down.”
RIGHT: “I will APPRECIATE IT if you can keep your voice down.” or “I will appreciate your keeping your voice down.”
(EXPLANATION: The word “appreciate” must be followed by an object.)
WRONG: “He is late. MUST BE he overslept or missed the bus.”
RIGHT: “… IT MUST BE THAT he overslept or missed the bus.” or “… He MUST HAVE overslept or missed the bus.”
WRONG: “LAST TIME we lived in a kampong house.”
RIGHT: “PREVIOUSLY, we lived in a kampong house.” or “We USED TO live in a kampong house.”
WRONG: “It may rain this afternoon. You GOT bring umbrella OR NOT?”
RIGHT: ” … DID YOU bring an umbrella!”
WRONG: “From the way he speaks, I would consider him AS a snob.”
RIGHT: Drop the word “AS”.
WRONG: “You BETTER apologise to him as he is really mad.”
RIGHT: “IT WILL BE GOOD if you apologise…”
WRONG: “Sorry, I am really busy with work right now. Can we discuss tomorrow?”
RIGHT: ” … Can we discuss IT tomorrow?”
WRONG: “You ONLY JUST found out about the sale? Today is the last day.”
RIGHT: “You found out ONLY NOW about the sale? …”
WRONG: “I used to love durians, but NOT SO MUCH nowadays.”
RIGHT: ” … but LESS SO nowadays,
WRONG: ” The Japanese numbers game sudoku is very popular among the staff of my office. MYSELF, I took it up a year ago.”
COMMENT: Drop “myself”.
WRONG: “No idea.”
RIGHT: “I don’t know.”
WRONG: “John, you look groovy. You aim to win at the best DRESS competition tonight, don’t you?”
RIGHT: “… You aim to win at the best DRESSED competition tonight, don’t you?”
(EXPLANATION: If it is a “best dress” competition, John would not be eligible unless he is a cross dresser.)
WRONG: “Do you like the FRAGRANCE of the wine?”
RIGHT: “Do you like the BOUQUET of the wine?”
WRONG: “I can see that you prefer the champagne coloured roses THAN the red ones.”
RIGHT: “I see that you prefer the champagne coloured roses TO the red ones.”
WRONG: “I will wait for you at Ya Kun while you are at the hair dressing SALOON.”
RIGHT: ” … hair dressing SALON.”
WRONG: “We just met. Please don’t hold my hand here. AFTER people talk.”
RIGHT: ” … OR people may talk (gossip).”
WRONG: “Can you call me BACK soon? ”
RIGHT: Drop the word “back” as it is redundant.
WRONG: “Mary, I have a cocktail this Friday at the office. Would you like to join me?”
COMMENT: “A cocktail” means a glass of alcoholic drink. Mary may rather go to a “cocktail party”.
WRONG: “I saw you holding Bee Hong’s hands. You are both in love, ISN’T IT?”
RIGHT: “… You are both in love, AREN’T YOU?”
WRONG: “Can you hold my hand as I am SCARED of the dark.”
RIGHT: “… as the dark SCARES me.” or “… as I am AFRAID of the dark.”
WRONG: “I like my eggs HALF-BOILED.”
RIGHT: “I like my eggs SOFT-BOILED.”
(EXPLANATION: So far there is no cooking equipment for boiling only half of an egg while it is still in the shell.)
WRONG: “I go MARKETING only once a week.”
RIGHT: “I go TO THE MARKET only once a week.”
(EXPLANATION: “Marketing” is done only by the marketing executives of a company.)
WRONG: “Why are you not DRINKING your soup?”
RIGHT: “Why are you not HAVING your soup?”
(EXPLANATION: As soup typically contains solid ingredients, unlike water or milk or juice, it is generally not appropriate to use “drink” to describe its consumption.)
WRONG: “Have you FINISH eating?”
RIGHT: “Have you FINISHED eating!”
(EXPLANATION: “Finish” here is used as part of the verb “have finished”.)
WRONG: “This restaurant operates on a ‘first come, first SERVE basis.”
RIGHT: ” … ‘first come, first SERVED basis.”
WRONG: ” No fish? Prawns ALSO CAN.”
RIGHT: “No fish? Prawns ARE FINE TOO.”
WRONG: Cake-seller to customer: “Okay, two banana muffins and one peach tart. SOME MORE?”
RIGHT: “… ANYTHING ELSE!”
WRONG: “Sorry. I LEFT only one Sri Lanka crab. CAN TAKE local crabs instead?”
RIGHT: “… I HAVE only one small Sri Lanka crab LEFT. CAN you TAKE local crabs instead? ”
WRONG: “I see a conflict of INTEREST as Mr A is our financial consultant and his firm is selling financial products to us.
RIGHT: “I see a conflict of INTERESTS as …”
(EXPLANATION: It takes more than one interest to conflict.)
WRONG: “Last month, I INFORMED that our production cost had been rising.”
RIGHT: “… I INFORMED ALL OF YOU that …” or “… I REPORTED that …”.
(EXPLANATION: The word “inform”, unlike the word “say” or “report”, must be followed by an object.)
WRONG: “The reason for the increase in our cost IS BECAUSE commodity prices have been going up relentlessly.”
RIGHT: “The reason for the increase in our cost IS THAT commodity prices have …”.
(EXPLANATION: “Because” is used only when the sentence is written in a different way: “Our cost has increased BECAUSE commodity prices have been …”.)
WRONG: “I don’t think SO that commodity prices have risen that much.”
RIGHT: “I don’t think that commodity prices have risen that much.”
(EXPLANATION: The word “so” is redundant.)
WRONG: “Please do not repeat the mistake again.”
RIGHT: “… Please do not repeat it.”
(EXPLANATION: “Repeat” means “do again”. So to “repeat again” means “to do again again”.)
WRONG: “After you have studied the proposed agreement, please REVERT to me.”.
RIGHT: “… Please COME BACK to me.”
(EXPLANATION: “To revert to ” means to transform back into the shape of”.)
WRONG: “We should meet soon to discuss ABOUT the reception for our foreign visitors.”
RIGHT: “… to discuss the reception for …”.
(EXPLANATION: “To discuss” means “to talk ABOUT”. So the word “about” is redundant.)
WRONG: “With regards to Project A, can you update me on its progress?”
RIGHT: “WITH REGARD TO …”
RIGHT: “AS REGARDS to Project A …”
WRONG: “Our team COMPRISES OF people from various disciplines.”
RIGHT: “Our team COMPRISES people from various disciples.
WRONG: “The supplier will not be able to deliver the new desk-top computers in time. AS SUCH we have to continue to use our existing computers for at least another week.”
RIGHT: “… SO we have to continue …”
(EXPLANATION: We use “as such” only when we can answer the question: “As what?”.
Example: “John has just been appointed team leader. As such (as a team leader), he now has a greater responsibility in the office.
WRONG: “Although Jane’s report is not exactly a well-written one, we can consider it AS completed since it serves the purpose intended.”
RIGHT: Drop the word “AS”.
WRONG: “I must catch HOLD OF the boss before he goes on vacation.”
COMMENT: The phrase “hold of” is redundant.
WRONG: “We spent half a day SEARCHING for a missing document.”
RIGHT: “… SEARCHING THE OFFICE for a missing document.”
RIGHT: “… LOOKING for a missing document.”
(EXPLANATION: “To search” means “to check or examine”. It must therefore be followed by a word depicting a place or an area.)