Milestone #2: Are you Knowing how good (or bad) is you Grammar? Basically!

The caption of this post may sound ‘okay’ (or passable at the least) to a novice in English, but there surely are some basic mistakes or Indianisms as some people often call them.

So, “What are the grammar mistakes YOU make?” or ‘Do you Know how good is your BASIC Grammar?”

You know them already, they are pretty basic and the same mistakes don’t come-up when you write. Great! To know the slippages you make with your Spoken English is your Milestone #2. You could start correcting them on your own or under the guidance of a Trainer, depends on your Learning Style.

On the other hand, if you really don’t know your mistakes but are ‘often misunderstood’ by others, have to repeat your sentences when speaking to native speakers of English -you may need to be told by a fluent speaker who knows his/her English.

The open letter from grammar may  sound sexy... but its true. A good trainer will tell you how much to use. Will point out the mistakes and help you with the essential corrections
The open letter from grammar may sound sexy… but its true. A good trainer will tell you how much to use. Will point out the mistakes and help you with the essential corrections

Who would listen to your speech and pick-out the major mistakes that are connected with Grammar (or for IT people the syntax of the language). A any good trainer would almost always suggest measures to bring you back to the ‘basic rule book of spoken English’, whenever it is required. For a person, who is already speaking in English, it must start  with identification of what are the problem areas and correcting the errors that can’t go with speaking the language with confidence & Ease.

Typical composition and usage problems I get in my conversation in English classes in INDIA:

I will call them limitations or lack of exposure to ‘right usage’ as they can be learned by speakers given the right environment to practice.  The brain needs time to migrate from Hindi Grammar platform to composition and usage in Spoken English. How much time is enough depends on the intensity of your practice and knowing what’s going wrong. Read on for 7 most common grammar limitation faced by us as Indians.

  1. Inability to form a sentence’ with a ‘new’ word when the meaning is also known. You may have picked this new word from a Movie or while reading the newspaper; you noted it and went on to look for the exact meaning … but can’t compose a sentence.
  2. Not knowing usage of certain Phases that are part of everyday English for example: Is it ‘Suppose to’ or ‘Supposed to’?… click to read this interesting post with some most common mistakes when you Speak-up. 17 PHRASES YOU’RE PROBABLY SAYING WRONG.
  3. I am stuck with my Indian-isms  as CNN Travel’s post points it out, read 10 classic Indian-isms: ‘Doing the needful’ and more in CNN Travel. It also gives some pointer on ‘How to fix grammatically in sane phrases found in common Indian English’.
  4. Improper or excessive usage of ‘some’ words where they don’t fit: – we cover them as filler words to avoid. At the same time, my students learn to use linking words in our Intermediate course ‘GET SELECTED’ – this makes them fluent and reasonably correct & confident speakers to clear communication rounds in an interview.
  5. Not knowing enough structures to form your sentences: the problem statement is all my sentences sound the same and its so boring for the lsitener that he/she switchs off like
    We correct what is a absolute must and give you the solution to the problem if that is persistent.
    We correct what is a absolute must and give you the solution to the problem if that is persistent.

    An essay on ‘My Cow’ when I am actually talking about ‘My Company’. Does this Sound familiar?  Do you know how to form a question when you are making a request? Learn to make sentences in many different ways.

  6.  Improper Application of tenses: I see ‘sentences made in present continuous or progressing tense when the speaker wants to convey  a habit, routine or like/dislike or ‘I’m going’ when he/she is actually seeking a permission. This is biggest mistake people make; I also did the same as in ‘Are you knowing…’ the caption for this Post . And yes I deliberately did it! Did you notice it?
  7. Wrong usage of articles, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections- I am sorry to sound like a grammar teacher or a Nerd. I not a Grammar Nazi or a Nerd (terms quite popular in the blogger’s world) but as a communication skills trainer, I can say that the basics of these have to be quite right (if not perfect) until you want to sound like a Newbie.

As long as you can understand Comics and relate with the humor its fine with me 🙂

In the end, I would like to thank Daniel D-Mello from CNN- Travel and Ms Sarah Brooks from ‘SHE KNOWS’ for helping me with this Post. Thanks! also to Peanuts one of my favorites.


Both for English and Hindi -the grammar (or rules of the game) sound similar but there are some marked differences. (Just like Cricket and Baseball). A person who plays good cricket can sure “hit the ball with a round bat” but first he must know that ‘there are No wickets” in baseball game. I will talk about the key differences between English and Hindi Grammar as well as the similarities we can ride-on in my next post… so that you don’t get out in any of the bat & ball games.

Interestingly, its the ‘linking words’ and not conversational ‘fillers’ that make you a better communicator!

A week link breaks the chain of Thoughts not only for the speaker but also for the listener.

To impressively speak your sentences together, first of all, learn to use some ‘linking words’ such that you form a connected speech and therefore your listener enjoys it as a story. As experience with real-life conversations tells us, that the stories are comprehended easily and are listened with much interest and therefore are appreciated more than some ‘d-i-s-j-o-i-n-t’ sentences which are spoken merely to fill the allotted time. Eventually, it’s the usage of ‘Linking words’ as underlined that make an otherwise boring speech to flow like a story. In short, it makes better sense to tell a story since people enjoy it. After-all Stories sell!

In my opinion, they are as salt in a recipe so when composing a simple description –where you need to add more information, as well as while narrating an event; you need to use them just right. In brief, don’t use too little salt neither too much!

Could anyone understand the paragraph ABOVE without ‘linking words’ that I have underlined?

While reading, you would not have reached to the end of the story (where I talk about ‘salt in recipe’) AND if you somehow have due to some compulsion to read, you would not understood whatever I meant.

Read on  if the above makes sense to Learn some commonly used linking words (an English professor my like to call them by various names – phrasal-verbs, conjunctions) I also give my views on how and where to use them (or not to) to be an impressive speaker or a story-teller.

Here are six fundamental types of speaking that you may normally do in an official environment or even when appearing for a critical interview:

  • Describing your company or product – providing additional information.
  • Narrating events or answering ‘How to’ questions – something that goes in a sequence.
  • Doing Comparison or Contrasting – your company’s services as compared to the competition.
  • Explaining Cause and Effect – giving explanation or reason for the delay, for instance. Caution: Don’t do it until asked for with a ‘why’ question
  • Entering into an Arguments or Debate – everyone doesn’t need to be lawyer but argument do happen and you have ‘make your point’
  • Summing-up or giving overall conclusion – giving information in brief for example what happened in the meeting.

Don’y even try to open your mouth to speak to someone ‘any of the above’ without the connectors or ‘Linking words’.

Personally speaking, I hate giving explanation as also noting down the minutes of meetings but it may just be part of the job and some the job-saver or the job itself…… In contrast, I love to give examples, adding more information so that students have it all (giving reason 😉 ). As a result, the understand more and listen to the story on ‘How to learn…’. In short, I want each lesson to go like an interesting story.

For your to weave your stories together, it is important to learn how and where to use the right linking words. As I said, they add the required flow to your speech when you speak even 4-5 or more sentences together.  To keep the interest of the listener alive, Learn to use these words appropriately:

Note: This is the list of most common 'Linking words' Compiled by T.r.i.c.k.s - there can be more. This is for Usage of Students from Intermediate class (they may Learn 2/3 of each type). Whereas Students of Advanced Classes may do ALL.
Note: This is the list of most common ‘Linking words’ Compiled by T.r.i.c.k.s – there can be more. This is for Usage of Students from Intermediate class who may Learn 2/3 of each type. Whereas Students of Advanced Classes or those preparing for IELTS/TOEFL may do them ALL.

‘How to best learn them such that you immediately gain advantage:

Here are some tips from my experience and some that I picked in a T.r.i.c.k.s class for intermediate/advanced students:

Learn linking words

Its better If you practice them with other learners in a supervised environment, at first, there are less chances of your being wrong afterwards, as you start speaking in public.

You get many examples right and wrong (and both help) from other learners… as also there is someone to point out the over-usage – a communication expert and not just an English professor.  ( like me 😉  for instance. Am I taking too many liberties with the smilies?)

How boring it is to listen to someone’s daily routine with 5-6 usages of ‘then’ : “I start my day at…then… then…then…then”. I rather stop this speaker short on communication skills,  though grammatically nothing out rightly wrong in it.

Some more DON’Ts I have noticed: Don’t over-use any of them, particularly  ‘because’ before all the statements even when you are telling ‘what do you like’ where justification or explanation is not required. Never get into the habit of using some of them as ‘a filler’ word such as: Really or Actually.

Enjoy speaking naturally and I am sure your audience will equally well enjoy listening to your story!

Confidence Counts more than Speaking Fast: Can you Speak without Filler words?

Avoid these Fillers
Avoid these Fillers

Fluency demands that you avoid the filler words or conversation fillers as much as possible and you know it but can’t help it… Here are my views on how to find them, count them how often you use and where so that you can finally avoid them. Using them show lack of confidence and listener doesn’t get the right message.

The hallmark of good communication is that each words or every sound is conveys what you really mean. Just mean it and don’t say ‘I mean…’ after you have said it.

Have a look at an interview conversation:

Candidate: Um.. I don’t know.. like… I can tell you. Uh Yes My choice is ‘xyz’. Um. you know what I mean.

Interviewer: Shall I take it as your final answer

Candidate: Umm.. Yes, I guess that is my final answer.

The Candidate is a reject case on ‘communication skills’ even if his final answer is technically right! The example shows how filler words can be more than ‘time to think’ – they can be deadly. It shows lack of confidence. Susan Ward, a speech specialist, told the Wall Street Journal. “Using excessive fillers is the most irritating speech habit, They distract your listener often to the point that he doesn’t hear anything you say. Your key message is entirely lost.”

If the interviewer asks a person to stop and shows that he does not want to listen further even before the allotted time… the reason in most cases is the above.

Fortunately, filler words can be trimmed from speeches, when: find them out for our students and they work on it. Here is how you can learn to cut down on these verbal mistakes – so that when you open your mouth, you don’t say “Ah.” (sound ‘Ah’ is often interpreted like usage of an ‘article’ which is definitely misplaced)

Don’t worry about silence or a pause.

Most beginning speakers are afraid of pauses. They believe their audience will think they can’t speak fluently if they pause to think of what to say next, so they use filler words to avoid the silence. However, a pause is actually more impressive than a filler word. Listeners know that the speaker is thinking, trying to find the right word. They respect this. Sometimes a pause can actually improve a speech, as when ‘Amitabh Bachan’ uses a dramatic pause to catch the attention of his audience. A natural speaker shouldn’t be afraid to pause occasionally during a speech; it shows self-confidence. Otherwise it may also look like a crammed speech.

Ask your trainer or your speaking partner to find them… and if too many to count them.

In India, having listened to hundreds of speakers we find the following words/phrases far too often than necessary:

1. Um  2. Uh-huh  3. Right   4. Cool   5. OK  6. Yeah  7. Like  8. Really 9. That’s interesting  10. Ah or Aaa  11. All right 12. Good question 13. I’ve heard that  14. Is that so   15. You know   16. I know  17. I hear you  18. You don’t mean to say  19. Seriously  20. Basically 21. Got it  22. Used to (when don’t mean it)  23. I mean

I have to use ‘Got it’ often to confirm if my students are understanding my English… some of them get it as they repeat my sentences… I’m sorry will avoid it. You can ask me or someone else point it out to you (as the speaker generally does not notice it)  you can even get the listener to count them for you.

Usage of ‘filler words or phrases’ can be replaced with the right Linking Word.