English is such a very complicated language. Apart from the fact that there are over a million words in the English dictionary, there are so many equally complex grammar rules that need to be learned in order to truly master speaking it. Add to this the fact that there are more to learn other than grammar if one really wants to improve speaking it as a second language or to sound close to a native speaker. We also have pronunciation, vocabulary, accent (depends on which English variety you desire to sound like), and paralanguage (intonation, pitch, rate, etc.). Indeed, there are so many things to learn.
While the language continues to evolve in terms of vocabulary and syntax (informal vs formal conversations or discourses), grammar, both in conversational and formal/literary speech, arguably remains to be a compliance-sensitive aspect. In other words, the moment one makes a mistake with sentence construction or uses words as opposed to their strict dictionary meaning and function, the overall context already changes even to the point of not making any sense to a native speaker.
Being a local grammarian, I’ve endlessly observed native speakers, particularly highly-educated and grammar-conscious Americans, speak the language on TV, in person, and over the radio and have educated myself about grammar and syntax by reading books and ‘googling’ at the same time. Just the same, I’ve observed how my fellow Filipinos speak the language (Filipino English variant) and have noticed that they, we, have speech habits that are considered to be non-grammatical or not how most educated or rules-aware native speakers would generally say them.
Therefore, I’ve come up with ten (10) of the most common Filipino grammar imperfections or areas for improvement that have to be corrected. As additional information, I’ve also included a few examples that would be categorized as vocabulary slips instead. I mentioned them anyways. They are:
1. Placing ‘yet’ in the middle of the sentence when the meaning is ‘until now’ or ‘so far’
Yet, in the contexts above, should always be placed at the end of the sentence. For example:
My secretary hasn’t emailed me her technical report yet.
I noticed that Filipinos, on the other hand, place it in the middle of their sentence right after the verb. For example:
My secretary hasn’t (or has not) yet emailed me her technical report.
Notice the difference?
2. Placing ‘already’ at the end of the sentence when the meaning is‘before now’ or ‘so early’
Already, in either aforementioned meaning, should always be placed after the verb and not at the end of the sentence. For example:
My secretary has already emailed me her technical report.
When a speaker places (or utters) it at the end of the sentence, just like how most Filipinos say it, the meaning becomes an intensive that usually emphasizes annoyance, anger, or misery. For example,
I’m getting impatient already! My secretary hasn’t emailed me her technical report yet.
You don’t want to be misunderstood as angry, pissed, or sad, do you?
3. Placing ‘only’ at the end of the sentence when the meaning is ‘alone’ or ‘existing with no others of the same kind’
Only should always follow the subject, whether it’s a noun or a pronoun. In some cases, it also follows a helping verb. Grammatically, it’s never put at the end of the sentence. For example:
My secretary only submits technical reports to me and financial reports are not included.
My secretary has only submitted part of the technical report.
Saying it at the end of the sentence would put it in an awkward position which will be misconstrued as broken English. For example:
My secretary has submitted part of the technical report only.
4. Interchanging ‘Whom’ and ‘Who’
I believe it’s not only Filipinos who get confused between these pronouns as this pair also gets mixed up even by native speakers themselves.
Unfortunately, these words can’t be interchanged. Aside from they’re not the same type, ‘who’ is a Personal Pronoun and ‘whom’ is a Relative Pronoun (although the latter may also be used as Personal at times), they’re used differently.
‘Who’ is a pronoun that only replaces or refers to a subject whether it’s a noun or a pronoun. For example:
Who will submit the technical report? The secretary will. (As you see, the answer becomes the statement’s subject, the word secretary.
The secretary is the person who will submit the technical report. (If you convert this to a question, it becomes the exact question above which answer is just the same).
‘Whom’, on the other hand, is dominantly a Relative Pronoun which function is to serve as the objective case of ‘Who’. When we say objective, in this explanation, it’s the object of the preposition. This explains why this word is always used with prepositions like to, with, and for. For example:
To whom will the secretary submit the technical report?
It’s her manager to whom the secretary will submit the technical report.
Just so you know: In informal conversations, putting the said prepositions at the end of the sentence in similar contexts is now acceptable even by the strictest grammarians or maybe just acceptable.
Whom will the secretary submit the technical report to?
5. Following through with the previous explanation, a related grammar mistake is answering questions like ‘May I speak with (any person’s name)’ with ‘This is him/her’.
This is a bit complicated to explain as it’s been more of a convention than grammar compliance because even native speakers would say ‘this is me’ or ‘this is him/her’. Matter of fact, saying ‘this is him/her’ is essentially correct grammar-wise.
Let’s keep in mind that ‘he’ or ‘she’ is a Personal Pronoun that’s nominative in nature. It means it’s always used as a subject and not as an object (the one being referred to) in a sentence. In this case, the subject is ‘This’. Therefore, it can’t be ‘this is he/she’ as this would contradict the rule.
Nonetheless, that’s not how people got used to saying it for already a very long time. The widely-accepted justification is that, as I said, this has always been more of a convention (what’s usual) than a grammar-compliant sentence. Ergo, the majority rule says we might as well stick to it.
6. Answering questions which start with ‘Do’ or ‘Does’ with ‘(noun/pronoun) has/have’
I’ve noticed that when most Filipinos are asked, ‘Do you have a change for P1000?’, the common answer is ‘I have’. It’s the same with questions like ‘Does the secretary have to submit the technical report to her manager immediately?’. Expect that the usual answer will be ‘Yes, she has’.
When questions start with ‘do’ or ‘does’, the answer should also contain it depending on whether the subject is singular or plural (Use ‘do’ for plural and ‘does’ for singular). ‘Have’ can’t be the accompanying verb in replies because in either question above, it didn’t function as a helping verb but an actual ‘action verb’ which is synonymous to ‘possess’ or ‘own’. Thus, ‘do’ or ‘does’ should be mentioned instead.
Now you know.
7. Misusing ‘between’ and ‘among’.
Always remember this. ‘Between’ and ‘among’ are intermediating words which denote how many persons or things are involved and which persons or things those/they are.
When ‘between’ is used, there are only and strictly two nouns or pronouns involved. For example:
Between the two secretaries, it’s Annie who will submit the technical report. (Only two are referenced)
Whereas, ‘Among’ is used for more than two nouns. For example:
The one who will submit the technical report will be chosen among the secretary, the administrative assistant, and the meeting scribe. (Three persons are being referred to)
8. Misuse and/or confusion among ‘agree with’, ‘agree on’, and ‘agree to’.
I used to be confused among these phrasal verbs myself until I initiated to correctly understand their grammatical differences. Please check below.
‘Agree with’ is used when the context is one person is accepting the point of somebody else or something which could be an idea or an action and the recipient (person) of the agreement feels the same (like mutual; on the same page; two-way). For example:
(Idea or action) I agree with the decision to assign the secretary as the one who will submit the technical report (Presumably, the others or the other party agrees too).
(Person) I agree with him when he said it should be the secretary who will submit the technical report.
‘Agree on’ is to be used to emphasize that one party (could be a person or an entire group) consents to what is being referred to (a thing or an idea and can never be a person). Another way of explaining it is that what (not who as this isn’t applicable to persons) is being referred to is agreeable to a person or a group of people (one side to a thing or idea). For example:
We (one party or group) agree on one thing and that’s to allow the secretary herself to submit the technical report to the manager.
‘Agree to’ should be a no-brainer as it simply means to give consent, approval, or permission to do something. For example:
The secretary, without questions, immediately agreed to submitting the technical report herself.
I hope this helps with the confusion or settles the dispute regarding the differences among the phrasal verbs above.
9. Giving a positive response when asked questions which start with ‘Do you mind…?” when the reply is actually negative.
I’ve noticed that when some Filipinos are asked the question above, they usually reply with either ‘sure’, ‘of course’, ‘no problem’, or worse ‘yes.’
Think of the question again. It asks ‘do you mind…?’. It’s as if the question is ‘Do you have an issue with…’. If one’s reply is actually negative, meaning No, then the reply should be ‘Not at all.’, ‘Of course not.’ , ‘Of course I don’t.’, or ‘No I don’t’. Saying otherwise means one does mind or has an issue.
So, if you don’t, you know the proper response.
10. Making the word that follows the phrase ‘One of the…’ singular.
The phrase ‘one of the…’ is a direct literal translation of the local version ‘isa sa mga…’. Therefore, the noun that follows it should be plural. However, the helping verb that follows the entire phrase (together with the noun) should be singular (is, was, has, or does). This is because while the noun the phrase refers to is in its plural form, the actual subject is literally ‘one of the’ or ‘isa sa mga’ persons, things, ideas, or places mentioned. When we say one, we mean one. For example:
One of the secretaries by the name of Joy was (singular) assigned to submit the technical report to the manager.
The only exception is when the same phrase is followed by the pronouns ‘WHO, THAT, or WHICH’, then the case is different. The form of the helping verb or the action verb is plural. For example:
One of the employees who are usually assigned to submit the technical report in the absence of the others is the secretary.
In the example above, the previous rule doesn’t apply because the phrase ‘…who are usually assigned to submit the technical report…’ only serves as a parenthetical statement that lets the reader know that there are employees who are usually assigned to submit the technical report. Parenthetical statements may or may not be a part of a sentence and their presence should not affect the number of the determined subject. They are usually enclosed by commas or parentheses although they were not used in the sentence above just to make a point. Therefore, the actual helping verb is ‘is’ which should be singular as the rule states.
One more thing. The phrase ‘One of the employees…’ above is not even the subject but is in reality just a part of the predicate of the sentence that was placed at the beginning and that which gives details about the subject. The real subject is the word ‘secretary’. If unsure, ask the question ‘Who is one of the employees who are usually assigned to submit the technical report? If the answer is ‘secretary’, then it is the subject.
So, remember. Unless the context requires one to use otherwise, the phrase ‘One of the…’ is always followed by a plural noun but is used with a singular linking or action verb.
The aforementioned items are just ten (10) of the common grammar imperfections that most Filipinos commit. I used the word ‘imperfection’ instead of ‘mistake’ because while they aren’t really grammatical, they’ve already become part of what we call Filipinoisms or Filipinisms, a now-acceptable variant of the English language just like Australian, Indian, Chinese, or Kiwi English that puts forth our proud identity as one of the better English-speaking nations despite having non-native speakers.
Nonetheless, this fact should not hinder us non-native speakers from making a continuous effort to correct or improve (whatever the rightful action is) our conversational skills in English, be it informal or formal. Doing so would only make us much more competent and competitive in both the corporate and the business worlds where English or speaking it is such a very powerful edge.
After all, I recommended that the ten imperfections above be corrected.
Bad grammar is like bad breath. Just because no one says anything doesn’t mean that no one noticed.
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