How to Solve Grammatical and Meaning Errors


Many words and sentences we write wrongly in English. You will be greatly amazed at the very many words, expressions, sentences, or other parts which you usually write as correct but which are wrong. That is why this lesson is done to correct some likely errors we make in written and spoken conversations.

Errors in the Use of Idiomatic Expressions


There are idiomatic expressions peculiar to the English language, which have been, are often misphrased and twisted out of place.

English idioms or proverbs are immutable, that is, we cannot change them to suit us. For example, it will be wrong to say “I killed eight birds with one stone or to show that you succeeded in doing eight things all at the same time.

The expressions still re-milled two birds with one stone” no matter the number of activities you were able to complete. The verb tense may change and may not be the original idea.

We also form some expressions of ours which of course are not acceptable in the English language. In educated circles, they portray us as illustrated below.

I wish you were more grease on your elbow. (Incorrect)

I wish you more power to your elbow. (Correct)

The election shall be by secret ballot. (Incorrect)

The election shall be by ballot. (Correct)

There are other expressions we use which are transliterations, that is, allowing our mother tongue to influence our English by translating things as said in our mother tongue into English. For example:

I can hear the smell of burnt food. (Incorrect

I can smell the burnt food. (Correct)

Birds of the same feather flock together. (Incorrect)

Birds of a feather flock together. (Correct)

Errors in the Use of Pronouns

A pronoun is a word used to replace a noun or instead of a noun. To avoid repetitions, we can make use of pronouns. One common error made is in the writing of the personal pronoun

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“I”. Most students usually write it in small letters, probably because they feel it is in the middle of a sentence. The personal pronoun “I” has to be written in capital letters no matter where it occurs.

There are different kinds of pronouns. They include possessive, personal, reflexive, interrogative, demonstrative, distributive, reciprocal, and definitive pronouns. For example:

If one comes late, she must pay a fine. (Incorrect)

If one comes late, one must pay a fine. (Correct)

Ade and I visited him. (Incorrect)

Ade and I visited him. (Correct)

The mother died, leaving the baby. (Incorrect)

The mother died, leaving her baby. (Correct)

Errors in the Use of Articles

We can classify articles as definite “The” and indefinite “a” and “an”. They point out nouns. In the definite article, “the” particularizes or limits a noun. It is therefore wrong to use it when you are not referring to a particular thing previously mentioned. For example:

She went to school. (Incorrect)

She went to school. (Correct)

The first sentence is wrong because there had not been any mention of school earlier so one cannot use “the” which refers to a particular school.

Some proper nouns take “the” before them, but errors are often made in using such nouns without “the” preceding. Some examples of these proper nouns are The United of America, The River Niger, The West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Nigeria Airways, etc.

The mistakes commonly made with indefinite articles “a” and “an” are as follows:

  • Using either of the articles with uncountable nouns. Note that “a” and “an” are used only with countable nouns in the singular forms – “an” for nouns starting with vowels “a” for nouns “an” starting with consonants. For example:

This is a horse. He is an honest boy. (Incorrect)

This is a horse. He is an honest boy. (Correct)

It is important to note that while the “h” of the horse is pronounced making the word start with a consonant, “the” of honest is silent.

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It is pronounced as if the word is “honest”, thus starting with a vowel that takes “an”. Other examples of words with silent “h” which take “an” are “hour”, “heir” and “hour”.

  • some words start with vowels but have consonant sounds so they take the indefinite article “a”, e. g. a eunuch. Some common errors in using articles are listed below.

I shall put up an appearance at the meeting. (Incorrect)

I shall put up an appearance at the meeting. (Correct)

Tinu has a good knowledge of Mathematics. (Incorrect)

Tinu has good knowledge of Mathematics. (Correct)

Errors in the Use of Adjectives

An adjective qualifies or describes a noun. Errors mostly made when using adjectives are in the following areas: comparison of adjectives, wrong use of adjectives as nouns, adjective order, where many adjectives are used in a sentence, and particles used as adjectives. For example:

She can’t see you; she is blind. (Incorrect)

She can’t see you; she is blind. (Correct)

Note that neither an article nor a preposition should precede an adjective without the noun that is being qualified following it. Some other errors about adjectives will be covered in the list of errors supplied below.

The boy is very trickish. (Incorrect)

The boy is very tricky. (Correct)

The girl is black. (Incorrect)

The girl is dark-skinned. (Correct)

Errors in the Use of Prepositions

Prepositions show various relationships between words and phrases. Some prepositions are as follows: “at, on, in, with, for, about, after, under, inside, beside, until, of, behind, into, in front of, etc.

Errors are made when using prepositions stem from the following: the wrong choice of prepositions, the inability to appropriately combine prepositions with verbs to give idiomatic meanings, and the inability to differentiate between one-word prepositions and prepositional phrases.

Most often, a prepositional phrase is written as one word and vice versa. Some common errors under this are as follows:

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Please, round up your points. (Incorrect)

Please, round off your points. (Correct)

Tolu ordered a plate of rice. (Incorrect)

Tolu ordered a plate of rice. (Correct)

They went there on foot. (Incorrect)

They went there on foot. (Correct)

Errors in the Use of Adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs by stating how, when, where, to what extent, and when, action is being performed. Errors made when using adverbs include the following:

  • Misuse of phrasal verbs formed by joining an adverb to a verb. For example:

Put out the electric light; I want to sleep. (Incorrect)

Put off the electric light; I want to sleep. (Correct)

  • Poor arrangement of adverbs found in a sentence. For example:

He left for yesterday Lagos. (Incorrect)

He left for Lagos yesterday. (Correct)

Tunde left for America on Tuesday 6, 2021 at 3 pm. (Incorrect)

Tunde left for America at 3p.m on Tuesday 6, 2022. (Correct)

  • Using two adverbs that mean the same thing in a sentence. For example:

She warned him not to go, but still, he went. (Incorrect)

She warned him not to go, yet he went. [Or …still, he went] (Correct)

More examples are as follows:

I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me too. (Incorrect)

I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me either. (Correct)

Akin is very quiet for liking. (Incorrect)

Akin is too quiet for my liking. (Correct)

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