Top English Language Mistakes in India – Part 2

This is the second part of my article on some of the common English language mistakes people make in India. It is not surprising that the Indian English deviates from standard English at some points. All the languages in the world face this phenomenon as people prefer to have their own vernacular versions instead of conforming all the time to the standards of language. Let’s have a look at some more of mistakes in Indian English.

Continued from first part

Prepone

This is perhaps the best example of a word from “Indian English”. In India, it is very commonly used and is understood by every English speaker. However, world at large does not really understand the meaning of this word.

Prepone is used as an antonym of “postpone”. Indians cleverly ask “If something could be postponed; why can’t it be preponed?”. I support the usage of this word because it’s logical and there are situations that this word can easily convey.

Prepone, however, is no longer an invalid word. Owing to its widespread use in India, need for such a word and its being logical; the word has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.

English language mistakes in India
A month back

To say that something was done before a particular amount of time elapsed –the right word is “ago” and not “back”.

Incorrect: I started blogging two years back
Correct: I started blogging two years ago

Do the needful

Although, there is nothing wrong with this phrase but it is now considered obsolete and therefore it has become part of the archaic English. Its use should be avoided.

Discuss about

Well, you just “discuss” something –“discuss about” is wrong because “about” is implicit with the word “discuss”

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Incorrect: Lalit, I want to discuss about how to earn money from Internet
Correct: Lalit, I want to discuss how to earn money from Internet

Out of station

This phrase is also obsolete –although it used to be of significance during British Rule. In pre-Independence India, the East India Company used to post its officers to particular “stations”. When they used to be out from their duty stations –the officers used to be referred to as “out of station”.

Incorrect: The CEO cannot meet you because he is out of station
Correct: The CEO cannot meet you because he is out of town

Passing out

In India, the meaning of “passing out” is taken as “to graduate” or to complete studies from an institution. However, the real meaning of “pass out” is to lose consciousness. So, we should hope, no one actually passes out upon knowing that s/he has successfully completed studies.

* In the military context, “pass out” is considered as a valid term for completing training. That’s why we get to see passing out parades.

Incorrect: He has recently passed out of college
Correct: He has recently graduated from college

Order for

Here, the preposition “for” is unnecessary. You just order something –not order for something.

Incorrect: Let’s order for a pizza
Correct: Let’s order a pizza

Kindly revert

First of all, use of the word “kindly” is considered antiquated. You should use “please” instead. The second problem with the phrase is that the word “revert” actually means “going back to an earlier state”. For example, if you press a sponge pillow –it reverts to the original shape when the pressure is removed.

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Incorrect: Kindly revert at the earliest
Correct: Please reply as soon as possible

Do one thing

Saying this is entirely wrong (especially if you are going to ask the other person to do more than one thing). “Do one thing” is understood only in India. This phrase is somewhat meaningful if you are going to give exactly one instruction. But that’s rarely the case. Therefore it’s better to avoid using it.

Acting pricey

When someone is not paying attention –you tend to say s/he is “acting pricey”. Instead of this you should use “snobbish” or “arrogant”.

Hope this was of some use. Please comment to add more such phrases to this list. I will update the article.

57 thoughts on “Top English Language Mistakes in India – Part 2”

  1. There’s absolutely no need to cling over to some other colloquial form of English. Do the needful, out of station are valid with Indians and there’s no harm iterating it meaning, if asked. If out of town is the ‘correct’ way to use it, I can claim that out of city is also right.

    Well when people adapt to phrases like ‘roger that’,’dude’,’soccer’, etc, we should adhere to what’s been taught/used rather than tagging it incorrect.

    1. Most Indians say ” One of my friend” instead of “one of my friends”. They mean to say my one friend but use incorrect English.

  2. I reached this blog in search of- to check whether to use ‘outstation’ or ‘out of station’ and found that it is obsolete now, but, still it is used very commonly in India. Readers comments and bloggers replies are interesting. Such discussions will be useful to improve the ‘use of’ or ‘usage of’ English both for native and Indian English speakers.

  3. Actually, as an American English speaker, I find “a year back”, “a month back” etc to be correct when used in casual conversation. You will find many Americans saying that colloquially.

    e.g. “I bought a house a year back” – note that it’s considered pretty informal, almost rustic.

  4. My favourite Indian English are:
    1. “I have roses growing in my backside” – “really” I said!
    I had such a good laugh.
    2. In the winters…( it’s one winter per season friend, .) what the person means, in winter season or winter months …..
    3. The word “only ” being used at the end of a sentence.
    He works like this only.

    On the subject of the English language, malapropism is quite hilarious at times. Got anything to say about it.

  5. What about the term expired. If someone dies he is said to have “expired”. What makes this funny is that someone who is pregnant is said to have an “issue”. So you get issued and then you expire, like a passport… :-)

  6. I am not sure why ‘discuss about’ is wrong. What if I make the same sentence as following.
    Lalit, I want to discuss about earning money from Internet

    1. Wrong: Lalit, I want to discuss about earning money from Internet.
      Right: Lalit, I want to discuss the way to earn money through the Internet.

  7. Indians also tend to use the present tense continuous, incorrectly in my opinion. For example Lalit’s reply in one case is “Yes, Jeroem, I am getting what you mean” . Perhaps “Yes Jeroem, I get what you mean” have been better.
    However, one needs to appreciate the effort to correct a foreign language. I myself found Sir Ernest Gowers “The Complete Plain Words” an excellent guide to improve my own English.

    1. “Return” in itself means to go back, so the use of the word ‘back’ is redundant. You can just say, “you are to return to the same”!

    1. “do one thing” is actually a poor translation of a commonly used phrase in hindi “ek kaam karo”, which in hindi adds an impact to the following suggestion. Similar impact can be bought upon by “in that case, you should…..” or “one way out is you can ………” or phrases with similar meaning. Hope you get the point. Maybe in few years due to rampant use of this phrase this may start to have the same impact.

  8. There is a book of the name “INDLISH-the book for every English speaking Indians”. Its amazing book and shows how such English cropped up in regular Indian conversation. Anyone can be fluent in other’s language but subconsciously the thought is influenced by native languages, used regularly and freely. Unknowingly we influences non-native language in our conversion . The more a person uses it the more validity it get. So we find inclusion words like prepone in oxford.
    Great article though keep writing and put forward more correct usage of English.

    1. The term ‘out of station’ is only used in India. It is not used by native English speakers and can’t be understood in other countries. A student of mine sent me a message that she would be ‘out of station’, and I had to look it up, which is how I found this website.

  9. I work as soft skill trainer, this article was absolutely useful for me, this helped me in pointing out the mistakes which people make in common. Thanx a lot Sir.

  10. As a lawyer, a word we learn in India is “infructuous” meaning “unfruitful” or “without bearing results.” eg. The court ruling rendered the lower court’s order infructuous. However, it appears that only India and Pakistan legal language includes this word.

    1. Thank you for comments Anirban! The legal language is so loaded that for a common man it’s almost impossible to understand it.

  11. Not wanting to be pricey ;)
    There is no such thing as standard English. There is standard British English, American English, Australian English etc. Compare the OED and the Websters, and you probably get my point…

    1. I agree, and I am an English teacher. English does not belong to the English as it has become a world language. That said, if a phrase is only used in one country, such as India, then one can’t expect it to be understood or used elsewhere, unless it picks up currency online for instance.

  12. I am an American currently living in India and I find a lot of these phrases humorous.

    Another improper phrase I hear is when Indians are introducing themselves; they say, “I myself Sunitha,” instead of “I am Sunitha,” or “My name is Sunitha”.

    I have heard in an exercise class, “straight your legs” instead of “straighten your legs”.

    “Fresher” is another term that is unique here (someone new on the job who has just graduated from college or university).

    My driver will often tell me, “it’s on backside”, meaning it is behind us.

    I know there are many more that I have noticed in the three years that I have been here but those are the ones that come to mind initially.

    1. Hello CC, thank you for the comment, and yes, you have observed the Indian English very well! English is not native in India. India’s has it’s own version of English language. This version is aimed solely at somehow conveying a thought. Pristine English grammar and usage is the last thing that the Indian public care about :-) Some of the usages are indeed wrong (for example, “straight your legs”) but some other usages are completely home-grown and therefore have nothing to compare with (for example “prepone”). I hope you enjoy your stay in India!

      1. A “new worker” or a “new student.” Also, in American English, if we are talking about a new student at a high school college (a first-year student), we call him or her a “freshman” (but we don’t say “fresher”). Also in the USA, a second-year student in high school or college is a “sophomore” (pronounced “SOFF-oh-more”) — a third-year student is a “junior” – a fourth-year student is a “senior.”

  13. I found your site when I looked up "out of station" which was used by one of my co-workers from India. I had never heard it before. So, great blog post!
    One that I always hear and never bother to correct because it makes sense is "today morning" – as in "I spoke with Laurel today morning, and she said.." where one would expect to hear "this morning."

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alan! "Today morning" does make some sense but for native English speakers it sounds odd. To us, Indians, these invalid English phrases make perfect sense, but I guess when we are dealing with native English speakers, we should strive to use correct English. However, the case of "prepone" is very interesting too. Oxford English Dictionary went on to include this word from "Indian English" and thereby making it a valid one!

    1. First I would like to thank you to giving a useful and interesting blog to us. It has made us aware about the latest technology and also very interesting writing you used for readers through all can learn and use all in daily life to make life easy. I am new to your blog but I most like the way which you are writing for learners. Thanks you so much Lalit sir.

  14. Namaskar Lalit sir you have done great work great work by posting this article.
    Joke of Do one thing was nice.
    I also wish to expose some points about translation, are as follows:-
    1.saveral times we observes notice bord in hotels that
    “Dhumrapan Nishedh” and its english translation “sorry no smoking please”…I always use to laugh on this, because it should be “Dhumrapan Nishiddhha” and in english “Smoking Prohibited” instead of sorry n please.
    2.And also small restaurents and stalls called them self hotel which ia also wrong.

    1. Purandar, glad that you enjoyed the article. Yes, you have rightly pointed out mistake made in Dhumdrapana Nisehdh and thela-wallas calling themselves hotels :-) . I hope to hear more from you on TechWelkin. Thank you!

  15. Great blog! However, there is another phrase which is used entirely in India and is one of the most commonly used phrases. “What’s your good name”, which is a direct translation of Hindi Phrase. The correct version should be- “what’s your name?

    “I will return back on Wednesday”. Using Return and back together is illogical. I will return on Wednesday.

    It’s worth sharing, I guess.

    Keep up the good work. :)

  16. Dharmender Karhana

    My ultimate purpose is to learn or to improve as much as I can so who wrote it ; from where he wrote doesn’t matter. Big thanks Sir. I read your both articles and now I’m hoping that you will post more.

  17. Vishwajit majumdar

    ललित जी आपने बहुत अच्छी और उपयोगी जानकारी दी है, अक्सर अँग्रेजी स्कूल में पढ़े भारतीय भी ऐसी ही गलतियाँ करते हैं पर उन्हें इसका ज़रा भान नहीं होता ,क्योंकि वे इस मुगलाते में रहते हैं कि उन्हें अच्छी अँग्रेजी आती है। आप इस सीरीज़ को जारी रखें और उसमें नई नई कड़ियाँ जोड़ते चलें। हो सकता है कि ऐसी जानकारी और भी अनेक वेब साइट पर पहले से ही उपलब्ध हों , पर इससे आपका महत्व कम नहीं हो जाता । आलोचना करने वालों की बात जाने दें ,आप अपना काम करते रहें। अनेक लोग हैं/होंगे जो इसे पढ़कर लाभान्वित हुए हैं/हो रहे हैं ,पर अपनी टिप्पणी इस साइट पर नहीं दी है, उनकी ओर से भी मैं आपका शुक्रिया अदा करना चाहता हूँ। अँग्रेजी में half brother होता है पर लोग step brother कहने से नहीं चूकते। little thanks to you का अर्थ “आपका थोड़ा धन्यवाद” नहीं होता। आदि आदि । यह बड़ा रोचक विषय है और आप इसपर एक बढ़िया किताब भी लिख सकते हैं। विश्वजीत मजूमदार ईमेल -vishwajitmajumdar@yahoo.com

    1. This information is available in tens of places including websites, newspapers and magazines. I have tried to improvise it and simplify it. That’s call research -building up on the existing information. It took me two hours to write it for I checked four sources and come up with the version that I liked. Thanks for the comment.

      1. You made a mistake in this comment. You have said, “That’s call research.” But actually you should say “That’s called research.”

        1. Try and appreciate what the blogger has done for the readers instead of nitpicking. So wat the info isnt original? Does it make it less informative?

          1. Also using “improvise” incorrectly as in Lalit’s reply above. The correct word, is “improve”. I see this incorrect word choice with many of my colleagues in India.

            Improve means “to make better”

            Improvise is what you do on a musical instrument, or in a comedy show :)

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