The whole world does not agree on a lot of things. When it comes to the English language and its attendant grammar, however, it seems there is a consensus – English is hards, sorry, hard!
However it’s the official language of Ghana, and it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. So it becomes that mastery of this language is pretty advantageous. It would seem, though, that there are some particular mistakes in English that Ghanaians keep making over and over. Note that it says ‘Ghanaians’ and not ‘people from Kumasi’. Accra folks would have everyone believe that only Sianos have English grammar issues but be not deceived. It is an international phenomenon.
After much painstaking research, which involved throwing of hands in exasperation at seeing the same mistakes over and over again, Life in Kumasi brings to you what are, in my unscientific opinion, the ten commonest, hardest to kill and most persistent grammatical mistakes Ghanaians (all of us, not just one beautiful city that will not be named again) just love to make. Let’s start with my personal favourite. That means the one I hate the most:
Grammar Mistake 1: Stop adding that extra N already!
Watch this one, because it has been the downfall of princes and kings. Okay, maybe not. But the world would be a much better place if we all stopped writing ‘dinning’ instead of dining. Dinning is actually the present continuous form of the verb ‘din’, which means to make a loud noise. So yeah, even if you crack bones super loudly when you’re eating, it would probably be a stretch to call that dinning. So let’s please remember this one: if you’re talking about food and eating and stuff, it’s DINING!
Grammar Mistake 2: Some words don’t want your S
The rumours you heard were true. Some words don’t want your extra S. You heard about sheep. You laugh and shake your head when friends and family write ‘sheeps’. And then you go ahead and write ‘stuffs’. Unless you’re using stuff as a verb, you probably want to say stuff, no matter how many the things are.
Grammar Mistake 3: If you’re the most, you can’t get any moster than that
This trend slowly crept into common usage, and I had expected it to die a natural death. Thankfully it doesn’t show up as often as it used to, but it is far from dead. Here is the thing – superlatives can’t get any more super that they already are. If Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive, you can’t make him run any faster by calling him the ‘most fastest’ man alive. It simply doesn’t work that way. The rule is simple – if you see ‘est’ at the end of the adjective, don’t add most.
Grammar Mistake 4: Sometimes generosity becomes a problem
“So what course are you offering?”
“Oh, I’m offering science.”
Are you a school? If not, then you’re probably not offering a course. The course was offered to you. You then accepted it. And you read or are currently reading that course. It’s better to give than to get, but please if someone is the one giving you something, you can’t just pretend you are the one doing the giving. Again, it just does not work that way. So take note, it is the institution that offers the course.
Grammar Mistake 5: Don’t always feel too sorry for yourself
Unlike the other grammatical mistakes on this list, this one actually makes me happy to hear, for some reason. It has a funny ring to it, the role reversal. Also, it’s understandable. The confusion probably comes up because when you commit a wrong action, you usually suffer the ill consequences, leading the doer to feel a bit sorry for themselves and thus use the word victim. The correct word however would be culprit. You could also say perpetrator, if you’re in a pretentious mood. So, for example, if you turned up late for a meeting, the people who had to wait for you are the victims. You then become the culprit. If this was a movie, you’d be the killer. You see your life?
Grammar Mistake 6: Let us agree to agree
This one, however, makes me break out in a cold sweat. Subject-verb agreement is a very important fundamental principle in English. Once you have a problem with it, your English will be ‘someway bi’. There are a number of rules, but in practice, it usually comes down to when to add an S and when not to. The rule is counterintuitive. With nouns, you form plurals by adding an S. But in the case of verbs, adding an S makes it singular. I, you, we and they always take plural verbs. That means no S at the end of the verb.
Grammar Mistake 7: Don’t get too amused
This one also makes me chuckle. The ladies in the all-girls’ high schools invented this one. Remember when we talked about how we used to make up English words in Ghana? It turns out we forgot to make up a word for burping, so for a long time we just used to call it ‘Errrr’. Then we went to SHS and we discovered that the ladies had decided that it was called chuckling! To chuckle is actually to laugh quietly, while to burp or belch is to “noisily release air from the stomach through the mouth”. Yeah. This same word chuckle was used by these same wonderful ladies of ours to refer to the “Mtcheeew” sound of disdain. The closest English phrase I’ve found for this is ‘kiss my teeth’, which is shortened to ‘kmt’. Thus, kmt does not mean ‘kommot’.
Grammar Mistake 8: No condition is permanent
Ah, I can still hear the refrain from that popular song of yesteryear. Time changes, never give up, the Lord is in control…” There is a difference between ‘time’ and ‘times’. The definition of time is beyond the scope of this discussion, because time is, well, huge. Times, however, refers to circumstances. Most of the time when we say ‘Time changes’, what we mean is, ‘Times change’.
Grammar Mistake 9: One possible exception to this is if it’s your name
Generally we need to watch our tenses. Particularly, this mistake is frequently seen, especially since the advent of Whatsapp. People love to sign off messages with the impartation of blessings. However telling someone to ‘stay bless’ creates some existential issues, apart from the apparent grammatical ones. To keep things accurate and simple, just say ‘Stay blessed’. And keep an eye on those tenses.
Grammar Mistake 10: I am that I am
God is the Great I am. Let’s not try to challenge His divine position. ‘Am’ is a verb that typically requires the pronoun ‘I’ to stand. So saying ‘Am fine’ while it sounds correct, is, well, not correct. If the apostrophe is a bother then write ‘Im fine’ instead. At least that’s a bit more accurate. One funny aspect of this mistake is that it has given rise to a hyper correction which I have been guilty of – writing “I’m I…?” instead of “Am I…?”