Language Errors Which Need Learner’s Attention


Many of the errors to be discussed are those which are spoken and written daily even by highly placed people or which we often read in leading newspapers.

Though we often think that because of the popular usage or the “seemingly infallible” source of these errors, they must be very correct, unfortunately they are not.

As you read this piece, you will be greatly surprised at the very many words, expressions, sentences or other parts which you usually write as correct but which are wrong.

Errors in Phonology

These arise out of words which are pronounced alike, but which are different in spelling and in meaning. For example:

  • The judge refused to grant bale to the accused.
  • The principle was not around when I came.
  • Suddenly, the driver lost control and ran into a stationery vehicle.

In each of the sentences, there is a word which has been written instead of another. In (i), the writer should have written “bail” instead of the “bale” which he wrote. In the second sentence, “principal” ought to have been written instead of “principle”.

In the third sentence, the writer ought to have used the word “stationery” which means “motionless”, not moving.

Errors in Punctuation

Punctuation is a way of making ourselves understand in written form. The way you punctuate your sentences can lead to clarity and it can also lead to confusion or misunderstanding.

Punctuation errors usually impede meaning. For example, depending upon the choice of punctuation marks, the sentence “the man said the chairman cannot solve the problem” can cause assume different meanings when different punctuation marks are used, as in the following:

  • The man said the chairman cannot solve the problem? ( a question as to whether the man said the chairman cannot solve the problem)
  • The man, said the chairman, cannot solve the problem (The chairman said the man cannot solve the problem)
  • The man said the chairman cannot solve the problem (a statement credited to the man that the chairman cannot solve the problem)
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If (b) was the meaning meant by the writer, it would be wrong to punctuate the sentence the way we had in (a) and (d).

At this juncture, a mention must be made of another common error in respect of the word “its”. Students are fond of putting apostrophe in “its” therefore using it is as a possessive adjective.

The dog wag it’s tail (“it’s” here, means “it is” and has wrongly used) The act of writing “its”, possessive adjective like this, i.e. “its” is a very common habit but it is wrong.

The correct form of this word used as a possessive adjective is “its”. The sentence should therefore read: “The dog wags its tail”.

Errors in the Usage of Question Tags

This is another area in which students have difficulty. Let us example the following which are not correct:

  • You go to farm every day, isn’t it?
  • You need to eat well, needn’t you?
  • He has gone home, has he?

It is paramount to note that when we expect a positive response, the negative particle is used as part of the question tag.

  • You go to the farm every day, don’t you?
  • You need to eat well, don’t you?
  • He has gone home, has he?

When we expect the short answer to be in the negative, then the negative statement is followed by a question tag, e.g. in the negative.

  • He didn’t come to school, did he? No, he didn’t.

As a rule, the tense of the statement must correspond with the tense of the tag and that of answer. For example: You were sleeping when I came in, weren’t you? Yes, I was.

Almost  all auxiliary verbs are repeated in the question tag while other verbs use “do” in the question tag.

Errors in Spellings

It is common to come across spelling errors made by users of English language. Below are some of the words commonly misspelt and their right spellings. For example:

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Incorrect:   Accomodate                             

Correct:      Accommodate

Incorrect: Grammer

Correct: Grammar

Incorrect: Pronounciation

Correct: Pronunciation

Incorrect: Neccessary

Correct: Necessary

Incorrect: Priviledge

Correct: Privilege

Errors in the Use of Verbs

A verb is an action word and very vital to the existence of a sentence. In fact, without a verb, a sentence cannot exist. Numerous errors are made while using verbs. Among others are the following:

  • Wrong choice of verbs that is using one verb in place of another, e. g.

Incorrect: We greeted each other on our success.

Correct: We congratulated each other on our success.

  • Wrong choice of tenses, this is evident in the following examples.

Incorrect: Did he told you that?

Correct: Did he tell you that?

  • Inability to match plural nouns with plural verbs, as in “How is your wife and children?”, instead of “How are your wife and children”.

Incorrect: Bread and butter are his only food.

Correct: Bread and butter is his only food.

  • Misuse of Auxiliary Verbs: These are many but few will be mentioned as follows: “I can’t sweep that room” instead of “I won’t sweep that room”. “I won’t see” instead of “I can’t see”.
  • Forming a verb phrase with adverbs or prepositions where neither an adverb nor a preposition is needed. “He cannot cope up with that work” instead of “He cannot cope with that work.”
  • “We discussed about his problem” instead of “We discussed his problem”. “The price has risen up” instead of “The price has risen.

Errors in the Use of Nouns

  • Under this, we will mention common errors in the use of countable and uncountable nouns. For example:

Incorrect: I will give you some advices.

Correct: I will give you some advice.

  • Errors related to plurals of nouns. Some example are as follows:

Incorrect: We play pianos.

Correct: We play piano.

  • There are also some errors that are related to nouns whose forms are plural but which are singular in meaning and therefore should be expressed in the singular.
  • There nouns are often erroneously expressed in the plural. Some examples are Mathematics, Economics, News, Measles, Thanks, Surroundings, Politics, Alms, Knickers, Shorts, Scissors, Pants, etc.
  • Errors in the use of proper nouns. The first letter of every proper noun must begin with a capital letter. Many students make the mistake of writing the first letter of proper nouns in small letter.
  • Let us examine a few examples: Christmas, Biology, Lagos, America, Thursday, Peoples Progressive Party, March, Adeola, etc.
  • Errors involving designation: These are many, but a few will be mentioned. Some of such errors are given as follows:
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Incorrect: Tola is a cheater

Correct: Tola is a cheat.


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