8 Common English Usage Errors in Nigeria

English Usage Errors in Nigeria – Every Nigerian may have committed one of the most common errors in English usage in Nigeria.
This article will analyze the most common error that Nigerians make in their usage of English. These errors occur both in spoken and written English.
Most Common Errors in English Usage in Nigeria

Most Common Errors in English Usage in Nigeria

– Basicly/Basically

Nigerians commonly use the ‘ly’ and ‘ally’ words erroneously. ‘Basically’ itself is a word that has been overused, and better alternatives are ‘essentially’, ‘fundamentally’ etc.

– HIV virus

It is not uncommon to hear the use of the word ‘HIV virus’. HIV means ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’, so the addition of the word ‘virus’ is unnecessary. HIV causes AIDS, and it is not the disease itself.

– Data/Datum

Another common error in English usage in Nigeria revolve around the misuse of words with Latin and Greek roots like ‘criteria’ and ‘media’. ‘Datum’ is the singular form of the term ‘data’. You might even hear some Nigerians say ‘some datums’. Wrong grammar!

– Cannot/Can not

This is another standard error in English usage in Nigeria. Nigerians mostly use ‘cannot’ but for emphasis purpose, it is better to use the word ‘can not’. For example: No, you can not go to the bank on a Sunday.

– Fair/Fare

Another common error in English usage in Nigeria is the use of fair and fare. In our context, the dictionary meaning of ‘fair‘ means treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination, while fair means the money paid for a journey on public transport.

– Empathy/Sympathy

Nigerians tend to use both ’empathy’ and ‘sympathy erroneously.’ If you share and understand the feeling of another person, then use the word ’empathy,’ but if you feel pity for someone, the word ‘sympathy’ will be more appropriate.

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– Greatful/Grateful

When you want to appreciate someone, gratitude is expressed with the word ‘grateful.’

– Avenge/Revenge

This is one of the most common English usages in Nigeria. Most Nigerians wrongly substitute avenge for revenge. Avenge is used when you try to seek vengeance for those who have been wronged.

The wrong action can also be avenged. An example is “He avenged the murder by taking vengeance on the killer.” Replacing  “avenge” with “revenge” in that sentence is wrong. In pursuit of justice, a wrong is avenged, not revenged.

It’s or Its

Widespread English Usage Errors in Nigeria is the use of it’s or its. ‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun while ‘it’s is a contraction or shortened form of it is or has. Example: The dog wags its tail happily.

Subject-verb Agreement

Nigerians are no respecter of concord or Subject-verb Agreement. For instance, it is very to hear Nigerians say, ‘boys play ball regularly.’ For the sentence to be correct, the correct form is  ‘boys play ball regularly.’

Gone or Went

This is another common English usage error in Nigeria. A Nigerian can say, ‘Michael had already gone to church.’ That is grammatically incorrect. The fact is that ‘gone’ requires an auxiliary verb, ‘went’ doesn’t. The correct sentence is ‘Michael had already gone to church.’

Lend or Borrow

A lot of Nigerians find it difficult to differentiate between lend and borrow. One might say, ‘ borrow me that item.’ That is grammatically inaccurate. Borrow means ‘to give’ while Lend means ‘to take.’ The correct sentence is ‘lend me that item.’

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Incorrect Apostrophe Usage

Some Nigerians use apostrophes after possessive pronouns such as my, mine, ours, his, hers, its or theirs, especially in writing. I’m afraid that’s not right because apostrophes are not used in this manner, even if they are used to show possession.

For instance, some may write: ‘Incorrect: “My mother’s house is next to his house.” The correct sentence is “My mother’s house is next to his house.”

Lack of  Subject-Verb Agreement

Many Nigerians are confused over the rule of concord or subject-verb agreement. This allows them to make grammatical blunders. For instance, some Nigerians may write a singular subject with a plural verb. An example is ‘These food recipes are perfect for new chefs.” The correct form of the sentence is “These food recipes are perfect for new chefs.”

Mixing up spelling

This mistake is very common in Nigeria. This is because some Nigerians are usually confused over words that sound similar with different spellings and meanings. This causes a lot of embarrassment when it is used. It is not unusual to find some Nigerians confusing the following words:

  1. “You’re” vs. “your”
  2. “To” vs. “two” vs. “too”
  3. “Weather” vs. “whether.”
  4. “There” vs. “their”

Mixing Up Similar Words

Most Nigerians also make mistakes in their choice of words. This error arises from their inability to differentiate words that have identical sounds and different meanings.
Some of these words include:

“Affect” and “effect.”
“Except” and “accept.”
“Comprise” vs. “compose”
“Further” vs. “farther.”

Mistakes With Well and Good

Another common English error that Nigerians make is mixing up ‘well’ and ‘good.’ Generally, ‘good’ is an adjective while ‘well’ is an adverb. For instance, a Nigerian might say, “I am doing good in physics.” The correct form is “I am doing well in physics.”

Incomplete comparison

Comparative adjectives are meant to be compared with something else. Sometimes, these errors appear in advertisements for artistic purposes but are usually inaccurate when used in formal writing. Always provide a comparison for the word when required. Instead of “My hair is smoother and softer.” say, “My hair is smoother and softer than it was a month ago.”


Other Common English Usage Errors in Nigeria


1.Night vigil – wrong
Vigil – right

2. I want to barb my hair – wrong
I want to barber my hair – right

3. You’re taking it personal – wrong
You’re taking it personally – right

4. Wake keeping – wrong
Wake keep – right
Wake – right

5. The food is pepperish – wrong
The food is peppery – right

6. She delivered a baby boy – wrong
She was delivered of a baby boy – right

7Traveling bag – wrong
Travel Bag – right

8. He is matured (not correct)
He is mature (correct)
He has matured (correct)

9. The reason is because (not correct)
The reason is that (correct)

10. My stuffs – wrong
My stuff – right

11. As at when due – wrong
As and when due – right

12. Be rest assured – wrong
Rest assured – right

13. I’m hearing you – wrong
can hear you – right

14. My names are – wrong
My name is – right

15. All manners of – wrong
All manner of – right

16Lacking behind – wrong
Lagging behind – right

17Crack your brain – wrong
Rack your brain – right

18. Return it back – wrong
Return it – right

19. Exercise patience – wrong
Be patient – right

20Horn at the car in front – wrong
Honk at the car in front – right

21Borrow me your pen – wrong
Lend me your pen- right

22. More grease to your elbow – wrong
More power to your elbow – right

23. My body is scratching me – wrong
My body itches – right

24. Letterhead paper – wrong
Letterhead – right

25. I’m not your mate – wrong
We’re not mates – right

26. You’re mannerless – wrong
You’re ill-mannered – right

27. First come, First serve – wrong
First come, First served – right

29Funny enough – wrong
Funnily enough – right

30. I have a running nose – wrong
I have a runny nose – right

31. Driver, I want to drop here – wrong
Driver drop me off here – right

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