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November 26, 2007

#01-041: Common "Chinglish" Errors - Part II

a sign on a trash can with Chinese characters and an English translation "Unrecycling"
Can you spot the problem with this sign's English?

Note: Because Amanda is a typical Chinese learner of English, you might not think the errors she makes relate to your learning. But it's always helpful to learn how to spot mistakes, even if you're not likely to make them yourself. Part I precedes this part of the conversation, and Part III follows it.

Get Ready: How many words are there in your language for aunt? In Chinese there are MANY, in English only one.

Billy and Amanda continue speaking, and Amanda continues to make "Chinglish" mistakes. How many can you find?

Billy: What did you think of New York?

Amanda: There has much persons.

Billy: Did you travel alone?

Amanda: No, I go with my second uncle's wife.

Billy: I see. So what did you think of New York?

Amanda: Oh, it was very interested. I was very exciting to be there! And I very liked the food.


Read more:

Practice: Match the mistake to its correction.

  1. There has
  2. much
  3. persons
  4. I go
  5. my second uncle's wife
  6. It was very interested.
  7. I was very exciting.
  8. I very liked the food.

  1. I went
  2. I was very excited.
  3. people
  4. There are ... there.
  5. I really liked the food.
  6. my aunt
  7. many; a lot of
  8. It was very interesting.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Here's the continuation of the conversation, with correct English substituted for the mistakes.

Billy: What did you think of New York?

Amanda: There were a lot of people there!

Billy: Did you travel alone?

Amanda: No, I went with my aunt.

Billy: I see. So what did you think of New York?

Amanda: Oh, it was very interesting. I was very excited to be there! And I really liked the food.

Explanation of the Answers: After you check your answers in the first comment below, read on for more information on Amanda's mistakes and their correct forms.

  • 6-8. There has much persons: This sentence has three problems. The first is "There has." We seldom use "there" as the subject of a sentence when "there" refers to a specific place. We might say "That place has" or, better, put it in the predicate: "There were many people there," where the second "there" means "New York." The second problem is "much." We use "many" for countable nouns, such as people. And the third problem, you may have guessed, is "persons." We generally use "people" as the plural of "person": one person, two or more people. "Persons" is generally used in legal language or other highly formal uses. One more note: Most Americans avoid "many" and "much" in positive statements. They may use them in questions ("How many?" "How much?") or negative statements ("not many, not much"). But in positive statements, we usually say "a lot (of)": "There were a lot of people there."
  • 9-10. I go with my second uncle's wife: This sentence has two problems. First, "go" is present tense; so we must say, "I went." The second problem is a little trickier. Western people are seldom so specific about family. This is a cultural difference, based on the importance of Confucianism in Chinese culture. We would probably just say, "My aunt," unless someone asked us for the specific relationship, then we'd have to describe it in more words.
  • 11. It was very interested: The simplest way to explain the problem here is by thinking of cause and effect. For effect, used -ed: "I was excited about the movie"; "He was interested in the book." For cause, use -ing: "The movie was exciting"; "The book was interesting."
  • 12. I was very exciting: This is the other side of the previous problem.
  • 13. I very liked the food: When "very" is used as an adverb (specifically an adverb of degree, telling "how much") its use is limited to adjectives and other adverbs; it is never used with verbs. "I really liked" is a better choice; or "I liked it very much."

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 26, 2007

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 6. d; 7. g; 8. c; 9. a; 10. f; 11. h; 12. b; 13. e