Forums · General English Grammar & Vocabulary, Listening & Speaking · General English Grammar Questions
I was wondering if you could provide some examples of the most frequent mistakes (grammatical, but perhaps also concerning pronunciation or vocabulary) that you've noticed?
Also, could you comment on the following (i.e. say whether you consider it a mistake, whether you might commit such a mistake if speaking carelessly, whether you've heard it)?
1. "If I would have known about the party, I would have gone to it."
2. "He don’t care about me anymore."
3. When we go to the party on Saturday, let’s bring a bottle of wine.
4. Sign at the checkout of a supermarket: “Ten items or less”.
5. I'm not speaking to nobody in this class.
6. "I would have took the train."
7. I should have went to school yesterday.
8. "If I was in a different situation, ..."
9. "I could care less".
Yes, I consider them all mistakes in BrE, just as they are defined on the web site, except that 1 is used in AmE, where it is not a mistake.
Re 6 & 7: many people incorrectly say "I would OF " instead of I would have.
Number 9 I understand is the way that Americans say it, but you only hear 'I couldn't care less' in the UK.
1. I would say, "If I had known about the party, I would have gone to it." The sentence as written strikes me as unnecessarily wordy, but not as blatantly incorrect as some of the others. I wouldn't cringe to hear it.
2. Definitely substandard.
3. What's supposed to be wrong with this one? It sounds fine to me!
4. I know it should be "fewer," but this is present in every grocery store in America and I have never once seen a sign saying "ten items or fewer." I'm sure this is going to become standard by sheer weight of usage, and I can't say that this particular mistake bothers me much. I probably even say it myself on occasion.
5, 6, 7 all unacceptable. I would be very surprised to hear anyone I know make these mistakes.
8. Should be "were," but a pretty common mistake and not as striking as 2,5,6,and 7. I might say it myself occasionally.
9. This one is very common but it drives me crazy. #4 just violates an arbitrary rule of grammar, but # 9 defies logic. I would never say it, and might even correct someone who ought to know better.
AHA!! I just realized that # 3 should be "take" rather than "bring." But I'm not going to edit out my original reaction, because I thinks its interesting - I really read that sentence many times befor discovering the error. Like the less/fewer distinction, I think the take/bring distinction is dying out. I wouldn't hesitate to say sentence #3, and wouldn't notice anything odd if I heard it.
I might also add that there is such a thing as Ebonics, or "Black English", in which #2 and #5 might be considered acceptable. As you might guess, this is a very controversial issue, and I am not very well informed about it - I think the idea is that in some American Black communities, certain grammatical variations have attained the status of a dialect. I'n sure you can find out more about this online.
Thanks, Demicjusz, for starting this thread! Its interesting to think about why some mistakes drive me crazy (#9), some definitely sound uneducated (2, 5, 6, 7) and others don't bother me much. I suppose all grammar is arbitrary; I'm not sure why I'm willing to give up on the "less/fewer" disctiction so easily but would never dream of conceding the "he don't/he doesn't distinction. I've been enjoying your contributions to the forum.
1. / 6 (Increasingly common. Only slightly less objectionable-sounding as "If I'd've known ...")
2. / 1
3. / 8.5 I'm sympathetic here because I've never mastered the subtle cases of "bring" and "take"!
4. / 9
The supermarket I go to has two signs, "10 items or less" and "10 items or fewer" -- in adjacent check-out lanes!
5. / 1
6. / 1
7. / 1
8. / 9 (The "was"/"were" battle is already lost. No use agonizing over it.)
9. / 10 (An idiom. It is a shortened form of "There's no way I could care less."[because I already care not at all])
Hope that helps!
On what grammatical grounds could you give so a high score to the grammaticality of the construct, be it either "If I would have known" or "If I'd've known (=I had have known)"? To me it sounds the prevalent use of such constructs is simply a kind of evidence that American youngs are not being taught English grammar enough. Don't you check them when you find such constructs in the essays of your students?
Thanks for the reply. I googled the phrases "if I had/would have known that" and found about 10 % of people use "would have known" for "had known". What I'd like to know is the reason why those people are using "would have known" for "had known". The subjunctive past "had known" and the epistemic modal for unrealized past "would have known" somehow overlap in stating an unrealized past event. It may be the reason why people confound "had known" and "would have known".
You say your grading on the grammaticality is by a seat of your pants, but such grading is still very useful for us ESL students. We can know from books and dictionaries which expression is not grammatical and which one is grammatical. But no books tell us how much weird an ungrammatical expression sounds to the native ears. I think many of us ESL students are taught as if the wrong choice of take/bring, for example, were so serious a mistake as the basic mistakes such as those you marked as 1. To grade ungrammatcality is what we are really expecting teachers to do.
By the way the phrase "by a seat of the pants" is an idiom new to me. I searched for the source of the idiom but I couldn't find it, though OED suggests that is an expression that began to be used by airplane pilots to contrast with an automatic handling. I guess it would be wrong if I say "by a seat of the trousers" or "by a seat of the skirts" Right?
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