COMMON ERRORS IN ENGLISH with Samuel Alimi
On Monday, I asked my students if ‘sufferness’ is a recognized word in English. It has gained popularity and acceptance among many English users, particularly in Nigeria. However, I found no evidence of it being categorized as a word in authoritative dictionaries. Even English teachers are prone to this error, and students are starting to imitate them since they are seen as role models in language learning. I used to believe that my teachers were the most proficient speakers because I wanted to improve my communication skills. But the truth is, as English users, many individuals who struggle with the language learn a lot from our expressions. Therefore, it is crucial to have a proper understanding of words instead of making unforgivable mistakes.
To be honest, the teaching of English as a second language in Nigeria is substandard and discouraging. Some schools in the country have teachers who studied the language during their undergraduate and postgraduate days but intentionally skip topics on oral English due to their ignorance and lack of interest. What about those of us who try to communicate effectively? The negative reactions and pushbacks from listeners can be shocking. However, speaking correctly is not optional. No one should be deceived into mispronouncing words without making an effort to study.
Let’s get back to today’s topic and avoid digression. About five students asked at the same time, “What is the correct word then, Mr Alimi?” Interestingly, I was moved by their eagerness to learn whenever I post controversial topics on my Facebook page and WhatsApp status. Some of them even anticipate the lessons, and it is also a fantastic opportunity to repeat it in the Peoples Daily Newspaper for thousands of avid readers to learn from as well. The correct word is ‘suffering’, which is also a noun.
Millions of Nigerians are complaining bitterly about the sufferness caused by the tough economic climate. (Wrong)
Millions of Nigerians are complaining about the suffering caused by the tough economic climate. (Correct)
Here are some example sentences from the Cambridge dictionary:
Now she is at peace and her suffering is over.
No report can convey the unspeakable suffering that this war has caused.
The idea is to kill the animal as quickly as possible without causing unnecessary suffering.
I hope you have learnt the correct word.
The Indiscriminate Use of ‘Ma’
The Nigerian culture encourages respect for elders, which is commendable. Young individuals often refer to women who are not their biological or adoptive mothers as ‘mummies’. However, it is important to emphasize that it is wrong to use ‘ma’ for anyone who is not one’s mother or mother figure. Instead, use ‘madam’ or ‘ma’am’. It was quite surprising when I mentioned this. For example, “I was not in class when you arrived, madam” is correct, not “I was not in class when you arrived, ma.”
Students who refer to their male teachers as ‘uncles’ and female teachers as ‘aunties’ are also not aware that these titles are reserved for relatives. A UK-based Nigerian once shared how her daughter corrected her for calling her home tutor ‘uncle’. The girl said, “He is not related to me in any way. He can never be my uncle.” This is true! I wish I could meet her and give her a high-five.
Is ‘Appreciate’ also an Intransitive Verb?
Thank you for your thoughtful gestures. I appreciate. (Wrong)
Thank you for your thoughtful gestures. I appreciate you. (Correct)
The incorrect sentence above was taken from my uncle’s appreciation message to his colleagues, friends and coursemates who celebrated him during his 50th birth anniversary (not birthday anniversary). I noticed the error after he forwarded it to me for editing. I explained to him that ‘appreciate’ must always be followed by an object since it is a transitive verb.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, ‘birthday’ means “the anniversary of the day on which someone is born”. Therefore, it is redundant to say ‘birthday anniversary’.
Some adults were illegally arrested in Niger State for protesting against the level of ______ in the country.
Have you ever celebrated your __________?
________ should only be used for one’s mother or mother figure.
Please send your answers to [email protected] or via SMS to 07049203179.
Names of those who answered the last questions correctly
Victory Daniel, Yusuf Bala, Adeniji Mattew, Alade Charity, Alimi Olive, Genesis Johnson, Sultan Musa, Banjo Victoria, Victor Bawa, Ahmed Roqeeb, Bello Sulaimon, Okere Chigozi, Adebayo Bukola, Daniel Adewale, Eze Uche, Okpara Nmenosa, Ezegwu Slyvester, Lipson Precious, Adeyemi Abigeal, Adedigba Emmanuel, Babatunde Esther, Fiyinfoluwa Olawale, Yahyah Aishat, Fakore Olawale, Genesis Bolaji, Adaeze Okpala, Solomon Miracle, Aderinsola Ireoluwa, Victory Diamond, Gold Precious and Akinola Abisola.