... or maybe you don’t, I don’t know, I’ve never met you. Nonetheless, these are a collection of mistakes, which are commonly made and have been increasing in frequency. The internet has made communication easy and fostered the "social discussion." Whenever an event happens, there is a platform for everyone to have their voice heard, listen to the opinion of others, and finally degenerate into a soldier in an incoherent flame war. That last part is irrelevant; the point is people are talking to one another and this communication is being made unfiltered and honest. There are no special interest groups, no man with his finger on a button controlling the conversation. The unedited nature of these discussions also means that the content can be riddled with any number of errors. I’ve noticed many of these errors made, not out of carelessness, but because there is actual confusion over the proper definition of the word in question.
Someone on the internet is pointing out grammar mistakes? Well someone stop the presses (bring down the servers for maintenance?). I’m not here on a soapbox in an attempt to grammatically fix the internet; you can’t fight the rising tide. In fact, as you’ll see with some examples, the English language evolves and an error can become proper usage if used long enough. The point of language is to communicate and understand one another and no rule is above that purpose. That being said, here is a list of commonly confused words or phrases. Hopefully, you will learn something new and this will help you speak English good.
Well. This article can help you speak English well, not good. This is a common one that most people know, but choose to ignore. It has become ingrained in our reflexive speech. If someone asked you, “How are you doing?” you’d likely reply, “I’m doing good,” before you can realize you’ve made a mistake. I’ve seen many English teachers favour correcting this mistake by saying, “You are doing well, Superman is doing good.” This does not help to clarify anything to someone who missed the distinction to begin with. The issue is not that you cannot use the word “good” in your answer; it’s that you cannot use “good” along with an action verb. Had you answered, “I am good,” you would have been correct, because “am” is a linking verb (links “I” and “good”). Next time you find yourself unsure, think about whether what you’re describing is an action or the subject.
This is a surprising one. The actual definition of the word is lost on all but a few people. How many times have you used “peruse” to describe how you were killing time? You were only looking around aimlessly in a store, probably waiting on someone else. Perhaps you used it to describe yourself in the library, as you pull many books off the shelf and put them back after only reading a few pages. Ask almost anyone the definition of "peruse" and you will get the definition of "skim." To be fair, until I started researching for this article, I would have also given that definition. The actual definition of peruse is the opposite of skim. Peruse: verb 1. Read (something), typically in a thorough and careful way. Nothing more to it than that, it means the opposite of what you think and you’ve been living a lie. I’m sure you’re suffering an existential crisis, but try not to let it depress you too much.
8 i.e. and e.g.
I thought it was important to include i.e. and e.g., because generally you’ll only be using these abbreviations when trying to impress someone with your writing. Students are under a lot of pressure when writing their essays and this will cause them to grasp at anything to help beef up their writing. Unfortunately, many of them also don’t know the difference between the two, and instead of looking it up will try and work out a definition based on what they know. They’ll usually arrive at the conclusion that i.e. is short for “In Example.” While that doesn’t really make sense, they’ll assume it's some archaic expression Shakespeare probably came up with. What they don’t consider is that i.e. and e.g. are Latin expressions and mean, “id est” and “exempli gratia,” respectively. As you’ve probably guessed, the student who used i.e. before an example was incorrect. i.e. translates to “that is to say” and e.g. to “for example.” You should use e.g. prior to a list of examples and use i.e. when you’re restating a statement.
Irregardless is not a word. Unlike some other examples in this list, which may one day be accepted as proper usage, this will never be accepted as a word. “Ir” is a prefix and “less” is a suffix, both of which modify the word into a negative. Saying “irregardless of the subject” is like saying “without without regard of the subject.” It’s almost mathematical in how it doesn’t make sense. The fact that it’s often employed in response in an effort to brush off a prior statement makes it comical. If someone told you why not to do something and you responded, “Irregardless, I’m doing it anyway,” you’ve completely undermined yourself. Not only are you opening with an error, which deflates your point, but you’re essentially saying that there is no part of you that isn’t always regarding the other person’s point. Just save yourself the syllable, say “regardless” and continue to do/not do whatever it is you want (and if the situation permits, drop a mic and walk away).
6 I Could Care Less
Like irregardless, most of the time someone says “I could care less,” they’re immediately undermining their intended position. You might be saying this to yourself right now about this article. “I could care less what some author, who probably wasn’t even wearing pants when he wrote this, has to say.” Well, I’m here to tell you in my infinite, pants-less wisdom that your statement is grammatically (and factually) correct. By having read this far, you could care less and that level of lesser care would have been demonstrated by not having read at all. The problem is that saying you could care less is empty and doesn’t drive home your intended point. What a person usually means to say is, “they couldn’t care less.” That’s it, there’s nothing below their level of care. In no way could they ever care less about something. If caring were the food chain, they would be the plankton.
I get it, sarcasm is very popular and funny. You can’t explain why, but somehow picturing an exaggeration makes a person laugh. Across all creeds, races, languages, we find the ridiculous to be funny. The monkey is wearing a suit, like people - the ridiculous sight of it can make the most stone-faced chuckle. This may be the first building block to healing all the hate and war in the world, but I will figuratively kill the next person who uses “literally” in a sarcastic statement. The point of the word is to indicate the lack of sarcasm or hyperbole. That doesn’t mean there is no humour in “literally.” Monty Python’s whole existence is based on skits derived out of literal misunderstandings. That being said, to all those who agree with me, we’ve lost. This is one of those misuses that grew so vast in scope it was accepted as rule. You can now find in any dictionary, one of the definitions of literally to be “to indicate a metaphorical or hyperbolical expression.” Please, excuse me as I literally kill myself.
I will presently explain to you the definition of presently. To anyone who knows of the dispute over the usage of the word, they would expect me to have either already told them what it means or to ramble on about something else for a while and get to the definition soon enough. Generally, the dispute over the usage stems from the combination of US/British/Canadian/etc. English rules being independently and concurrently correct and globalization. We have different rules from our history apart, but now we live in a world in which we have never been closer. Our ability to communicate with anyone else on Earth has developed faster than the English language can adapt to merging dialects. Whose old rules prevail? Should I have used “globalisation” early? Will I ever get to telling you what presently means? Yes and I already have. Presently means “soon” or “now.”
3 For All Intensive Purposes
You may feel strongly about your purposes, you may be the roid-rage meathead of having a purpose, but the phrase is still incorrect. The true phrase has nothing to do with intensity. Homonyms, they’ll get you every time. The actual phrase is “for all intents and purposes.” When read in that way, it not only makes grammatical sense, but also helps a person understand the proper usage of the phrase. Now that we know there’s nothing intense about using this phrase, what does it mean? It means exactly what is written; whatever preceded the phrase has all the intent and purpose to be whatever follows the phrase. Like some earlier examples, this is important to understand how to use because of why it is usually employed. If you’re using this while trying to make an insightful interpretation, you better hope you’re saying it right or literally no one will take you seriously.
No. It’s not.
You are ordering an espresso. Expresso is the French translation of espresso and has no business in the English language, though, the mistake probably doesn’t stem at all from the French word. It’s more likely that confusing “express” into the pronunciation is where this all started. An espresso is quick to make, quick to drink, and makes you quick, but there is nothing express in the pronunciation. Most people don’t bother to correct themselves, they figure that the point is made and anyone would understand what it is they want. Also, it’s probably early morning, you’re not fully awake yet and at the bottom of the list of things you care about is the correct pronunciation of espresso. Those are fair points, but consider what a lack of care is implying. If you are ordering, a barista will think you don’t care about the quality of the espresso made and if you’re offering an expresso, you won’t be trusted to prepare a quality one.
1 Which Begs the Question
To beg the question is a phrase which represents a logical fallacy. This phrase is not to be interpreted literally. So what is the logical fallacy? Begging the question refers to a statement, which points to itself as proof of its validity. This may be a little confusing to wrap your head around the first time you hear it. A popular example used is:
Q: “There’s too much news about Lindsay Lohan, why do they waste so much time talking about her? She’s unimportant.”
A: “Of course she’s important. They have to talk about her because she’s in all the magazines and on the news.”
Yet, the prevalent misuse of the phrase meaning “which raises the question” has led to the misuse finally being adopted as a proper definition. I like to think there was a misunderstanding at whatever committee oversees this. One person said, “Everyone uses it to mean 'to raise the question,' therefore it means 'raising the question.'” Another committee member cleverly responded, “That’s begging the question.” And what he meant was lost on everyone else there.
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