For Students: Mistakes & Strange Things
Updated: Apr 17
The last post of the year. Things have been rather busy over the last few months which means I haven’t had the chance to write anything about anything. Hopefully that will change in 2020. I think it’s always good to end the year by looking at mistakes that we can learn from and then take the corrections
into the next year, so that is exactly what this post is about, mistakes and strange things said by Russian and Ukrainian speakers.
20. Can you believe it!
Sometimes we are shocked, surprised, and we want to tell someone this in a phrase. Ukrainian and Russian speakers will often say “can you imagine!” After imagine we have to give the situation – and remember this verb follows ing – to make this phrase work, so can you imagine going to a shop and there is no bread is fine. Without that following context we have the phrase ‘can you believe it!’
Incorrect: The shop didn’t have any bread. Can you imagine!
Correct: The shop didn’t have any bread. Can you believe it!
21. Are you nervous? No, I’m annoyed!
A friend of mine often used to say to me ‘Why are you so nervous?’ when I clearly wasn’t nervous nor was the situation we were in. I was angry, I was pissed off, I was annoyed. It took me a while to understand what he was getting at and then like all good detectives I cracked the case. Remember there is a complete difference in meaning between nervous – a feeling of worried and uncertainty before something happens – and annoyed – an angry feeling you have because of something. So, the next time you see someone with a look on their face like they could smash something ask them. Why are you so annoyed? Of course, if you see them sweating, shaking or scared, ask them, why are you so nervous?
22. Me, an acquaintance, and a company are going to a restaurant for some cuisine after work.
Welcome to 2019 and so nearly 2020. A year and time where such words as acquaintance, company, cuisine, quarrel, and dish, no-longer have a place in society. Say good bye to those old bastards and say hello to the new and improved Someone I know (acquaintance) / A group (company) / Food (cuisine) / Argue(quarrel) / and Meal (fish)
1950: Me and an acquaintance with a company were having some lovely French cuisines when all of a sudden on the next table there was a man and woman quarrelling so loudly it was hard to talk to each other
2020: Me and someone I know were in a group having some lovely French food when all of a sudden on the next table there was a man and woman arguing so loudly it was hard to talk to each other
Note: If you google a word and then click the down arrow to give you some more information, you can see a usage graph. This usage graph is a good way of seeing how common the usage of a word is nowadays.
23. It’s a pity
It's a shame I hear it’s a pity more often than it’s a shame. They both mean the same thing ‘it’s disappointing’ but one is way more common than the other. You might worry that the word shame is used in that set expression and might not what to use it. Don’t be, the phrase simply carries the same meaning of it’s disappointing. There’s nothing bad about it.
24. Standing in traffic
Only things with legs can stand. So, you’re standing in traffic, OK, it sounds very dangerous, but I know you’re in a car or on a bus. We get stuck in traffic, so the next time you need to lie to someone and tell them why you were late, just remember ‘ sorry, I was stuck in traffic for 30 minutes ‘ and your excuse will sound perfect.
I won’t lie, I get a little sense of joy when I hear someone use the correct preposition. It’s really nice to hear because you become so used to hearing the wrong one. The 3 I like to hear most are have you ever been TO Japan, I was ON the bus when you called, and I was AT a football match. Remember, AT is used for all events. So, you were AT a party/festival/march/gig/wedding all of these are events and all of them need AT.
26. He’s growing UP so fast
When you talk about children you can use grow up. When you talk about where you grew up you can also use it, but then after you need to drop the up when you start talking about trees, business, or other things that get bigger. Another up that needs to be dropped is when you talk about picking fruit or vegetables.
Incorrect: We need to hire some new people because business is growing up and we need more staff to pick up fruit in the fields next summer
Correct: We need to hire some new people because business is growing and we need more staff to pick fruit in the fields next summer
27. I had a pause
Pause that film or song, but when you ‘pause yourself’ you take a break. Also, remember during training sessions you also take breaks not pauses. A phrase worth noting for when you take a lot of breaks over time of doing something is on and off.
Incorrect: I started boxing, but I am taking a pause from it right now to focus on my studies
Correct: I started boxing, but I am taking a break from it right now. I also started playing tennis again. I have been playing on and off for the last 10 years.
28. Then after it all happened it appeared…
Often when telling a story and getting to the final part Russian and Ukrainian speakers often use the verb appear at the end when we see the result or discover the answer of something. Appear means we still aren’t sure about the end. In English we have a perfect phrasal verb which means it’s clear what the final result is and that is turns out.
Incorrect: I was in a rush and I was looking for my key everywhere and it appeared I had it my pocket all the time.
Correct: I was in a rush and I was looking for my key everywhere and it turned out I had it my pocket all the time.
29. Corporate party
Another word for party is DO and this is often used when we talk about parties that our work organises such as a Christmas do or a works do.
I can’t come tonight because I have to go to my work’s do
I know I mentioned this before, but it’s still my I saved this one for the end because it was the first one I ever came across many years ago when I spoke to a Ukrainian for the first time in my life and I was so confused by what they were saying. The pronunciation of this word is the same as the word CLOSE. This is what is known as a homophone - two words that are spelt differently, but sound exactly the same. Just like RED and READ. CLOTHES AND CLOSE sound exactly the same. It's time to stop saying CLOSE-IS... this doesn't exist. ;)
PS: Months also doesn’t sound like Months-IZ either. It has the same S sound as the word Snake.
OK – that’s me signing off for the year.
I wish you all a happy Christmas - for those who haven't had it yet - and a great New Year.
English native speaker in Lviv
Skype Lessons with a British native speaker from England