English language

Mind your ‘English’ language

By 20 June 2023March 15th, 2024No Comments

Mind your ‘English’ Language

Instalment 1

Marie Pietersz

The first of several tutorials where the author will discuss some common mistakes made by writers using English to communicate.

The ‘Queen’s English’ (or should it now be the ‘King’s English’), is a term used to describe a form of English traditionally spoken by educated people of high social class. However, in recent years tradition has been pushed aside by a desire for rapid-fire speech that ignores the niceties of so-called proper English.

Factors such as advanced communication technology including the internet and sophisticated telecommunication devices, the growth of English as a second language for many people have fostered a desire for instant communication.  This has seen an evolution of a staccato form of English considered adequate for messaging.

Abbreviated communication is the ‘name of the game’ for personal and business needs. Accuracy and articulation, as in old-fashioned writing, come in a poor second to speed. There is now an acceptance that the jargon of the short message service (SMS) is adequate and comprehensible ‘speak’.

In this article, I will draw attention to some of the common mistakes that are becoming the norm. These mistakes may not be for only the reasons mentioned above. It may also be that teachers of the language have either not focused on the importance of correct usage or the teachers themselves haven’t learned the principles as students.

Proper grammar and punctuation are still important in the school education system and users of SMS speak and learners of English should take note of some of the bloopers in circulation.

Let’s start with the confusing ‘apostrophe’ – a small punctuation mark (‘)

 One of the more commonly confused written rules in the English language is the use of the apostrophe. One never really knows why it is there; what is its purpose.

There are three uses for the apostrophe:

  • to indicate plurals of letters, numbers or symbols and some unusual nouns.
  • to show that one or more letters are missing in a word that has been shortened.
  • to form possessive nouns.

Let’s use a few examples of dos and don’ts:

An apostrophe to indicate plurality

Do not use an apostrophe when writing plural forms of everyday nouns such as pictures, photographs, flowers, videos or pizzas. A plural form tells you that there is more than one of something; so, there is no need to add an apostrophe, just an ‘s’ in most cases.

Do not use an apostrophe every time you use an ‘s’ with a singular noun, like, paintings. A common mistake made is to write it as ‘painting’s’. This is wrong.

An apostrophe to show a contraction or a shortened word

Do use an apostrophe when a word has a letter or two missing. For example, ‘weren’t’ means ‘were not’. The letter that is missing is ‘o’; therefore, use an apostrophe where you would normally put the ‘o’.

Another common mistake is when the term ‘you are’ is used. The shortened word for ‘you are’ is ‘you’re’. So, we use the apostrophe to show the letter ‘a’ is missing.

Do not mistake the word ‘your’ for ‘you’re’. For example, you would write, ‘Let me know if you’re coming’, NOT ‘Let me know if your coming’. ‘Your’ is a possessive adjective.

Do say ‘I like your idea’ or ‘It is your house’, or ‘I have your jacket’, because it is possessive.

An apostrophe to indicate ownership

Do include an apostrophe before the ‘s’ of a single noun to show ownership. For example, the ‘girl’s’ hat means the hat belongs to one girl.

Do include an apostrophe after the ‘s’ of a plural noun to show ownership, like, If you refer to ‘girls’ hats’, then you are stating that there are many owners of the hats.

To test whether you are using the pesky apostrophe correctly, I have provided a series of questions and answers.


So, let’s see how many of these sentences you get right. Answers are provided at the end of this article. But don’t be naughty; try and answer the questions first and then check out the answers.


  • How many Facebook (friend’s/friends) do you have?
  • Thank you for sharing your (picture’s/pictures) with me.
  • Don’t forget to send me the (photograph’s/photographs) you have taken.


  • I believe (your/you’re) right about the matter.
  • If you (arent/aren’t) the right person, please say so.
  • Let me know if (your/you’re) coming so I can meet you there.


  • (Who’s/whose) the person responsible for this mess.
  • The (girl’s/girls) school uniform shows what school she is in.
  • The (boys’/boys) bicycles were all lined up in the bicycle stand.

Did you get it correct?


  • How many Facebook friends do you have?
  • Thank you for sharing your pictures with me.
  • Don’t forget to send me the photographs you have taken.


  • I believe you’re right about the matter.
  • If you aren’t the right person, please say so.
  • Let me know if you’re coming so I can meet you there.


  • Who’s the person responsible for this mess.
  • The girl’s school uniform shows what school she is in.
  • The boys’ bicycles were all lined up in the bicycle stand.

Look out for the next chapter of Mind your ‘English’ Language when I will discuss other common mistakes and bloopers.

Marie Pietersz is an ESL and VCE English tutor. She works as a freelance editor and can be contacted on mariepietersz@hotmail.com.


Instalment 2

by Marie Pietersz

Hi readers, in our last lesson we talked about the incorrect use of apostrophes. In this episode, we discuss how speakers commonly misuse ‘verbs’ when they talk about things that happened in the past.

Not to confuse you, let’s give you a few quick examples. Some common and somewhat irksome, but surprising, use of past tense verbs in speech are:

  1. You should have ‘rang’ the bell, instead of you should have ‘rung’ the bell.
  2. He should have ‘brung’ his books, instead of he should have ‘brought’ his books.
  3. He ‘should of’ shut the door, instead of ‘should have’ shut the door.

I say ‘surprising’ because it makes me wonder which syllabuses were used in our education systems, or why these mistakes in speech keep perpetuating uncorrected over years in the school yard, and in family and business circles. I know it is considered good manners and gracious not to correct bad grammar when one sees it in correspondence or on social media, or when spoken, but are we doing children and adults wrong to ignore it? Maybe it is gentler and acceptable to say, as sometimes I do, “…just putting on my editor’s cap here, did you mean to say …” I find that most people will accept that. You may find your own way to do it, or not!

These mistakes occur because what speakers know best about Past Tense verbs is that you add an ‘ed’ or ‘d’ to Regular Present Tense verbs when speaking about past events in all instances. In most cases this is right. We usually say:

play – played; cook – cooked; rain – rained for regular verbs that end with consonants; and

love – loved; like – liked; arrive – arrivefor regular verbs that end with vowels (a, e, i, o, u).

But if they end in ‘y’, you have to change it to ‘ied’ in a number of cases.  For example:

study – studied; try – tried; ferry – ferried.

However, this is not the case for Irregular Past Tense verbs. There are no set patterns for forming the past tense for Irregular verbs and should not be given an ‘ed’ ending if used to describe a past event, or something that has already occurred.

These are the ten most used Irregular verbs. See if you can change them into the past tense without looking at the answers first.

Past tense Present (base) form
caught the ball catch the ball

Now, to confuse you even further, there are some Irregular verbs which do get changed when you want to describe them as Past Tense verbs. These are also used to form adjectives, and are called Past Participles, for example:

Past tense Present (base) form Past participle
she ate the apple eat she had eaten the apple
he drank all night drink he was drunk
she drove the car drive she had driven the car
he fell off fall he had fallen off

At the same time, there are  other Past Tense verbs do not change when converted to Past Participles.  For example: 

Past tense Present (base) form Past participle
became become became
walked walk walked
talked talk talked

 And then there are others that don’t change at all from the present, to the past, to the past participle, like:

Past tense Present (base) form Past participle
Costed (wrong). Cost (correct) It cost $10 had cost
Letted (wrong). I let it go (correct) I let it go I had to let it go
I set some goals I set goals I had set some goals
I put the things away I put things away I will put the things away

Now, if you think that is confusing, try the word ‘read’. It is the same in the present tense (read), same in the past tense (read, pronounced ‘red’) and same as a past participle (read, pronounced ‘red’).

There are many other combinations of Past Tense verbs which will do your head in, but this expresso English tutorial is meant to give you the most used word examples for correcting some common mistakes and help your English learning ‘on the run’ – that way your friends and others will consider you well-educated and an elite English speaker, and you won’t see red faces or biting of tongues when they think correcting you may seem impolite or unfriendly.

See you next time around for more ‘expresso’ tutes.

(Marie is an ESL and VCE English tutor. She contributes to community news and works as a freelance editor and can be contacted on mariepietersz@hotmail.com


saw, said, went, came, knew, got, gave, became, found, thought.

bit bitten, broke broken, blew blown, began begun