Knowledge is abundant; more abundant than the sands of the beach. No one knows it all; even English Language professors have been caught committing some few grammatical blunders. However, that does not stop us from seeking knowledge; it is usually gratifying to know what we did not know before. In this article, I will be addressing some of the errors we make without the awareness of their wrongness. I shall be addressing each grammatical fault in numbers. I hope you find this post educative enough.
- The Use of Adjectives as Adverbs
“Do it quick” is a wrong expression. Quick is an adjective, and the verb do requires that an adverb must be used. The correct way to write it is “Do it quickly”. Similarly, “Drive slow” should be “Drive slowly”.
Surprisingly, it is colloquial to say “Walk quicker” and “Drive slower”, the correct forms are “Walk more quickly” and “Drive more slowly”.
Fast, however, is both adjective and adverb; so, “Drive fast” is correct. Another interesting inconsistency involves wrong and right. We say “He did his assignment wrongly” but “He did his assignment right”. Yet if both terms are used together we say “Rightly or wrongly”.
Well is the adverb corresponding with the adjective good. Thus, we say “She is a good dancer” or “She dances well”. Some people, sadly, think it sounds polite to use well when they mean good, and frequently we hear: “It looks well on her, doesn’t it?”
This construction is wrong. The word well is not associated with the verb looks but with the pronoun it, so that the adjective good should be used. The correct form of the sentence, in the sense meant by the polite speaker, is “It looks good on her, doesn’t it?” The same speaker would have no doubt at all about saying, correctly, “It looks splendid” or “It looks horrible” or “It looks old-fashioned”.
Literally, “It looks well” means it performs the act of looking well. Well is also an adjective meaning healthy, and although “He looks well” usually means that he looks healthy, it could also mean that he is a good performer in the act of looking.
- “Include” and “Including”
“The CBN included many hundreds of smaller banks which directly reported to its head office.”
Obviously, the hundreds of smaller banks did not make up the whole of the CBN. There is nothing wrong, however, in giving the verb “to include” a much more comprehensive meaning, and we are equally justified in saying:
“The CBN included such financial giants as Zenith Bank, FCMB, GTB, FBN, as well as many hundreds of smaller banks which directly reported to its head office.”
It is possible to make a mistake with include, as in the following:
“Some of the local foods you can buy include: …”
Some and include are similar in implication, and the writer should have written either of the following:
“Some of the local foods you can buy are: …”
“The local foods you can buy include: …”
The modern understanding that the verb “to include” embraces only a part, and not the whole, is obvious from the very common use of the present participle including.
“The refugees, including women, number over a thousand.” Not all the refugees are women. Incidentally, it is important to note that the present participle including must be related to a noun or a pronoun, the related word in this case being the noun refugees.
- “Chart” and “Charter”
A chart is a map or a plan. Thus, the verb “to chart” means to map, or to plot a survey. An uncharted reef is a reef not shown on a chart, or nautical map.
Here is an extract from a newspaper:
“A party of holidaymakers, rescued in motor launches when their boat struck an unchartered reef, were landed on a strange island.”
The word should be uncharted. The verb “to charter” means to hire, and the noun “charter” is a Royal documentary instrument.
Some people, when they see Magna Charta, point out that it should be Magna Carta, the Great Charter. However, in Latin the two words are synonymous. Magna Carta happens to be the commoner form.
Circumstances are the events around something. Therefore to say “under the circumstances” is wrong. The correct use is “in the circumstances”.
- The Misuse of “An”
The indefinite article an is used before a word starting with a vowel sound – not necessarily with a vowel letter.
Unique, for example, starts with a vowel but a vowel having the effect of a y. to say or write “an unique” is a mistake which is incomprehensible, for nobody would ever think of saying “an unicorn”.
It is equally wrong and atrocious to say or write “an hotel”, yet you come across this fault every day. It is right to say “an hour” and “an honour”, when the h is silent, but please say “a hotel” and “a herbaceous plant”.
- “At About”
“I shall expect you about five o’clock.”
“I shall expect you at about five o’clock.”
Which of these is correct?
Strictly, at applies to a definite time; about applies to an approximate time. Therefore, at about is a confusion of two unlikes, and should be avoided. Logically-minded people say: “I shall expect you at or about five o’clock.”
- “Times Greater Than”
“Production this year is six times greater than production last year.”
What exactly does this mean?
If production is once greater, it is as much again, or twice as much before. If it is twice greater, it is three times as much before.
Therefore, if production (or anything else) is x times greater, it is (x + 1) times as great before.
This is simple, isn’t it? Nothing can be more logical. And yet, the person who wrote that sentence – “Production this year is six times greater than production last year” – actually means that production is six times as great.
If the sentence is interpreted literally, it means that production this year is seven times production last year.
This is a very common type of mistake, and you must be careful about it.
From consideration of due to we pass conveniently to some observations on the associated constructions containing reason.
“The reason I am going home” is equivalent to “Why I am going home.” It is just another way of saying it.
“The reason why I am going home”, therefore, contains redundancy, or duplication of meaning.
Why should not be used after the noun reason unless it is necessary as a convenient link for the sake of smoothness. “There is no reason I should go home” sounds awkward, and it is more usual to say “There is no reason why I should go home”. The use of why could be avoided if the speaker said “There is no reason for my going home”.
Another common error of duplication to avoid with the noun reason is its use in such constructions as “The reason is because…” and “The reason is due to…” the reason for something obviously cannot be because of or due to anything.
A concerned mother may write to a schoolteacher: “The reason for my boy’s absence was due to an attack of measles.” This kind of mistake is not uncommon, and either of the following two correct forms could be used:
“The reason for my boy’s absence was an attack of measles.” “My boy’s absence was due to an attack of measles.”
The verb to reason why, however, can be quite correct. The verb implies a particular reasoning, a reasoning of some problem, while to reason simply implies reasoning in general. To reason why implies that the object of the reasoning is to find out the cause of something.
- “Ought to”
“He ought to, didn’t he?” is something we often hear. The correct construction, of course, is “He ought to, oughtn’t he?” or “…ought he not?”
- “Try and”
Many people say “try and” when they mean “try to”. Mistakes apart, however, there is a subtle difference between the two expressions.
Logically, if you try and do something you try first, making a general attempt in the right direction and finding out how you have to do it. Having found out the best way of doing it, you do it. Thus there are two actions involves, the trying and the doing, and in this sense “try and” can be quite right.
“Try to”, on the other hand, implies he single combined action of trying and doing. Usually, the correct expression is “try to”, and when people say “try and” they seldom have the logical meaning in mind.
- “Loan” and “Lend”
Loan is a noun. Lend is a verb. It is a common mistake, however, to use loan as a verb, as in “I loaned her one thousand naira” instead of “I lent her one thousand naira.” When something is on loan it is lent.
Thanks for reading. You can leave your questions in the comment section.