English : What you think you’re saying vs. What you’re really saying
Non-native English speakers have it tough; the English language is essentially a confused mix of previously borrowed language, lacking in consistent rules and with a structure like none other. Often, there are phrases that exist structurally in many other languages, and that non-natives transfer into English. But these most common mistakes in English, that non-native speakers use time and time again, do not mean what you think they mean:
(Note: These mistakes do not impede understanding; this is just a humorous re-interpretation ? )
The most common mistakes in English
I am waiting here since 2 hours
What you think you’re saying: I arrived and began waiting 2 hours ago
What you’re really saying: My sentence is not finished (e.g. I am waiting here since 2 hours ago we decided to meet).
Correct construction: I have been waiting here for two hours -OR- I have been here since 2 hours ago
What you think you’re saying: Is everything all right?
What you’re really saying: It is ok. The tone of my voice does not make this sentence a question
Yeah, you always have to invert the verb in English for a question, sorry.
Can you explain me the rules?
What you think you’re saying: I do not understand the rules, and I will need an explanation
What you’re really saying: I am the rules. I need to be explained.
Correct construction: Can you explain the rules to me? (i.e. you are the INDIRECT object)
N.B. : the opposite rule applies with the verb ‘to ask’; i.e. Ask to me a question -> Ask me a question
Are you English?
What you think you’re saying: Are you from the United Kingdom?
What you’re really saying: Are you from the country of England, not Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland?
This is not exactly a language so much as a common cultural misunderstanding, but be careful with this one; people can get offended!
How do you call [word] in English?
What you think you’re saying: I do not know the word for this [thing] in English, please tell me
What you’re really saying: In what way do you cry out -OR- phone this [thing] in English
Tricky, and maybe one of the most common mistakes in English. In most other European languages, the ‘how’ construction exists. However, in English there are two options:
How do you say [word] in English? -OR- What do you call [word] in English?
Yes. You’ve been saying it wrong this whole time.
I’m going to take a coffee
What you think you’re saying: I’m going to buy/ get/ drink a coffee
What you’re really saying: I’m going to steal a coffee OR I’m going to transport a coffee from one place to another.
This applies to any use of the word ‘take’ when talking about food or drink, though it is possible when ordering:
Waiter: What would you like?
You: I’ll take (i.e. have) a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.
Even so, us polyglots know all too well what it feels like to try and reconcile two (or more) conflicting grammatical structures. And if you’ve understood everything in the article, you’re already ahead of the game! If you want something more challenging, you can make our language test to see how good is your english!
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