Verbs: some common mistakes

May 7, 2012pdf

Here is a list of errors students often make in the use of verbs.

  • Incorrect: My father told me that honesty was the best policy.
  • Correct: My father told me that honesty is the best policy.

We usually use a past tense in the subordinate clause when the verb in the main clause is in the past tense. However, a past tense is unnecessary when the subordinate clause gives information that is always true.

  • Incorrect: The cashier-cum-accountant are on leave today.
  • Correct: The cashier-cum-accountant is on leave today.

Expressions like the cashier-cum-accountant refer to one person and hence a singular verb is needed.

  • Incorrect: The cashier and the accountant is on leave today.
  • Correct: The cashier and the accountant are on leave today.
  • Incorrect: I am so weak that I may not walk.
  • Correct: I am so weak that I cannot walk.

To talk about ability we use can, not may.

  • Incorrect: Tell me why are you beating the child.
  • Correct: Tell me why you are beating the child.
  • Incorrect: I don’t know why is she late.
  • Correct: I don’t know why she is late.

The two sentences given above are examples of indirect questions. In indirect questions, there is no inversion of subject and verb.

  • Incorrect: The ship was drowned.
  • Correct: The ship sank.

People drown. Ships and boats sink.

  • Incorrect: Seldom I visit my parents.
  • Correct: Seldom do I visit my parents.
  • Incorrect: This food is hard to be digested.
  • Correct: This food is hard to digest.
  • Incorrect: I never have, and I never will do it.
  • Correct: I have never done and I will never do it.
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