In response to popular demand, we continue our series on Wrong or Frequently Misused Expressions.

  1. Instead for her to greet the boss she frowned. (Insubordination!)

Instead (in place of; as a substitute; alternative or preference) collocates correctly with the preposition of. Therefore:

Instead of her to greet the boss she frowned.

  1. She sighted peer pressure as his reason for smoking. (With binoculars?)

The return of Mrs Malaprop. The intended word is obviously cited (to quote or refer to) and not sighted (to see). Therefore:

She cited peer pressure as his reason for smoking.

  1. Ones again, winter is around the corner. (Too bad)

This is a spelling error. One is either the number 1 or an indefinite pronoun (meaning anyone), as in: One should be careful with electricity. Ones means a series of 1 as in: There are three ones in his phone number (080 524 0111) It does not mean one time. Once, on the other hand, means one time; on one occasion. Therefore:

Once again (one more time) winter is around the corner.

  1. The minister listed constrains to project implementation (Clueless minister)

A number of verbs are commonly misused as nouns. Constrain is one of them. The noun form of the word is constraint. Therefore:

The minister listed constraints to project implementation.


Insufficient funding constrains (hampers, limits, restricts) project implementation.

Other examples:

  1. I’m tired of my secretary’s complains. (Fire him!)

Complain = verb; complaint = noun. Therefore:

I’m tired of my secretary’s complaints.


My secretary complains too much.

  1. Do you have any prove that he did it? (No, Sir!)

Prove = verb; proof = noun. Therefore:

Do you have any proof that he did it?


Can you prove that he did it?

  1. The stealing of phones are happening everywhere (Confusion!)

This is a concord (subject + verb agreement) error. The confusion is caused by the proximity of the plural noun phones to the verb are.  But phones is not the subject of the sentence. The subject is the gerund phrase The stealing of phones (a phenomenon or incident).  A gerund is a verb form ending in –ing. It can combine with a group of words (phrase) to function in a sentence as a subject, direct object, indirect object, predicate, etc.  In this case, The stealing of phones functions as a singular subject in the sentence and requires a singular verb.  Therefore:

The stealing of phones is happening everywhere.

  1. Everyone are fine (Really?)

This error is closely related to the one above. Everyone (the subject of the sentence,  which means everybody, every person, each person,  each one,  all,  the public, the general public, etc,) is a singular pronoun though it appears to refer to a lot of people. So, it requires a singular verb. The same is true of the indefinite pronouns anybody, anyone, someone, somebody, anything, everything, no one, nothing, etc. Therefore:

Everyone is fine.

Everything is in order. (NOT are in order)

The public has to be told. (NOT have to be told), etc.

  1. The president accused his vice of plotting his downfall (Rightly so.)

The word vice is a common noun which means a gripping tool or wicked or immoral behavior; villainy; evil (as opposed to virtue). It does not mean assistant or deputy as presumed in this sentence. However, it is used in a combination (as a compound noun) to denote the title of an official who acts for the substantive officer in his absence. E.g. Vice-Chancellor. In the same way, the correct designation for a president’s assistant is Vice President or Deputy President. Therefore:

The president accused his deputy of plotting his downfall.


The president accused the vice president of plotting his downfall.

  1. The driver said the fare was 2 dollars per each passenger. (Overkill!)

Per means for each. So, each is redundant in the sentence. Therefore:

The driver said the fare was 2 dollars per passenger.

  1. They are recounting the ballot papers used in the election. (Tales by moonlight)

To recount is to tell or narrate a story or an experience. What they are doing is counting the ballot papers again. To count again is to re-count. Recall the use of re- in pleonasms. Therefore:

They are re-counting the ballot papers used in the election.

However, as a noun, recount means the second or subsequent tallying of electoral votes. Therefore:

They are doing a third recount of the ballots.

  1. We look forward to a corrupt-free society. (Not yet Uhuru.)

The adjective corrupt (quality or describing word), is used here instead of the noun corruption. What we look forward to is a society free of corruption (noun) and not one free of the adjective corrupt. It’s like saying The room was smoky-free instead of The room was smoke-free. Therefore:

We look forward to a corruption-free society.

We have to call it a day here, while we look forward to the next session of Editorial Conference.





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  1. Comment: It amuses me when some speakers talk of someone “frowning his face”. It’s a common error. I wonder where a frown would be placed if not on the face. Can it be on the leg or chest?


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