In my years teaching college in Canada, I have taught many Indian students, especially those from the state of Punjab. Here are some common errors Indian students make along with some issues in style/formality.
Nine Grammar Mistakes Made by Indians
1. According to me, .. / As per me, ...
- In my opinion,
- I think, ...
The phrase "According to" or "As per" is used to refer to a third person (someone who isn't you), who is often an expert on the subject. For example, "According to Newton, there are three laws of motion." If you say 'According to me', then you are citing yourself as an expert (and you probably aren't an expert).
2. Please revert back.
Correct: Please reply/respond.
In an e-mail or text message, we use the verb 'reply' most commonly. The word revert is not used in the context of communication. It is often used in sentences such as "After drinking a few beers, he reverted to his usual rude behaviour." In this sentence, revert means to return to a condition/state.
3. I am agree.
Correct: I agree.
Agree is a verb. It does not need the verb 'to be' in front of it. You can simply say "I agree / I don't agree / I disagree."
4. Students must cope up with stress.
Correct: Students must cope with stress.
The preposition "up" here is not necessary. To cope up is not a phrasal verb.
5. I don't think so you need to bring your identification.
- I don't think (that) you need to bring your identification.
- I don't think so.
If you use I don't think so then the word 'so' represents the idea you do not think is true. Therefore, you can either say "I don't think (that) you need to bring your identification, or, if the listener already knows that you are talking about bringing identification, then you can just say "I don't think so."
6. Although I was hungry, but I didn't stop studying.
- Although I was hungry, I didn't stop studying.
- I was hungry, but I didn't stop studying.
The words although and but have the same function. You should only use one of these words in a sentence to present contrasting ideas, not both of them.
7. People can not afford it.
Correct: People cannot afford it.
Cannot is one word, not two.
8. I opine that (insert opinion)
- I think/believe that ...
- In my opinion, ...
- I assert that...
This is not a mistake, but the verb opine is very formal and old-fashioned. In North America, the word opine is seldom used and sounds very odd in speech. It is even too formal for academic writing. Instead, use a simpler phrase like "In my opinion, .."
9. Many Americans eat pork. Whereas, Indian people generally do not eat it.
- Many Americans eat pork whereas Indian people generally do not eat it.
- Many Americans eat pork. However, Indian people generally do not eat it.
The word whereas is a subordinate conjunction. This means it joins a subordinate clause with an independent clause. You can never begin a sentence with "Whereas," followed by a comma because where is not a conjunctive adverb. Instead, if you want to use two sentences, then use a word like "However/Nevertheless/On the other hand" to show contrast between the two separate ideas.
Style Mistakes Made by Indian Students
I teach academic writing, which uses Academic English. Academic English is semi-formal and generally avoids the use of idioms, phrasal verbs, or slang. Here are two style mistakes I often see.
1. On the flip side, ...
- On the other hand, ...
- Conversely, ...
This is an idiomatic expression that could be used in speech. It is not appropriate for academic writing (too informal), however.
2. To put the final nail in the coffin...
- As a final note, ..
To put the final nail in the coffin is a very descriptive phrase that uses the imagery of killing an idea or another person's argument. It is a little too creative/imaginative for academic writing, which should use standardized English words and be clear.
3. In this modern era, ... (used to begin essay)
This is not a mistake. However, this phrase is used too often by students to start an essay. Find a unique way to start your writing instead of relying on phrases like these.
I'm not sure if these issues are due to Urdu, Punjabi, or just differences in 'world Englishes.' Nevertheless, I hope you've found this list useful if you are an Indian student. Please leave a comment below if you have a question.
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