The correct use of a word

The correct use of a word

By English Tutor:

There are words that confuse many people as to how or when to use them. They seem harmless when used in a sentence, but the incorrect use of a word can change the whole sentence to either be meaningless of to mean something completely different altogether.

Who did they invite?

Who is an interrogative pronoun. It asks about the name or the identity of the subject.
A noun is a word used to name or identify any of a class of things, places, people or ideas or a particular one of these. E.g. Dogs are cutest when they are tiny puppies.
A pronoun is used standing in place of the noun or a noun phrase. E.g. it (/they/she/he) was at its cutest when it was a puppy.
A preposition is a word used before a noun or pronoun to show its relationship with other words. E.g. in from, to out of, on behalf of etc

Whom did they invite?
Whom is not used often in spoken English, but it is very necessary for prepositions.

To whom should I address the letter?

Who should I address the letter to?
Both these sentences are correct, and picking up the subtle changes in where a person has placed the preposition will require training your ear to, otherwise it is very easy to overlook and get away with the improper use of the two. It might not always be easy or clear to identify the two. Like with the sentence below.

Whom are you writing? – Wrong.

Who are you writing? – Correct.

If I was a boy, I would be a gentle man like my dad.

If I was a cat I would be a Siberian tiger.
The reason this statement is grammatically incorrect is because it uses was which is a word that expresses something that has happened in the past. Unless someone has changed gender, they cannot say that sentence using the word was.

If I were a boy, I would be a gentle man like my dad.

If I were a cat, I would be a Siberian tiger.
Using were instead of was allows for the possibility of the statement not being plausible or possible in reality. It creates a hypothetical scenario.

The use of about and after with reference to a subject changes the meaning of the sentence entirely and careful choice needs to be made between the two. The latter sentences are not wrong; they do not however mean the same thing. One common grammatical error is failing to express the intended meaning my using the incorrect word.

Anita was asking about you Mary, she said she hasn't seen you in such a long time. (Information about the Mary) Clarify intended meaning. When you ask about, someone or something you are asking information from either themselves or someone else.

Anita was asking after you Mary, she said she hasn't seen you in such a long time. (The well being of the Mary) Clarify intended meaning. Asking after someone is used when you are asking of their well-being and how they are keeping. It might sound wrong in spoken everyday English after having used the former when asking about the well-being of someone.

To borrow can be said to be obtaining something temporarily with the intension of returning it back. To lend is to give the temporary use of something with the intention of it being returned. The clarity needs to be made as to whom the giving and the receiving is being done by.

Borrow me your pen please Vusi. – Wrong.

Lend me your pen please Vusi. – Correct.

Lend me your black bag Elissa, I'll let you borrow my green dress for the wedding or you can borrow my green dress for the wedding. – Correct.

The one who is asking for something uses lend. The one who received the something uses borrow

We lended our outfits from auntie. – Wrong.

We borrowed our outfits from auntie. – Wrong.

Lend (present tense) lent (past tense) not lended which some use.

She lent the shoes from her older sister. – Correct.

She lent the shoes to her sister. – Correct.

Keep Learning,

English Tutor.

Founder and Editor in Chief of the Readers Cafe Africa

Comments (2)

  • guest

    should include owe - here.

    • Ayeza

      we certainly will.

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