How to avoid these mistakes in English

COMPREHENSIVE FLUENT-ENGLISH USAGE™

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 January 22, 2020

Copyright © Kev Nair 2020. All rights reserved.

“historic” OR “historical”?: What’s the difference in usage?

Don’t confuse the word “historic” with the word “historical”.

If something is old and considered important in history, you can use the word “historic” to describe it.

There are several historic places in our town.

That castle is an ancient historic building.

There must be an all-out effort to protect these historic monuments/ landmarks/ temples/ churches/ mosques.

Those are historic sites. Many ancient battles have taken place there.

North Paravur in Kerala is a historic city/ town.

These customs and values are part of our historic heritage.

That’s a new book on our historic freedom struggle.

That was a historic uprising/ battle against the British rule.

Some of those buildings are of great historic interest.

You can also use this word (“historic”) to describe something that’s not old, but which, you think, might be considered important at some time in the future – or is likely to be remembered because of its importance.

What happened at the UN General Assembly last week is a truly historic event.

This year’s summit of the two Government heads will be remembered as a historic occasion/ meeting;

Many consider the Senate resolution as a historic decision/ move.

Here are some more word-combinations containing the word “historic":

historic changes; a historic day; a historic moment; a historic visit; a historic election victory.

Let’s now take up the other word “historical”. What does the word “historical” mean? Of course, “historic” and “historical” are somewhat related. But they don’t mean the same thing.

As we’ve now seen, “historic” usually means something old that is considered important in history – or even something new or not very old that is likely to be considered important at some time in the future. But you see, the other word “historical” usually refers only to something that existed or happened in the past or is connected with the past (and not to something new or not very old that is likely to be considered important at some time in the future).

You can also use this word (“historical”) to describe something that has to do with the study of history.

Keep this in mind: Unlike something “historic”, what is “historical” doesn’t have to be something that is considered important, though often it is.

Here are some examples showing the use of “historical”:

He described the event in its historical context.

Some of those events are of historical importance.

They gave a historical account of how the First World War began.

a historical book/ film/ movie/ novel/ play; historical documents/ records; historical awareness; historical facts; historical factor; historical research; historical evidence; historical impact; historical perspective; historical tradition; historical mistake.

Copyright © Kev Nair 2020. All rights reserved.


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