Monday, 18 April 2011

Sad errors

The Queen's English

Persistent Errors

These are some errors I have seen and heard just today, from native speakers. Shameful, and I know that learners would not make these mistakes - people learning English as a second or other language are of course too careful, and check that they are correct before they write or speak. So, below, is my catalogue of what not to do:
Apostrophes. As Lynne Trussell said the book she wrote on the subject, * apostrophes are not difficult. But many native speakers get them wrong anyway.
Plurals do not take apostrophes and neither do numbers.
Example: “These CD's were all made in the 90's”. Wrong! Neither of those apostrophes is necessary. The sentence should simply be : “These CDs were all made in the 90s”.
Meet as a noun. (Also spend and other nouned verbs or verbed nouns, that come either from business jargon or American English.) Occasionally you will encounter words you know are verbs being used as nouns, or more commonly, nouns used as verbs. Of course there are many words which can be both nouns and verbs (share, for example) which are not wrong... but a dictionary will help you discern which are legitimate and which are not.
Example: “But both rightfully got high placements in the Mangere meet, and I am glad to see that it carried through to the mediation” (from a political article). He ought of course to have said 'the Mangere meeting'.The writer defended his usage when I pointed it out, saying that his usage has “entered the vernacular”. No, it really hasn't, and it should not. Even if he was correct about that, this blog is not about the vernacular it is about correct English! I have found that students want to know what is correct - they can then break the rules once they know what the rules are, and are confident enough to defend what they're doing.
Could of. Example: “at least they could of renegotiated ..”
We native speakers are all taught by parents and teachers, that the correct phrase is 'could have', however, many people say 'could of' and as I have seen today, they even write it! However, 'could of'' clearly came from mishearing, and has entered into, once again, the vernacular.
“Me and John went to the shop”. In English the only acceptable usage is “John and I went”. In English, the speaker always comes last in a list of people - for example
“My sister, my husband and I all went to the supermarket on Saturday”.
When to use I and when to use me? Simply, I is the first person singular subject pronoun - “You and I need to get ready”. Me is an object pronoun - “She needs to talk to Sarah or me.”
If you want to know which to use, for example in a sentence such as “Mother told Carol and I/me to bring our coats” then take out the reference to the other person. “Mother told I to bring my coat”? No, so you know the right word to use must be 'me' in that case.
“Mother told Carol and me to bring our coats”
But it's never, ever “Mother told me and Carol to bring our coats”!
* The book is: 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Trussell. Highly recommended, because aside from anything else, it's funny!

1 comment:

  1. I completely ignored the existence of such expression "could of". I did not even think it was eligible to enter into the vernacular, to be honest. I am pretty astonished at reading it too. I really don't see how native speakers of English may make such gross mistakes. Thanks Debbie for teaching me another little curiosity about English.