Common errors in the English sentence
In the Previous English Language Notes, readers were acquainted with the context and background to the English language learning in India in...
In the Previous English Language Notes, readers were acquainted with the context and background to the English language learning in India in historical terms. In present note, I would like to spell out some common errors in the English sentence made by Indians
The basic unit of the English language, it is well known, is the sentence. While the sentence construction is a rule governed activity, it must be admitted that rules are at times violated for the sake of usage. And thus, the battle between grammar and usage continues in all aspects of the English language including the sentence structure. In this battle, it is clearly the usage that usage has the upper hand.
Let me begin by removing some of the common misconceptions from the minds of the readers. These errors are generally encountered by Indian users of the English language.
Claim: Sentences must be long and convoluted in order to be effective.
Truth: Sentences in current English are usually short and self contained. Compound sentences that contain more than one sentence in the embedded form, are allowed but may be used after ensuring clarity. In general, it is desirable to write short and simple sentences.
Claim: Sentences must use words that are polysyllabic and hard to pronounce in order to sound impressive.
Truth: Generally simple words are preferred. Latinized expressions and borrowed words from other languages are disfavoured.
Claim: Sentences must use in the present continuous tense. E.g. Gopal is staying at Mehdipatnam.
Truth: Present continuous is incorrect. The correct sentence would be: Gopal stays at Mehdipatnam.
Claim: It is not essential to have a verb in every sentence.
Truth: Verbs are a must in every sentence. They may be avoided in some forms such as poetry, but as a rule, sentences must carry verbs.
Claim: Every noun must be followed by a pronoun in consecutive sentences.
Truth: Correct! Nouns---such as proper nouns, common nouns, collective nouns, and abstract nouns�must be followed by pronouns that stand for the nouns e.g. 'Krishna is an intelligent boy. He travels daily to his office.'
Claim: Paragraphs are artificial constructions; they are not necessary.
Truth: Paragraphs are necessary. They break the monotony of sentences. However, they must follow the sequence of thoughts and ideas and must not be arbitrarily broken up.
Claim: All writings are directly done by long hand or on computers.
Truth: In fact barring smaller piece routine in character, all writing is best done through a draft or an outline.
Claim: Sentences need not be logically linked.
Truth: All sentences must be logically or causally linked. They must not be independent. For instance, one must not write: 'I visited my friend. The ice cream was tasty.' Instead one can say: 'I visited my friend. We went to an Ice Cream parlour and had tasty ice cream.'
Claim: The connotations of words do not matter while they are being used.
Truth: Words are favoured or disfavoured depending on the circumstances and the history of their use. For example,, today, we do not say 'belly' but 'stomach'; not 'Negro' but 'African American' or 'Black'
Claim: Agreement of Nouns/Pronouns with Verbs is not important.
Truth: Quite the contrary! Agreement is extremely important in sentence structure. And thus: He goes to the market' and not 'he go to the market', and so on.
In conclusion it may be said that whether grammar or usage, the users must be careful while making sentences; they must try and avoid the common errors in sentence constructions in English.
Task for the Day: Please go through a written piece by you in order to ensure that you do not commit any of the mistakes pointed out above.