8 biggest misconceptions about the English language

Guest post written by Audrey Lamp.


Despite the fact that this is the world’s most studied language, there are plenty of misconceptions and myths surrounding English. Even if you’re a native speaker, you’re not immune to these misconceptions. So let’s list the biggest ones, shall we?

  1. If English Is Your Native Language, Then You’re Proficient in It

When English or any other language is your native tongue, you assume that you use it pretty well. People can understand when you speak and you understand everything on TV and in newspapers pretty easily.
But what if you tried writing a research paper? When facing such a challenge, most students decide to hire professional writers to write an essay for them. Some would argue that graduates can’t write advanced prose because the educational system fails to train them properly. The fact is, no matter how hard you try to master the English language, there are always new layers to discover.

  1. British English Is the “Real” English

Most people, including Brits themselves, consider British English to be the purest form of English. The truth is, , that American English preserved a lot of the characteristics to the language that the British migration brought to the New World. Over the years, the British lost some of these nuances to the languages including non-rhotic speech , which became popular after the Industrial Revolution.
Believe it or not, the Americans never had a British accent that they lost.

  1. You Shouldn’t Start a Sentence with a Conjunction

“Don’t start a sentence with but!”
“Don’t start a sentence with and!”

How many times have you received such remarks on your essay assignments? Elementary and high-school teachers were usually pretty harsh with this “rule.” Still, there is no grammatical rule that says you mustn’t use a conjunction in the beginning of a sentence. This is a stylistic preference. No one can explicitly tell you what your style is. So if you feel like starting a sentence with so, you might as well just do that. But maybe you’d like to avoid it when writing academic papers. Teachers are still pretty strict with their stylistic expectations.

  1. You Can’t End a Sentence with a Preposition

This is another rule that teachers used to enforce: “Don’t end a sentence with by, on, with, about, or any other preposition.”
This “rule” has its roots in the 17th century, when Latin-obsessed writers wanted to impose their influence on the English language.

Compare these two sentences:
-You have much to dream about!
-You have much about which to dream.

The first one seems much more natural, doesn’t it? And it ends with a preposition.  

  1. Passive Voice Is Not Good

You’ll see this recommendation in many online writing guides: avoid passive as much as possible!
Surprise, surprise: passive is still an integral part of the English language. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t use it excessively unless it’s necessary.

  1. You Can Only Use Whose When Referring to People

If you check the Oxford Dictionaries, you’ll find an explanation that “whose is a possessive determiner and pronoun which means belonging to whom.” This brings us to the misconception that whose is intended to be used solely when talking about people.
The fact is; whose is a possessive form of both who and what. So you don’t have to feel unconfident when writing or saying “Apple is a company whose products changed the world.”

  1. You Can’t Use an Extra S after an Apostrophe in a Possessive Singular Noun Ending in S

Whoa, that was a mouthful. If that “rule” confused you, allow us to explain: do you like Jules’ sister or Jules’s sister?
Some people will be definite about it: the extra s is a mistake. The truth is: this is a pretty complex issue in English grammar. In some cases, you’ll go with the apostrophe. In others, you’ll use an apostrophe-s even when the word’s singular form ends with an s. Such is the case with duchess’s. But if the next word starts with an s, then you’ll use duchess’. It’s complicated, so you better investigate the rule before you claim something you’re not sure of.

  1. There Should Be a Specific Number of Sentences in a Paragraph

Some teachers will tell you to maintain a fixed number of sentences, such as three or five, in a paragraph. They are delusional!
The paragraph serves as a section that covers one main idea. You may use as many or as few sentences as you need to expose that idea.

So did I manage to bust some myths today? If you were aware of all these misconceptions, congratulations! Maybe you can add a few others to our list? I’d love to see some comments!

About author: Audrey Lamp is a proactive journalist who likes to get knowledge, analyze and present fresh ideas. Her background and various interests determine her genuine passion for writing. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.