The Misuse and Abuse of the English Language

Any serious learner of English is bound to have had some mishaps with mispronouncing or misspelling a word or two. What if there were some words we were also misusing some of those words too? Check out some of the most commonly misused and abused words, and see if you’re guilty of any of them!

1. Anticipate

“Anticipate” has the connotation of expecting and preparing for something. We often use the word when we want to talk about precautionary measures.

For example:

“In anticipation of a heavy downpour in the city center later, Gerald brought an umbrella.”

“Civilians were evacuated to the countryside during World War II as the British government anticipated heavy bombardment in major urban cities by Nazi Germany.”

The word is commonly misused when speakers mean to say “expect” rather than “expect and prepare”.

For example:

“We anticipate prices of the new computer will decrease over time.”

2. Behalf

Should it be “on behalf” or “in behalf”?

Usually, we mean to say “on behalf of (Mr. Kim)” as we wish to highlight the fact that Mr. Kim is being represented by someone else, say Ms. Park. However, if Ms. Park spoke in Mr. Kim’s behalf, the sentence is taken to mean that Ms. Park spoke in Mr. Kim’s defence, which is slightly different from representation. Two concrete examples:

Ms. Park is a lawyer hired by Mr. Kim. She often speaks on his behalf during press conferences. (Ms. Park represents Mr. Kim)

The customer was extremely angry at Mr. Kim’s lack of professionalism, and Ms. Park had to speak in his behalf. (Ms. Park defends Mr. Kim)

3. Irregardless

In many business emails and missives, it is fairly common to see people use the word “irregardless”. The problem? It isn’t an actual word.

The “ir-“ prefix usually means “not”. Logically, when you prepend it to “regardless” the meaning becomes “not without regard to”, which is clunky and strange, to say the least.

More often than not, the word we are looking for is simply, “regardless”. Regardless, let’s erase this non-word from our mental dictionary, and stick to the proper word!