How to avoid these mistakes in English


By Prof. Kev Nair

When you speak or write English, do you make many mistakes? Do you often fail to use words and word-groups in the way in which they’re currently used in English?

In fact, almost everyone makes some mistake or other -- at some time or other. This is a fact. Most advanced learners do. Even expert-level users of English sometimes do. Yes, almost everyone tends to make mistakes. This happens especially when they use words and word groups in particular contexts. Only, some people make fewer mistakes, and others, more.

These mistakes take several forms: Many people tend to use words and phrases in ways that modern English usage does not accept as correct or proper. Many give words and phrases meanings that are different from their meanings in current usage. Many go against the currently accepted grammar of those words and phrases. Many use two or more words together in ways that are considered unacceptable in current usage. Many use word combinations that the current usage considers unacceptable. Many confuse one word with another.

Why you should avoid these mistakes

1). These mistakes prevent the English you speak or write from being accepted as good English.

2). And worse, these mistakes prevent you from being clear to your listeners or readers -- because the listeners and readers expect words and phrases to carry only those meanings that the current usage has assigned to them. And they expect only those words to be used together that sound right (according to the current usage) when used together.

3). And there’s yet another problem. If you’re not sure of the principles of current usage, you’ll run into a serious difficulty: Suppose you’re in the middle of saying something or writing something. And suppose a doubt comes up in your mind whether it’s acceptable to put words together in a particular way. Then this is what happens: Your attention gets diverted from what you’re saying or writing -- to the language you’re using to compose it. That is, you’re now concerned not about the content, but about the form. And you lose the thread of what you’re saying or writing. And the result? The flow of your speech or writing gets cut off -- slowed down. And you falter. And all this makes it difficult for you to remain fluent.

How correct usage helps you communicate effectively

The tips on usage I’ll be posting here have two related aims:

(i) To make you become aware of the common usage-related mistakes -- mistakes that even highly educated people tend to make in English; and

(ii) To tell you how to avoid those mistakes.

Study these notes carefully. And don’t let the lack of awareness of current English usage prevent you from speaking and writing English fluently. And accurately, clearly and effectively. That is, as accurately, as clearly and as effectively as the situation needs -- and permits.

English Usage Tip for the week

Posted on October 16, 2019

juice or juices?; tea or teas?; coffee or coffees?: What’s the correct usage?

When they go out, many people often order a drink made from the liquid that comes from fruit or vegetables. This drink is what we refer to when we use the word “juice”.

Now, the question is this:

When you order the drink for just one person, should you use the word “juice” with or without an “a” before it? And when you order the drink for two or more people, would it be correct to use the word “juice” in the plural? That is, if you say “juices”, with an “s” added, will you be wrong?

The answer is this: You can use the word “juice” either as an Uncount noun (and use it without the indefinite article “a”/ “an” in front of it and without adding an “s” to it at its end) — or as a Count noun (and use it either in the singular or in the plural). Here are some examples:

I’ll have a grapefruit juice, and he’ll have a lemon juice.

Three orange juices and two apple juices, please.

An apple juice, please.

She ordered a carton of tomato juice.

All she had in the morning was a glass of juice.

Shall we have some carrot juice?

Pear juice? I don’t like pear juice.

Who wants some more juice?

He has unsweetened fruit juice every morning.

They have a selection of fruit juices in their fast-food outlet.

Would you care for a glass of fruit juice?

The same rule of usage applies to the use of the words “tea” and “coffee”, too — when the word “tea” or “coffee” is used to mean a hot drink. Here are some examples:

Tea or coffee?

Tea for me, and coffee for him.

Can I get you a tea/ coffee?

a tea and two coffees, please.

Have a cup of coffee.

Could I have a black coffee?

Does he drink too much coffee?

The coffee/ tea was too strong/ weak/ sweet.

His wife brought a cup / flask/ mug/ pot of coffee.

Make some/ a coffee, will you?

Do you drink tea?

I just had a cup of hot/ cold/ lukewarm coffee.

How do you like your tea? White or black?

I saw them sitting there, discussing something/ chatting over tea.

Do you take milk/ sugar in your coffee?

I’ll have a coffee – without sugar.

Copyright © Kev Nair 2019. All rights reserved.

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