Wednesday, 29 October 2014

English as a Foreign Language

                                                ERRORS IN USING NOUNS
Errors in the use of nouns can be classified conveniently under the following headings:  (1) errors in agreement with verbs; (2) errors in the use of plurals; (3) errors in case.
This section treats errors in agreement and in plurals; errors in case are treated under a separate heading.
Errors in agreement with verbs can be avoided by determining the noun or pronoun which is the true subject of the verb and then determining whether it is singular or plural. An important rule to remember is:
A verb agrees with its subject in number and in person. If the subject (the noun or the pronoun) is first person singular, the verb must be first person singular. For example,
Chirnjibi is the coordinator. I am the chairperson.
  1. Determining the Real Subject
The following sentences illustrate the errors that arise when the true subject of the verb is not determined.
Wrong          A box of apples are on the table.
Right             A box of apples is on the table. (Right because the        subject in the sentence is singular ‘a box’. So the auxiliary verb ‘is’ agrees with the subject.)
Wrong          Agenda were not thoroughly discussed in the meeting. (Wrong because the word ‘agenda’ was borrowed from Latin. In old English singular form the word is agendum and agenda was used as a plural form, but not it is outdated.)
Right             Agendas were thoroughly discussed in the meeting.
Wrong          He and I am very happy at the moment. (Wrong because we there are two pronouns before the verb, so the subject of the sentence is plural. The auxiliary verb ‘am’ does not agree with the plural subject.)
Right             He and I are very happy at the moment.

  1. Collective Nouns
Frequently there are situations wherein two or more persons, objects, or ideas which are otherwise singular combine to make a collective thought. For example, in the sentence
Apekshya and Anjana at the same table is unthinkable.
The noun ‘Apekshya’ and ‘Anjana’ constitute a collective thought. Hence, the singular verb ‘is’ rather than the plural verb ‘are’ is used.
The important point to be noted is that the collective idea requires a singular verb.
Wrong          Soup and salad are too light a lunch. (Wrong because the words ‘soup and salad’ represent a collective idea.)
Right             Soup and salad is too light a lunch.
Wrong          Playing the guitar and singing simultaneously are difficult.
Right             Playing the guitar and singing simultaneously is difficult.
  1. Subject joined by the Conjunction ‘or’ and ‘as well as’
When two nouns or pronouns acting as the subjects of a verb are joined by the conjunction ‘or’, the second noun or pronoun governs the choice of the verb. For example,
Farsha or I am to shovel the snow.
They or he is to occupy the first table.
The reason for this rule is that the conjunction ‘or’ really makes two sentences. The first sentence above, for instance, actually states
Farsha is to shovel the snow or I am to shovel the snow.
Akhil as well as his friends is going on a tour. Unlike in the previous sentence, the first noun ‘Akhil’ governs the choice of the verb. Hence, we have to use a singular verb.
Jeevan’s classmates as well as his girlfriend have collected a sum of 5 thousand rupees.
  1. Pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’
We and plural you (but not other personal pronouns like I, he, she, it , you (singular), they) can be put directly before nouns.
We men must respect women’s rights.
You girls should not underestimate yourselves.
But not
I woman know the importance of women’s rights.
They guys are discussing an issue.
  1. Collective nouns in UK and US English
In UK English, singular words like family, team, government, which refers to groups of people, can have either singular or plural verbs and pronouns.
The  team is/are going to win.
Plural forms are common when the group is seen as a collection of people doing personal things like deciding, hoping or wanting. Singular forms are more common when the group is seen as an impersonal unit. Compare:
My family have decided to move to Pokhara. (considering individual family member)
My family has decided to move to Pokhara. (as a whole)
Many native speakers prefer who as a relative pronoun with plural forms, and which with singular forms.
The committee, which is elected at the annual meeting, is going to announce important changes.
The committee, who are hoping to announce important changes, are pressed by the opponent party.
Some examples of collective nouns.
bank             committee     government   public            the BBC         Nepal football
team            jury              school           choir             ministry         staff   
class             family            orchestra       team             club              firm             
party             union
            In US English, plural verbs are rarely used.

  1. Countable and uncountable nouns
Countable nouns are the names of separate objects, people, ideas etc which can be counted. We can use numbers and the article a/an with countable nouns; they have plurals.
a goat           a newspaper            four dogs      two magazines
Uncountable (or mass nouns) nouns are the names of materials, liquids, abstract qualities, s, collection and other things which we see as masses without clear boundaries, and not as separate objects. We cannot use numbers with uncountable nouns, and most are singular with no plurals. We do not normally use a/an with uncountable nouns though there are some exceptions. For example,
We need a receptionist with a first-class knowledge of English. (knowledge (an abstract noun) has been defined by an adjective ‘first-class’.
She has always had a deep distrust of strangers.
The new child shows a surprising understanding of adult behavior.
My parents wanted me to have a good education.
You have been a great help.
My child needs a good sleep.
Can we have two coffees, please?
We have a selection of fine wines at very good prices.
  1. Often we can make an uncountable word countable by putting ‘a piece of or a similar expression in front of it.
Wrong                    Shambhu never listens to an advice.
Right                       Can I give you a piece of advice?
Here are some other examples of general/particular pairs. (Note that some words that are uncountable in English have countable equivalents in other languages. )
Uncountable                                    Countable
accommodation                           a place to live                            
baggage                                     an item/piece of baggage
bread                                         a piece/load of bread
chess                                         a game of chess
chewing gum                               a piece of chewing gum
chocolate                                   a bar of chocolate
corn                                          an ear of corn
dust                                          a speck of dust
equipment                                  a piece of equipment
furniture                                     a piece/article of furniture
grass                                         a blade of grass
information                                 a piece of information
knowledge                                  a fact
lightning                                     a flash of lightning
luck                                           a piece/bit/stroke of luck
luggage                                      a piece/item of luggage
money                                        a note; a coin; a sum
news                                         a piece/item of news
paper                                        a sheet of paper
permission                                  -
poetry                                        a poem
progress                                    a step forward; an advance
publicity                                     an advertisement
research                                     a piece of research; an experiment
rubbish                                                a piece of rubbish
soap                                         a bar of soap
slang                                         a slang word/expression
thunder                                      a clap of thunder
traffic                                        cars, buses, etc
vocabulary                                 a word/expression
wind                                          a gust of wind
work                                         a job; a piece; a stroke of work
Note that when uncountable noun are used as plurals, their meanings can vary in different contexts.
Excuse me, give me two papers. (newspapers)
My friend, who is an author, has been famous because of the latest works. (books)
  1. Illnesses
The names of illnesses are usually singular uncountable in English, including those endings in –s.
If you have already measles, you can’t get it again.
The words for some minor ailments are countable: e.g. a cold, a sore throat, a headache. However, toothache, earache, stomach-ache and backache are usually uncountable in UK English. In US English, these words are generally countable if they refer to particular attacks of pain. Compare:
I’ve got toothache. (UK)
I have a toothache. (US)
  1. Plural Nouns Misused as Singulars
Following is a list of nouns that are always plural. While many of these nouns are commonly misused as singulars by giving them singular verbs, they are plural. Therefore, they require plural verbs.
annals                     nuptials                             snippers
ashes                     oats                                 spectacles    
billiards                   obsequies                         suds
clothes                             pants                               thanks
dregs                      pliers                                thongs
eaves                     pincers                                       tongs
entrails                             proceeds                           trousers
goods                     remains                            tweezers
leavings                  riches                               victuals
lees                        scissors                            vitals
links                       shears                              wages
Wrong          My scissors is not very sharp.
Right             My scissors are not very sharp.
Wrong          I would like to buy a pant.
Right             I would like to buy pants/ a pair of pants.

  1. Singulars Misused as Plurals
acoustics                 hydromechanics                 phonics
aeronautics              linguistics                          physics
alms                       magnetic                          pneumatics
analytics                 mathematics                      poetics
athletics                  means (wealth or way)       politics
bellows                             measles                            spherics
comics                    metaphysics                      statics
dynamics                molasses                          statistics
economics               mumps                                      tactics
esthetics                 news                                United States
ethics                     optics                              whereabouts
hydraulics                phonetics

Right             The acoustics of the two buildings are sharply different.
Right             The athletics of the school are football, basketball, and                                         volleyball.
Wrong          The politics of the three brothers is sharply different. (Wrong because ‘politics’ in this sentence means political beliefs.)
Note: some of the above words can be plural on rather unusual occasions. For example, some words ending in –ics (e.g. politics, statistics) can also have plural uses.
What are your politics? But Politics is a complicated business.
The unemployment statistics are disturbing. But statistics is useful in language testing.
  1. Plural Same as Singular
Some words ending in –s do not change in plural. Common examples:
Singular                    Plural             Singular                    Plural
barracks                 barracks        headquarters            headquarters
series                     series            works (factory)        works
crossroads              crossroads     means                    means
species                             species                   Swiss                      Swiss
  1. Dated Words
Some words borrowed from other languages are on the verge of extinction. These words exist only in old dictionaries and old books. They are no longer used in modern English. Some of the words are as follows:
accomplished                     well trained
adieu                                goodbye
agendum                           This word is a Latin word. Agendum is the matter                                        of business to be discussed, especially at a                                                meeting or a list of things.
albeit                                It is a conjunction. It is can be used instead of the                                                          word   ‘although’.
ale                                   Ale is used especially in trade names. It is a type                               of beer, usually sold in bottles or cans.
alms                                 This word is always used in plural form. Its                                                meaning is money, clothes, food, etc given                                                 to poor people.
Amerindian                         Amerindian refers to Native American. This word                                is no longer used in modern English.
asylum                              An asylum is a hospital for the care of mentally ill                                        people.
beanfeast                          It is also spelled beano. Beanfeast is a happy                                   celebration or party in the UK.
beauteous                         beautiful
beget                                When you beget someone, you father him or her.
bloomer                            a serious mistake
bounty                              Bounty is an uncountable noun. Bounty is money                                        which is given generously as a gift or a                                            reward.
breast(V)                           Breast something means to touch something with                                        one’s breast.
chaff                                tease or joke at someone
cobbler                             A cobbler is a person who repairs shoes. In                                               modern English, it is polite to say a shoe                                          maker.
deflower                            When you deflower someone, you break her                                    virginity. This word    no longer is used in                                          modern English.
dice                                  This word is originally the plural of die, which is not                            now           often   used in this sense; in modern English                            ‘dice’ is generally used as both singular and                                           plural.
data                                 This word is originally the plural form of datum,                                 which is not now used. In modern English                                         data can be used either as an uncountable                                           noun or as a plural with no difference of                                              meaning. But some Indian grammarians use it as                                     a countable noun. For example, a data shows….
duffer                               stupid
farewell                             goodbye
fish                                   This word has a rare plural fishes, but the normal plural is                                                 fish.
Foe                                 enemy
game                                One of the meanings of this word is ‘a person’s                                 leg which is permanently injured. Nowadays                                  we rather use other alternatives like lame                                                 (offensive), physically challenged or differently                                    abled, etc.
goose                              a foolish person
gramophone                      A gramophone is a record player which can be                                  seen in old films.  
jailer                                 A jailer is a person who is in charge of a prison or
jolly                                 lively
mite                                 very small amount
prisoners.                         A criminal
media                               This word is originally the plural of medium. The                                plural expression     the media (meaning radio, TV,                           newspapers, the internet…’) is now           quite often                                  used   as uncountable noun with a singular verb.
motor                               a car
natty                                It is an adjective. A natty dresser is neat and                                    fashionable.
nay                                  It is an adverb. ‘Nay’ means more than that; and                              indeed.
obliged                             We feel obliged to express thanks or making a polite                         request
pleasure                            You are free to come and go at your pleasure.                                  (desire)
rascal                                A dishonest and bad person, especially a child                                   who likes playing tricks.
retarded                            If a child is retarded, they are slower in                                            development than others.
scold                                to talk angrily to someone
spectacles                         This word has already been old-fashioned.                                                 Instead of this word, we nowadays use glasses.
trousseau                          Clothes and other possessions collected by a                                    bride to begin married life with someone.
usurer                               an usurer is a person who lends money at                                                  excessively    high rates of interest.
unseemly                          not suitable behaviour
wondrous                          wonderful
zephyr                             a soft gentle wind

  1. Common Fixed Expressions
We use ‘do’ in the informal structure do….ing, to talk about activities that take a certain time, or are repeated (for example jobs and hobbies). There is usually a determiner (e.g. the, my, some, much) before the –ing form.
During the holidays I’m going to do some walking and a lot of reading.
Let your fingers do the walking. (advertisement for telephone shopping)
Note that the verb after do cannot have an object in this structure.
I’m going to watch some TV. (NOT I’m going to do some watching TV.)
But ‘do’ can be used with a compound noun that includes verb+object.
I want to do some bird-watching this weekend.
It’s time I did some letter-writing.
We sometimes use ‘do’ in place of make, to sound casual about a creative activity—as if we are not claiming to produce any very special results.
What shall we eat?—well, I could do an omelette.
  1. Common Fixed Expressions
Do good        do harm        do business             do one’s best           do a favour   
do sport        do exercise    do one’s hair            do one’s teeth                   do one’s duty
do 40 mph
make a journey                  make an offer                    make arrangements
make a suggestion             make a decision       make an attempt      make an effort make an excuse                    make an exception   make a mistake       make(a)noise make a call                      make money            make a profit          
make a fortune                  make love               make peace            make war make a bed                            make a fire              make progress
  1. Typical Expressions (Informal)
Have breakfast/ lunch / supper / dinner / tea / coffee / a drink / a meal
Have a bath / a wash / a shave / shower
Have a rest / a lie-down / a sleep / a dream
Have a good time / a bad day / a nice evening / a day off / a holiday
Have a good journey / flight / trip etc.
Have a talk / a chat / a word with somebody / a conversation / a disagreement / a row / a quarrel / a fight
Have a swim / a walk / a ride / a dance / a game of tennis etc
Have a try / a go
Have a look
Have a baby (give birth)
Have difficulty/ trouble in………ing
Have an accident / an operation / a nervous breakdown
Note: US English take a bath / shower / rest / swim / walk.
Have can also be used to mean ‘receive’ (e.g. I’ve had a phone call from Subhash.)

                                    ERRORS IN USING PRONOUNS
Errors in the use of pronouns can be classified conveniently under the following headings: (1) errors in agreement with verbs; (2) errors arising with the use of antecedents; (3) errors in case; and (4) miscellaneous errors.
The basic rules for agreement of subject and verb which were treated in the preceding section on Errors in Nouns should be reviewed because they pertain to pronouns also. Errors in case are covered under a separate heading. This section, therefore, treats errors in agreement with verbs that pertain only to pronouns; errors arising with the use of antecedents; and miscellaneous errors.
One of the most important rules to remember in regard to errors in agreement of pronouns serving as subjects is the one stated on previous page.
A source of genuine difficulty in handling pronouns lies in the fact that some are always singular; some are always plural; some may be either singular or plural. The following discussion treats common errors in agreement of pronouns.
Relative pronoun
After expressions like one of the…..singular and plural verbs are both used in relative clauses beginning who, which or that.
Simran is one of the few girls who has/have been crowned Miss Chelsea.
This is one of those horror books that are/is read by everyone.
‘One of’ is always followed by a plural noun.
One of the movies I have recently watched is Titanic.
Strictly speaking, a plural verb is preferred.
                    I.        Indefinite Pronouns
Pronouns like everyone, all, someone, nobody, everybody etc are singular. In using these pronouns, one must always be careful to make the verb agree, and the one must also make any pronoun substituted for one of them singular.
Someone was shouting at a beggar.
Everyone was praising the dancer.
Wrong          Everyone accepted his/her responsibilities.
Right             Everyone accepted their responsibilities. (Right because everyone means all.)
Wrong          Nobody was late, was he/she?
Right             Nobody was late, were they?
This singular use of they / them / there is convenient when the person referred to could be either male or female (as in the examples above). He or she, him or her and his or her are clumsy, especially when repeated, and many native speakers of English dislike the traditional use of he / she / his in this situation.
          II.  None, all, some—use of as Pronouns
The words ‘none’, ‘all’, ‘some’, used as pronouns may be singular or plural, according to their meaning.
Wrong                    All I have left are a few books.
Right                       All I have left is a few books. (‘all’ represents, in essence, a collective idea.)
Right                       Some of the roof was torn away from the wall. (some    as uncountable pronoun)
Right                       Some of the politicians are planning a reunion. (some     as countable pronoun)
Right                       None of my friends is overweight. (formal)
Right                       None of my friends are overweight. (informal)
Right                       Neither of us sings a song. (formal)
                III.        Antecedents
A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, gender, and person. (The term ‘antecedent’ means the noun or the pronoun to which a later pronoun refers.)
Suman is one of beautiful girls who have a sweet voice. (In this sentence, the pronoun ‘who’ directly agrees with ‘girls’ not ‘Suman’. In other words, all of the girls including Suman have a sweet voice. So the antecedent in the sentence is ‘girls’. If an emphasis is laid on only Suman, we have to select a singular verb.
Suman is one of the beautiful girls who has a sweet voice. (In this sentence, we place emphasis on only Suman.) Unlike in the past, in modern English, both singular and plural verbs are accepted.
Wrong                    It is I who is next.
Right                       It is I who am next.
Right                       It is me who am next. (informal)
                 IV.        Yourself—yourselves
Both pronouns are correct. When you address a second person, you might use one of these two reflexive pronouns. If you are addressing only a one, use yourself. But if you are addressing more than one, use yourselves.
Please serve a meal by yourself.
Please solve the problem by yourselves.
                   V.        Whose—its
In days past, authorities did not permit the use of the pronoun ‘whose’ in any instance where it did not refer to a person. Now, there is almost no opposition to its use in many instances where its antecedent is an inanimate object.
This is a newspaper whose circulation has risen rapidly. (The antecedent of ‘whose’ is the inanimate object ‘newspaper.’)
This is the newspaper the circulation of which has risen rapidly.  (Rather formal)
This is the chair whose two legs are cracked. (Acceptable)
This is the chair two legs of which are cracked. (Very formal)

                                                            ERRORS IN CASE
Many errors in usage stem from a lack of knowledge of case. The term ‘case’ actually means the relationship of a noun or a pronoun to another word in the sentence. If, for instance, a non or a pronoun is serving as the subject of a verb, it is said to be in the ‘nominative case.’ If it is serving as the object of the verb, it is said to be in the ‘objective case.’
So as to comprehend case, one should remember three basic facts: (1) every noun and every pronoun is in one of three cases—nominative, objective, possessive; (2) the case of a noun or a pronoun is determined purely by its function; (3) the so-called ‘rules’ for case involve simply the recognition of the function of the noun or the pronoun.
Before one can determine the function of nouns of pronouns, he must learn to divide sentences into elements, for only in this way can he see function clearly. The term ‘element’ means a natural grouping of words—usually the verb and every word related to it.
The following are the pronouns for the three cases.
Nominative Case                Objective Case                                Possessive Case
I                                     me                                            my
you                                 you                                           your
she                                  her                                            her
he                                   him                                           his
it                                     its                                             its
we                                   us                                             our
they                                 them                                         their
who                                 whom                                        whose

1)   We often use object forms in double subjects in informal speech.
Jeevan and me are going canoeing this weekend.
Me and the kids spent Saturday at the swimming pool.
‘Us’ is sometimes used as a subject together with a noun.
Us men understand these things better than you men.
And ‘I’ is often used informally in double objects.
Between you and I, I think his marriage is in trouble.
That’s a matter for Amit and I.
2)   It is considered polite to mention oneself last in double subjects or objects.
Why don’t you and I go hiking for the weekend? (NOT Why don’t I and you………….?)
3)   When a relative clause comes after an expression like It is/was me/I, there are two possibilities:
Object form + that (very informal)
It’s me that needs your help.
Subject form + who (very formal)
It is I who need your help.
He who does not socialize with others is avoided by other people. (Exists in old English)
The person who does not socialize with other is avoided by other people. (modern English)
4)   Gerunds—Modified by Possessive
A ‘gerund’ is the ‘ing’ form of a verb used as a noun, e.g., ‘running’, ‘swimming,’ ‘dancing,’. If the gerund is to be modified by a noun or a pronoun (which really becomes an adjective in this instance), the noun or the pronoun must be in the possessive case if it stands for a person.
Wrong                    Father objected to Manisha singing.
Right                       Father objected to Manisha’s singing.
Wrong                    We were not impressed by him speaking softly.
Right                       We were not impressed by his speaking softly.

                                                ERRORS IN USING VERBS
The principal errors in the use of verbs can be classified logically under the following headings: (1) errors in agreement with subject; (2) errors in tense; (3) errors in voice; (4) errors in mood; and (6) miscellaneous errors.
Errors in agreement are treated under the section on ‘Errors in Using Nouns’. This section treats the other principal classifications. To speak one’s English one must be well conversant with the irregular forms of verbs. It is also known as strong verbs. Below are listed the three forms, i.e., the principal parts, of verbs most likely to present difficulty:
          Present                                 Past                                        Past Participle
beat                                beat                                beaten (beat in the US)
bet                                  bet, betted                       bet, betted
bid (offer)                         bid                                  bid
bid (command)                  bade                                bidden
broadcast                         broadcast                         broadcast
                                      (broadcasted in the US)       (broadcasted in the US)
          burn                                burnt, burned in the US       burnt, burned in the US
          bust                                 bust, busted (US)               bust, busted (US)
          dive                                 dived, dove (US)                dived
          dream                              dreamt, dreamed               dreamt, dreamed
          dwell                                dwelt, dwelled                    dwelt, dwelt
          forecast                            forecast, forecasted            forecast, forecasted
          get                                  got                                  got, gotten (US)
          hang (kill someone)            hanged                             hanged
          hang (to fasten)                 hung                      hung
          input                                input, inputted                   input, inputted
          kneel                               knelt, kneeled          knelt, kneeled
          lean                                 leaned, leant            lean, leant
          leap                                 leaped, leapt           leaped, leapt
          learn                                learned, learnt                   learned, learnt
          let                                   let, letted                let, letted
          lie                                    lay, lied                   lain, lied
          light                                 lit, lighted                lit, lighted
          mow                                mowed                             mown, mowed
          plead                               pleaded, pled (US)    pleaded, pled (US)
          prove                               proved, proven (US) proved, proven (US)
          saw                                 sawed                    sawn, sawed (US)
          sew                                 sewed                    sewn, sewed
          shear                               sheared                  shown, showed
          sow                                 sowed                    sown, sowed
          speed                               sped, speeded                   sped, speeded
          spit                                  spat, spit (US)                   spat, spit (US)
          stink                                stank, stunk (US)     stunk
          strive                               strove, strived                   striven, strived
          swell                                swelled                             swollen, swelled
          weave                              wove, weaved                   woven, weaved
          wet                                  wet, wetted             wet, wetted

                                                            Shifts of Tense
Many non-native speakers of English cannot maintain consistency in their use of tense; they must be very careful while shifting tense.
Wrong:                   I told my teachers that I will be a good citizen.
Right:            I told my teachers that I would be a good citizen. (Right because I am talking about the past action.)
Wrong:         I should have liked to have heard Sabin Rai sing. (Wrong because the two present perfect constructions create a conflict that cannot be resolved.)
Right:            I should like to have heard Sabin Rai sing. (Right because action of ‘liking’ is now present, thereby preventing a conflict that cannot be resolved.)

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