3 Mistakes To Avoid If You Study English Grammar
Summary: Study English Grammar
Getting your grammar correct in a few key areas is the difference between sounding OK and amazing in English conversation.
Listening to native English speakers using the correct grammar is critical to learning to speak English fluently. But how do you know that the person you are listening to is using the correct grammar? They sound like a native English speaker and yet even native English speakers get it wrong. Just look at the video from the BBC in the main article!
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Audio Transcript: 3 Mistakes To Avoid If You Study English Grammar
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To Study English Grammar through listening is a good idea
Now when you study English grammar, especially in a classroom situation, you learn all kinds of ways to remember what’s correct. But the easiest way to learn grammar is to hear it used – so that you get an automatic feel for the language, like you did as a child learning your own language. This way of learning is so much better for your spoken English, but if this is your way to study English grammar, you have to be sure that what you’re hearing from English speakers is correct! Now when we’re talking about complex grammar – like with conditional verbs that I was explaining a few weeks ago – then English speakers, English native speakers will get these right 99% of the time.
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But look out for the mistakes English speakers make
But if you study English grammar by listening, it’s good if you’re able to notice when native English speakers get it wrong! And there are some bad habits! There are some real clangers that native English speakers make. A ‘clanger’, C-L-A-N-G-E-R is a mistake which makes you go ‘Aw! Ouch!’. It’s uncomfortable to hear. Usually you might say that someone ‘dropped a clanger’. This could be with their English grammar, but it could also mean that they said something not polite, or perhaps inappropriate in conversation.
So how about we go through a couple of these common CLANGERS, these bits of incorrect English, which you might hear native English speakers say? They’re not the mistakes that you will make – or not unless you’re copying, anyway! What I also want to say to you is that English speakers are much more tolerant when someone learning English makes a mistake. We’re fine with that and most times we’ll understand anyway. As I always say, the chances are that you’re a lot better at English than anyone English is going to be at your language! But if English is your language, if you’re a native English speaker, what excuse do you have for messing it up? I’m going to give you my top 3 hated English-speaker mistakes. These really wind me up, so look out for them!
My Top 3 Hate English Speaker’s Mistakes
1. Well, this is one I really hate. Sometimes when people mean to say ‘have’ H-A-V-E, they said ‘of’ instead. Uhhh! So an example would be someone saying ‘would of’ or ‘could of’, instead of ‘would have’ or ‘could have’. So as you like to study English grammar, let’s give it its proper name. ‘Would have’ is a perfect tense, and conditional, type 3 actually. Yes, I know I’ve done a previous podcast on Conditionals which covered types 0 and 1 – and I will come back to it and do types 2 and 3 soon! But let’s have a look at an example of this CLANGER, this mistake. Someone might say ‘If I’d known that you were going shopping, I would of come with you’. What they mean is ‘If I’d know that you were going shopping, I would have come with you’. This last bit gets shortened to ‘would’ve come with you’. And somehow ‘would’ve’, with an apostrophe-V-E somehow turns into ‘would of’ - argh! Please correct English speakers, if you hear them doing this! It’s a bad habit.
2. Another one I sometimes hear – and all of these are from English speakers, not from you lovely speakers of English as a second language! But I really hate this one. When someone is pronouncing the letter H (aitch) and they say ‘haitch’. So just to clarify ABCDEFGH! That’s where it fits in the alphabet. And it’s really surprising, you hear it even on the BBC news, ‘haitch’ instead of ‘aitch’. Argh! It’s horrible. I suppose that people think that because it’s the letter aitch, you’d better put one on the front of the word to be sure. My children know that this is one of my pet hates – and the saying is that ‘Haitch is for Hignoramuses’ so after years of this, they do remember this one! And if you look up the word ‘Ignoramus’ I-G-N-O-R-A-M-U-S, you’ll see it’s not a positive name’ for someone.
And last of all, because this is my top three
3. Using the reflexive pronoun incorrectly. So you’ll know the reflexive pronoun perhaps - myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, yourselves, ourselves or themselves. Now if you do study English grammar, you’ll know that these reflexive pronouns are used when someone does an action to themselves or when you want to emphasise that they did it themselves, without any help. So I might say ‘I wash myself’, ‘she talks to herself’, ‘we help ourselves’, or for emphasis, ‘they did the party themselves’. (They didn’t get someone in to help them, that means).
But sometimes native English speakers insist on saying ‘The wife and myself, we like to eat cheese’ or another one ‘Do let myself or my colleague know if you’d like to come to the meeting’. In both cases – arghh – what’s wrong with a normal pronoun? ‘My wife...’ which is much better than saying ‘The wife….’, ‘My wife and I like to eat cheese’. Ahh, that’s better. Or instead of ‘Do let myself or my colleague know, if you would like to come to the meeting’, how about ‘Do let me or my colleague know, if you’d like to come to the meeting’. Ahhh, so much better!
Anyway, there are lots more of these, if you’d like to hear some more. So when you study English grammar by listening, just notice when the English-speakers are getting it wrong – and try not to copy them!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Correct Grammar Can Make You Sound Posh
One thing that makes an English speaker sound posh is their grammar. You might think an accent makes a person sound posh however there are many Scottish, Irish and Welsh English speakers in the UK who sound just as posh as someone from England. You notice that posh sounding native English speakers speak slower, with purpose and choose a vocabulary that is less common and they absolutely never make common grammar mistakes.
This may well be because they have attended a traditional English school, possibly a private or grammar school. Posher English speakers learn ‘Exactly’ how to say a word and they never get lazy and miss pronounce or change the word, often slowing down the speed with which they speak to make sure the grammar and pronunciation is correct.
So if you want a ‘posher’ voice you need to keep your choice of English vocabulary interesting and when speaking, avoid common grammar mistakes, and take your time when you speak. Get it right first time.
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