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Top English Language Mistakes in India – Part 1

Samyak Lalit | November 9, 2011 (Last update: September 23, 2017)

Samyak Lalit is an Indian author and disability rights activist. He is the principal author and founder of projects like TechWelkin, WeCapable, Viklangta, Kavita Kosh among many others.

“English is a funny language”, is an oft-repeated quote in India. People of India, when comparing grammar and sentence structure of English with Hindi, use this quote to indicate strangeness of English. Yes, indeed, English sounds very alien language to Hindi speakers. Questions like “why pronunciations of but and put are different?” make us feel that English is ridden with mistakes. But it’s not only the English language that is strange but Indian English also throws some really strange usages at times. Indian English has several glaring mistakes that people keep on making. We don’t bother ourselves with standards of English as long as we can communicate what we mean.

It’s not that only Indians make these mistakes. Such deviations from standard English are rampant  in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many other countries. Let’s have a look at weird, and sometimes funny, mistakes we make.

By the way, this article is in two parts. Link to second part is here.

English language mistakes in India

Let’s and Lets

Let’s is a short form of “let us”. For example, “let’s play football”

Lets is used when permission is involved. For instance, “he lets me use his car”

Repeat and Repeat Again

There is nothing like “repeat again” because the word “repeat” itself means doing something again.

Incorrect: Please repeat your statement again
Please repeat your statement

Revert and Revert back

Here the problem is similar as to with “repeat and repeat again”… there is nothing like “revert back”

Incorrect: I’ll revert back to you soon.
 I’ll reply to you soon.

Than and Then

Conjunction “than” is used to compare whereas “then” is an adverb pointing to time.

Incorrect: Sachin Tendulkar runs faster then Dhoni
Sachin Tendulkar runs faster than Dhoni

Incorrect: He had gone and than she realized
He had gone and then she realized

Usage of “na” and “to

North Indians use these two unnecessary words to pose questions as well as to make statements. For example:

“He is to very smart na

Here “o” of to is pronounced as in “go” and “a” of na is pronounced as in “jar”. Both to and na are nonsensical and totally unnecessary. Such usage should be avoided. Take another example:

Incorrect: “You are going na?”
“You are going, aren’t you?”

Use of second form of verb after “did”

Incorrect: I didn’t saw him
I didn’t see him

Remember, “did” is always followed by the first form of the verb.

Overuse of “only”

Indians use the word “only” for adding emphasis. This is not exactly wrong except that in India “only” is overused to emphasize. In Hindi, there are words that we use to emphasize something. One such word is “hi” as in “Ramesh ko Nagpur jana hi hai”. English language lacks such words. Perhaps this is the reason, Indians make use “only” to replace “hi”.

For example, Indians tend to translate “main to aisa hi hoon” as “I am like this only”. However the correct form would be:

Incorrect: I am like this only
This is how I am

Can vs. May

Can denotes the ability of doing something whereas “may” denotes asking for the permission for doing something.

Incorrect: Can I take this magazine?
May I take this magazine?

If you say “Can I take this magazine?” –you are actually questioning your ability to take or lift a magazine. Of course you are strong enough to lift it and therefore you can take it. But when you say “May I take this magazine?” –you are asking for someone’s permission to have the magazine.

Cousin and Cousin Brother/Sister

I must credit Mr. Y.Singh, my English teacher in 9th class, for telling me about this correct usage. Although, having done my entire schooling in Hindi medium schools, at that time, I was least bothered about such nitty-gritty of English language!

In standard English cousin is used for both the sexes –brother or sister is not attached with this word. Although, it makes sense to use cousin brother or cousin sister because these terms are more informative –but, unfortunately, in standard English these terms are deemed as wrong.

Ok, now we move on to the the second part of this article on English language mistakes in India.


24 responses to “Top English Language Mistakes in India – Part 1”

  1. sravanthi says:

    That’s a great work. Looking forward to know more.

  2. Jatin Huria says:

    There is nothing wrong in the use of the word ‘revert’ as ‘reply’. It is an accepted usage in standard English. A word does not always have a single meaning; it can have several definitions.’ Revert (v)’ has many other meanings too.

    • ramu says:

      Yes. But there is no need to use ‘back’. ‘I shall revert to you’. Simlary, ‘I returned back to Mumbai’ (Correct: I returned to Mumbai).

    • Tim says:

      ‘Revert’ means what you say, but it is never used that among English speakers here in North America, so North Americans would have difficulty with that usage.

      I believe that Mr. Kumar’s article addresses cultural usage, which is often just as important as grammatically correct usage.

  3. Muhiyadheen Arakkal says:

    Your effort is a noble one. I have already understood the importance of English language as I worked abroad for fourteen years.

  4. Lekshmi says:

    Hello Sir
    The article was very informative.
    If ‘Can I take it?’ is wrong what about ‘Can I have it?’Would like to know about its correct usage.
    Looking forward to more such articles.

    • Lakshman says:

      Can i take it is correct and courteous. It is like taking permission. Even could i take it also fine.

      • Lalit Kumar says:

        Thanks for the comment, Lakshman! In current practice, yes, Can I take it is correct. But “May I take it” is better (and more courteous).

        • ramu says:

          Yes. ‘Can’ refers to ‘ability’. The sentence above means ‘Am I capable of taking it?’ whereas the intention is seeking permission. ‘May’ alone can be used for such sentences.

    • rahul says:

      ‘have it’ means you are consuming something



  6. Keunall Thadani says:

    As I was reading through your well interpreted article; I stopped at the section mentioned below:

    Revert and Revert back
    Here the problem is similar as to with “repeat and repeat again”… there is nothing like “revert back”

    Incorrect: I’ll revert back to you
    Correct: I will revert to you

    I have earlier read that, the meaning of the word ‘Revert’ (to return to a former state) prevents it from being used in the example given. As I understand, this word (Revert) is used a lot in emails; however, should be replaced with words for e.g. – reply, respond/response. I would like to hear your views on this…

    • Lalit Kumar says:

      Yes, I tend to agree with you that the given example is not a good one. Thanks for spotting the mistake. I am making the correction.

      • ramu says:

        Decades the Oxford University had a published a book. ‘Common Errors of Indian Students’. I had purchased it for Rs. 2 from Mumbai. Perhaps the current generation OUP India has forgotten about it. They must publish it again.

  7. Deenu Sarangi says:

    Thanks for ur observation. Simultaneously it’s neither our mother tounge nor relevant to our culture. By default it became a man stream language in India bcoz of Nehru type British pet politicians In my opinion we should more focus Sanskrit as it’s the most refined & scientific language and can unties the whole India.

    • Jyothi says:

      What is the relevant of your comment here? Why are you using english to communicate your thoughts here? Please converse in Sanskrit, then. And, also try and correct your english.

  8. jjj says:

    Correct: I will revert to you ??? You mean in the past I used to be you and soon I will become you again?? This also contradicts with your note about “revert” on page 2 (which is correct).

  9. Roshan Jaswal Vikshipt says:

    आपका धन्‍यवाद

  10. Roshan Jaswal Vikshipt says:

    आपका धन्‍यवाद

  11. Manish Verma says:

    Thanks for the post! I think that it will come handy for us…
    “Waiting for Godot” (= the next part) :)

  12. Pradeep says:

    Good and informative!
    waiting for the next part..

  13. Pawan Mall says:

    hmm that’s a great article

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