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Busting some common English mistakes

By Sanchia Slater

During the Grammar Q&A session in each intake, I am always asked a variety of interesting questions on English grammar and punctuation. However, there are a few issues that tend to come up fairly regularly, three of which I will deal with here.

  • Write…written…writting?
    “Writting” is a misspelling of the word “writing”. The base form of the word is “write” and the middle vowel is pronounced as the pronoun “I” would be said. This long vowel sound is kept constant in the present participle form of the word, “writing”, but as soon as the word is presented in its past participle form, “written”, the sound changes and becomes shorter because of the influence of the double consonant. “Written” and “writing” are two different word forms and are pronounced completely differently and are also spelled differently for this reason.

    Bottom line? “Writting” is a word that does not exist in English.

  • Can be able to
    “Can” is a modal that expresses ability in certain contexts. Being “able to” do something also expresses ability, and the two are often used synonymously. However, using “can” and “be able to” together does not strengthen that ability! In saying “I can be able to do something”, you are, in effect saying, “I can can do something” or “I am able to able to do something”.

    Bottom line? You can do something or you are able to do something, but “can be able to” does not exist as a modal form in English.

  • As an example, for an example
    Presenting an example of something either in written or spoken English is usually signalled in some way. The most common way of doing this is to use the phrase “for example”. Although the word “example” is a noun and nouns usually (but not always!) have an article before them, this is one of the cases in which “for example” is used as an expression, no article necessary. The only time an article could be used is in the expression “as an example”, which is not entirely synonymous with “for example” and would be used in a slightly different way. For interest’s sake, the phrase is abbreviated as “e.g.”, which comes from the Latin exempli gratia, which means…wait for it…for example!

    Bottom line? “For example” is correct, “for an example” is incorrect.