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English bloopers: 'He said me to go'
Praveen Madhukar Naik, Gurmeet Singh Mehtab
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May 07, 2007

The most humorous and head-scratching bloopers occur when many of us attempt to translate from our mother-tongue directly into English. The results can be hard on the ears and embarrassing for the speaker.

Our reader-driven series on English bloopers reaches its fourth instalment; today we look at erroneous translations overhead by our readers.

Praveen Madhukar Naik, 26 from Bangalore, repeatedly hears these three mistakes.

~ "He said me to go."

This is the result of a direct translation. In English, direct commands and directions are given using the verb 'tell'. In this case, we use the past tense of 'tell' -- told

~ "He told me to go"

~ "Please on the fan!"

Praveen finds this is the most irritating blooper, because he hears it every day! In English 'on' is not an action verb in the traditional sense; the 'on' must be qualified with a verb!

~ "Please turn on the fan" or "Please switch on the fan"

~ "He is my cousin brother."

This is another mistake caused by a direct translation; it can be heard in all strata of society. English does not contain a separation/ qualification for female or male cousins, so the correct way to use it would be:

~ "He is my cousin."

Gurmeet Singh Mehtab, a corporate language trainer in Mumbai, teaches English everyday. In Gurmeet's experience, people normally make mistakes with words which cannot be visualised independently. These include helping verbs, prepositions, modals, conjunctions and articles. Here are a few recurring bloopers heard frequently by Gurmeet.

~ "He has eaten a mango yesterday."

When speaking of the past, helping verbs like have and has should not be used. Instead, the correct conjugation of the verb, in this case 'ate', is required.

~ He ate a mango yesterday

Then, there's this:

~ "He is loving Sangita!"

The 'is' is unnecessary in these cases. When showing sustained or continuous action from a verb, the verb alone suffices. This kind of error is the result of a direct translation from the mother tongue into English.

~ "He loves Sangita!"

Here's another common one:

~ "I am standing on the bus stop."

In English, the preposition 'on' signals being above, or literally on top of, something; it is rarely used as an indicator of location. Instead, use the preposition 'at'.

~ "I am standing at the bus stop."

That's all for today! Please check later this week for more reader-submitted English bloopers.


'I could not able to do it'
Common English goof-ups!
Mistakes in spoken English

We thank our readers for the witty emails detailing common English bloopers they've come across! Keep them coming in, and we'll keep publishing. This is the fourth in a series of articles featuring your response.

If you'd like to share common bloopers you come across when people speak/ write in English, do mail your list of common bloopers, along with their correct alternative to -- we'll highlight them right here as a helpful guide to those trying to improve their English. Also make sure you include your FULL NAME, AGE, OCCUPATION and the CITY you are based in.

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