Everyday Conversations

Everyday situations are a minefield of common English errors. Here, we rectify some of them so you can learn to avoid making the same mistakes.

1. Family Affairs

  • WRONG: “Please excuse me. I have to leave now to put my children to sleep.”
    RIGHT: “… I have to leave now to put my children to bed.”
    Explanation: It is a criminal offence to put a person “to sleep”. In Singapore it carries the death penalty.
  • WRONG: “I send our son Joey to school everyday.”
    RIGHT: “I drive/take our son Joey to school….”
    Explanation: To “send” someone means that you are not accompanying that person on the journey.


2. Social Affairs

  • WRONG: “Please switch your mobile phone to silent mode.”
    RIGHT: “Please put your mobile phone on silent mode.”
  • WRONG: “Children, please off the lights when you leave the room.”
    RIGHT:  “ … Please switch off the lights …”
  • WRONG: “I will appreciate if you can keep your voice down.”
    RIGHT: “I will appreciate it if you can keep your voice down.” or “I will appreciate your keeping your voice down.”
    Explanation: The word “appreciate” must be followed by an object.
  • WRONG: “He is late. Must be he overslept or missed the bus.”
    RIGHT: “… It must be that he overslept or missed the bus.” or “… He must have overslept or missed the bus.”
  • WRONG: “Last time we lived in a kampong house.”
    RIGHT: “Previously, we lived in a kampong house.” or “We used to live in a kampong house.”
  • WRONG: “It may rain this afternoon. You got bring umbrella or not?
    RIGHT:  “… Did you bring an umbrella?”
  • WRONG: “From the way he speaks, I would consider him as a snob.”
    RIGHT: Drop the word “as”.
  • WRONG: “You better apologise to him as he is really mad.”
    RIGHT: “It would be good if you apologise…”
  • WRONG: “Sorry, I am really busy with work right now. Can we discuss tomorrow?”
    RIGHT:  “… Can we discuss it tomorrow?”
  • WRONG: “You only just found out about the sale? Today is the last day.”
    RIGHT: “You found out only now about the sale? …”
  • WRONG: “I used to love durians, but not so much nowadays.”
    RIGHT:  “… but less so nowadays.”
  • WRONG: “ The Japanese numbers game sudoku is very popular among the staff of my office. Myself, I took it up a year ago.”
    RIGHT: Drop the word “myself””.”
  • WRONG: “No idea.”
    RIGHT: “I don’t know.”


3. Love Affairs

  • WRONG: “John, you look groovy. You aim to win at the best dress competition tonight, don’t you?”
    RIGHT: “… You aim to win at the best dressed competition tonight, don’t you?”
    Explanation: If it is a “best dress” competition, John would not be eligible unless he is a cross dresser.
  • WRONG: “Do you like the fragrance of the wine?”
    RIGHT: “Do you like the bouquet of the wine?”
  • WRONG: “I can see that you prefer the champagne coloured roses than the red ones.”
    RIGHT: “I see that you prefer the champagne coloured roses to the red ones.”
  • WRONG: “I will wait for you at Ya Kun while you are at the hair dressing saloon.”
    RIGHT: “… hair dressing salon.”
  • WRONG: “We just met. Please don’t hold my hand here. After people talk.”
    RIGHT: “… hand here or people may talk (gossip).”
  • WRONG: “Can you call me back soon?”
    RIGHT:  “Can you call me soon?”
    Explanation: Drop the word “back” as it is redundant.
  • WRONG: “Mary, I have a cocktail this Friday at the office. Would you like to join me?”
    RIGHT: “Mary, I have a cocktail party this Friday…”
    Explanation: “A cocktail” means a glass of alcoholic drink. Mary may rather go to a “cocktail party”.
  • WRONG: “I saw you holding Bee Hong’s hands. You are both in love, isn’t it?”
    RIGHT: “… You are both in love, aren’t you?”
  • WRONG: “Can you hold my hand as I am scared of the dark.”
    RIGHT: “… as the dark scares me.” or “… as I am afraid of the dark.”


4. Food Affairs

  • WRONG: “I go marketing only once a week.”
    RIGHT: “I go to the market only once a week.”
    Explanation: “Marketing” is done only by the marketing executives of a company.
  • WRONG: “Why are you not drinking your soup?”
    RIGHT: “Why are you not having your soup?”
    Explanation: As soup typically contains solid ingredients, unlike water or milk or juice, it is generally not appropriate to use “drink” to describe its consumption.
  • WRONG: “Have you finish eating?”
    RIGHT: “Have you finished eating?”
    Explanation: “Finish” here is used as part of the verb “have finished”.
  • WRONG: “This restaurant operates on a ‘first come, first serve basis.”
    RIGHT:  “… ‘first come, first served basis.”
  • WRONG: “No fish? Prawns also can.”
    RIGHT: “No fish? Prawns are fine too.””
  • WRONG: Cake-seller to customer: “Okay, two banana muffins and one peach tart. Some more?”
    RIGHT: “… Anything else?”
  • WRONG: “Sorry. I left only one Sri Lanka crab. Can take local crabs instead?”
    RIGHT: “… I have only one small Sri Lanka crab left. Can you take local crabs instead? ”


5. Corporate Affairs

  • WRONG: “Last month, I informed that our production cost had been rising.”
    RIGHT: “… I informed all of you that …” or “… I reported that …”.
    Explanation: The word “inform”, unlike the word “say” or “report”, must be followed by an object.
  • WRONG: “The reason for the increase in our cost is because commodity prices have been going up relentlessly.”
    RIGHT: “The reason for the increase in our cost is that commodity prices have …”.
    Explanation: “Because” is used only when the sentence is written in a different way: “Our cost has increased because commodity prices have been …”.
  • WRONG: “I don’t think so that commodity prices have risen that much.”
    RIGHT: “I don’t think that commodity prices have risen that much.”
    Explanation: The word “so” is redundant.
  • WRONG: “Please do not repeat the mistake again.”
    RIGHT: “… Please do not repeat it.”
    Explanation: “Repeat” means “do again”. So to “repeat again” means “to do again again”.
  • WRONG: “After you have studied the proposed agreement, please revert to me.”
    RIGHT: “… Please come back to me.”
    Explanation: “To revert to “means to transform back into the shape of”.
  • WRONG: “We should meet soon to discuss about the reception for our foreign visitors.”
    RIGHT: “… to discuss the reception for …”.
    Explanation: “To discuss” means “to talk about”. So the word “about” is redundant.
  • WRONG: “With regards to Project A, can you update me on its progress?”
    RIGHT: “With regard to …” or “As regards Project A…”.
  • WRONG: “Our team comprises of people from various disciplines.”
    RIGHT: “Our team comprises people from various disciplines.”
  • WRONG: “The supplier will not be able to deliver the new desk-top computers in time. As such we have to continue to use our existing computers for at least another week.”
    RIGHT: “… So we have to continue …”
    Explanation: We use “as such” only when we can answer the question: “As what?”.
    Example: “John has just been appointed team leader. As such (as a team leader), he now has a greater responsibility in the office.”
  • WRONG: “Although Jane’s report is not exactly a well-written one, we can consider it as completed since it serves the purpose intended.”
    RIGHT: “…we can consider it completed…”
    Explanation: The word “as” is redundant.
  • WRONG: “I must catch hold of the boss before he goes on vacation.”
    RIGHT: “…must catch the boss…”
    Explanation: The phrase “hold of” is redundant.