Common Mistakes in English

U Khin Maung (A retired diplomat)




1. No educative process is ever the end. It is always the be­ginning of more education, more learning and more liv­ing. In other words, it is a life-long process. Knowledge is power. Ignorance of law or any other thing is no excuse. So, guided by these words of wisdom, I am still learning, in spite of my old age, which is only four years away from being at age ninety. In fact, I am an oldie with a step to the grave. But, believe me, I am still learning.


2. In this article, I would like to, once again, make a posi­tive critical assessment, not from an academician’s point of view but from a layman’s point of view. This is my third humble and honest article in alphabetical order.


B. (Commencement)


Believe in, not to.


Don’t say: We believe to God.


Say: We believe in God.


Note: To believe in means to have faith in. To believe (without the in) means to regard some­thing as true: I believe everything he says.


Boast of or about, not for;


Don’t say: James boasted for his strength.


Say: James boasted of (or about) his strength.


Careful of, with or about, not for.


Don’t say: Elke’s very careful for her health.


Say: Elke’s very careful of/ about her health.


Or. You should be more care­ful with your money.


Note: Take care of it. He takes care of his money.


Travel by train, etc., not with the train, etc.


Don’t say: He travelled with the train yesterday.


Say: He travelled by train yesterday.


Note: We say by train, by boat, by plane, by bike: also, by land, by sea, by air, by bus or on a bus; by car or in a car, by taxi or in a taxi, on horse-back, on a donkey, on a bicycle; on foot


Complain about, not for.


Don’t say: Annette com­plained for the weather.


Say: Annette complained about the weather.


Note: When talking about illness, we complain. We say: She complained of a sore throat.


Composed of, not from.

Don’t say: Our class is com­posed from thirty students.


Say: Our class is composed of thirty students.


Confidence in, not to.

Don’t say: I have great con­fidence to you.


Say: I have great confidence in you.


Note: In confidence: Let me tell you something in confidence ( = as a secret).


Conform to, not with.


Don’t say: We must conform with the rules.


Say: We must conform to the rules.


Note: comply takes with: We’ll comply with your request.


Congratulate on, not for.


Don’t say: I congratulate you for your success.


Say: I congratulate you on your success.


Consist of, not from.


Don’t say: A year consists from twelve months.


Say: A year consists of twelve months.


Note: Take great care never to use consists in the passive form.


Covered with, not by.


Don’t say: The Mountains are covered by snow.


Say: The Mountains are cov­ered with/in snow.


Cure of, not from.


Don’t say: The man was cured from his illness.


Say: The man was cured of his illness.


Note: The noun cure takes for: There is no cure for that disease.


Depend on or upon, not from.


Don’t say: It depends from her.


Say: It depends on (or upon) her.


Note: Rely on or upon: I can’t rely on (or upon) him.


Deprive of, not from.


Don’t say: Nelson Mandela was deprived from his freedom.


Say: Nelson Mandela was deprived of his freedom.


Die of an illness, not from an illness.


Don’t say: Many people have died from malaria.


Say: Many people have died of malaria.


Note: people die of illness, of hunger, of thirst, of or from wounds; from overwork; by vi­olence, by the sword, by pesti­lence; in battle, for their country, for a cause; through neglect; on the scaffold; at the stake.


Different from, not than.


Don’t say: My book is differ­ent than yours.


Say: My book is different from yours.



(1) A book of essential quota­tions.

(2) Common mistakes in Eng­lish (new edition)