10 common mistakes in English grammar found in Indian English

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Here is a list of grammatically-insane phrases found in common Indian English  :

indian, funny, english, indian english

A friendly clerk asking me for my name is apt to start a conversation with, “What is your good name?” As if I hold that sort of information close to my heart and only divulge my evil pseudonym. Bizarre.

I call these Indianisms.

Which got me thinking about a compilation, a greatest hits of the 10 most hilarious Indianisms out there. And here they are. The most common ones, and my favorites among them.

1. 'Passing out'

When you complete your studies at an educational institution, you graduate from that institution.

You do not "pass out" from that institution.

To "pass out" refers to losing consciousness, like after you get too drunk, though I’m not sure how we managed to connect graduating and intoxication.

Oh wait … of course, poor grades throughout the year could lead to a sudden elation on hearing you’ve passed all of your exams, which could lead to you actually "passing out," but this is rare at best.

2. 'Kindly revert'

One common mistake we make is using the word revert to mean reply or respond.

Revert means "to return to a former state."

I can’t help thinking of a sarcastic answer every time this comes up.

“Please revert at the earliest.”

“Sure, I’ll set my biological clock to regress evolutionarily to my original primitive hydrocarbon state at 12 p.m. today."

3. 'Years back'

If it happened in the past, it happened years ago, not "years back."

Given how common this phrase is, I’m guessing the first person who switched "ago" for "back" probably did it years back. See what I mean?

And speaking of "back," asking someone to use the backside entrance sounds so wrong.

“So when did you buy this car?”

“Oh, years back.”

“Cool, can you open the backside? I’d like to get a load in.”

4. 'Doing the needful'

Try to avoid using the phrase "do the needful." It went out of style decades ago, about the time the British left.

Using it today indicates you are a dinosaur, a dinosaur with bad grammar.

You may use the phrase humorously, to poke fun at such archaic speech, or other dinosaurs.

“Will you do the needful?”

“Of course, and I’ll send you a telegram to let you know it's done too.”

5. 'Discuss about'

“What shall we discuss about today?”

“Let’s discuss about politics. We need a fault-ridden topic to mirror our bad grammar.”

You don't "discuss about" something; you just discuss things.

The word "discuss" means to "talk about". There is no reason to insert the word "about" after "discuss."

That would be like saying "talk about about." Which "brings about" me to my next peeve.

6. 'Order for'

"Hey, let’s order for a pizza."

"Sure, and why not raid a library while we’re about it.”

When you order something, you "order" it, you do not "order for" it.

Who knows when or why we began placing random prepositions after verbs?

Perhaps somewhere in our history someone lost a little faith in the "doing" word and added "for" to make sure their order would reach them. They must have been pretty hungry.

7. 'Do one thing'

When someone approaches you with a query, and your reply begins with the phrase "do one thing," you're doing it wrong.

"Do one thing" is a phrase that does not make sense.

It is an Indianism. It is only understood in India. It is not proper English. It is irritating.

There are better ways to begin a reply. And worst of all, any person who starts a sentence with "do one thing" invariably ends up giving you at least five things to do.

“My computer keeps getting hung.”

“Do one thing. Clear your history. Delete your cookies. Defrag your hardrive. Run a virus check. Restart your computer... .”

8. 'Out of station'

“Sorry I can’t talk right now, I’m out of station.”

“What a coincidence, Vijay, I’m in a station right now.”

Another blast from the past, this one, and also, extremely outdated.

What's wrong with "out of town" or "not in Mumbai" or my favorite "I'm not here"?

9. The big sleep

"I’m going to bed now, sleep is coming."

"OK, say hi to it for me."

While a fan of anthropomorphism, I do have my limits. "Sleep is coming" is taking things a bit too far.

Your life isn’t a poem. You don’t have to give body cycles their own personalities.

10. 'Prepone'

“Let’s prepone the meeting from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m.”

Because the opposite of postpone just has to be prepone, right?

"Prepone" is probably the most famous Indianism of all time; one that I’m proud of, and that I actually support as a new entry to all English dictionaries.

Because it makes sense. Because it fills a gap. Because we need it. We’re Indians, damn it. Students of chaos theory.

We don’t have the time to say silly things like "could you please bring the meeting forward."

Prepone it is.

There are many more pure grammatical "gems" in what we call Indian English. Perhaps in time I’ll list some more. And perhaps in the near future, we’ll get better at English.

Till then, kindly adjust.


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Let's not forget the very common Indianisms.

Wrong: "There is very less water in the pool" Correct: "There is very little water in the pool"

Wrong: "There were very less people on the streets"
Correct: "There were very few people on the streets"

Wrong: "You slept well no?" (or any sentence ending with a no)
Correct: "Did you sleep well?"

Wrong: "This is a black model. It comes in white also"
Correct: "This is a black model. It also comes in white"

There are lot more examples were "also" is used incorrectly. Often added at the end of a sentence where it does not belong or incorrectly used instead of "too".

Wrong: "He is playing on the swing. I want to play also."
Correct: "He is playing on the swing. I too want to play on the swing."
 By : Nusli Vakil on Jun 22, 2011 08:20 pm
 Our English stems from our Mother Tongue. We think in Mother Tongue and translate it in our mind and speak English. Hence the problem. We should cultivate a habit of thinking in English and read a lot of books and journals to get our English correct.
 By : Aravind on Jun 30, 2011 09:32 am
 While english deserves to have it's own grammar. The english language is now no more the language of England. Therefore every Indianism that we seek to include for our benefits can be included. Indian English could have it's own grammar, because if at all english has to survive now, it has to welcome the sounds, words, idioms and phrases of the varied Indian languages, absorb their tenets and discipline and adapt if it intends to survive. No Indian will speak Oxford English, but then so what, who cares.?

If you ask me, English as a language should first coin a phrase of respect, which is sadly missing. Everyone is simply 'you', while every Indian language has equivalents of 'tum' and 'aap' .

We need not get our English correct. It is high time the english language got it's Indianism right.
 By : Srijith on Aug 04, 2011 02:27 am
 nice explanation........
 By : divyakilla on Aug 27, 2011 01:34 am
 Well said, Srijith.. Keep it up..

 By : vi nay on Sep 02, 2011 07:05 pm
 Why don't you stick to your own tongue Srijith? (I think you spell your own name wrong even in Indian English - so there! Ha ha!) Pidgin English is not as good as you good South Indian language. And there is some aesthetics that go with any language. Your bull-in-china-shop mode smacks of bad education, and so don't foist it on us, please.

What if I were not to call you Srijit(h) and call you opinionated arsehole instead? Would I have the right? No. Nothing gives me the right to insult. You don't have the right to demand/insinuate something of rare beauty either. Would you (and people like you) get the point?

 By : Ankur on Sep 07, 2011 02:09 pm
 *are some aesthetics* and not 'is'. Silly me!
 By : Ankur on Sep 07, 2011 02:11 pm
 well you have a kiddish humor man....after reading this it seemed to me that you just feel too good about this feel amazing about knowing good english(i mean supposedly good english)...its just a language,a way to communicate...people don't even why don't you just cut out your 'petty minded' bull[how wude!] and this condescending attitude of yours
 By : sankalp on Nov 13, 2011 05:40 pm
 *i used the word bulls***...n it automatically became bull[how wude!] when i posted the comment
 By : sankalp on Nov 13, 2011 05:46 pm
 By : amit tiwari on Jun 21, 2012 07:34 am
 Well going for the sentence ," I am proud to be an Indian's", is obviously wrong whereas it should be I am proud to be an Indian. the first sentence sounds like you are proud to be related to someone in India but you are from some other country.

That is what I understand from this.
 By : Neeraj Gutpa on Oct 03, 2012 10:33 am
 HI.. Thanks for the info.. But do you really think that prepone is not a correct word to use? Here is the link which is self explanatory:
 By : Salik on Nov 05, 2012 09:21 am
 grammar Nazi alert lol..
 By : raj on Feb 01, 2013 04:54 pm
 I came across this article today and found it hillarious. Good article, well written. But I want to make a general statement - there may be just a handful of Indians who can speak or write like native speakers of English (without using Internet tools or dictionaries). In this category, I would like to also include the journalists of English media, not questioning their professional knowledge. It's not just about grammar. And surely, it's more than just about Indianisms. Such 'isms' are OK especially in colloquial or informal English as almost all native English speakes have their own. But the real problem is that we neither pronounce English right nor write them the way they are supposed to be (including my own writing here). We are not English. We do not know the rhythm, intonation, stress, expressions, syntax and proper use of words in sentences. I have seen native speakers using very simple expression for our long-winded sentences. Most native speakers will understand Indian English and will respond without correcting so as not to offend us. We actually speak English fast (not 'fluent' as that means something else) but wrong. What we speak falls in the 'second language speakers' category - comprehensible but not always correct. Let us also not blame our English teachers or school education - they face a big handicap. Often they are right with grammar, but they obviously do not know all the nuances of English language or way of expressing thoughts in English. They live in India too. They are not exposed to native English speakers or training. They just try their best. Internet and cable TV have given us a lot of exposure, confidence and tools, so we actually think we are getting closer to native speakers - may be in some way, but no way close enough. Before I get brickbats from my fellow proud Indian English speakers, let me qualify this by saying that this does not mean Indians are in any way less than anybody else (notice my incorrect grammar!. Indians are quite a successful bunch of people even abroad. But as far as English goes, it's just that we are Indians - we are not English, though we know it well enough to have successful IT and ITES industries. Let us enjoy our own 'Indish' for whatever it is. What I don't understand is that why we speak in English in formal meetings in offices - even when all sitting in the meeting can understand one common Indian language. Why can't I make a presentation in Hindi, Kannada, Bengali or Punjabi?
 By : Narayanan on Apr 23, 2013 04:37 am
 Proud to be Indian or Proud to be an Indian??
 By : PARTHASARADHI on Jan 23, 2015 07:55 am
 i belongs to india,what is your father,are these correct
 By : on Jun 17, 2015 10:36 pm
 very good website for all
 By : ANITHA AITHA on Mar 07, 2019 09:13 am
 thanks for providing
 By : ANITHA AITHA on Mar 07, 2019 09:14 am
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