All Ears English Podcast - 1908: 3 Native English Grammar Mistakes to Avoid

This is an All Ears English podcast, episode 1908. Three native English grammar mistakes to avoid.

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and Lindsay McMahon, the English adventurer, coming to you from Arizona and Colorado, USA.

And to get your transcripts delivered by email every week, go to forward slash

subscribe. What would you do if you heard someone say, we might can do that? When native English

speakers make grammar mistakes, it can be difficult to know how to react. Today we

share three common grammar mistakes made by native speakers and what you should do when you hear them.

Lindsay, what’s a grammar mistake that you’ve heard a native make that kind of caught you

off guard? Oh, good question, Aubrey. So a few weeks ago I was on the phone with our lawyer.

We working with a lawyer for my aunt is getting older. We’re getting her things organized.

He’s a lawyer. He’s a smart guy. He’s been to law school. It’s not easy to pass the bar.

Very smart guy, sharp as anything. In the middle of the conversation, we’re talking about different

assets and all of these things. And he goes, you might can combine these two assets and put them

in. And I thought, oh my gosh, what just happened? What? What? Excuse me. Come again. Yeah. Come

again. Excuse me. Right. But obviously I didn’t correct him. He’s a native speaker of English.

We’re having a complicated discussion where I don’t understand half of what he says because

it’s too lawyerly. Right. He does have a deep Southern accent. I’m not exactly sure where he’s

from, but I know that he knows what he’s doing. However, he still made that mistake.

Which doesn’t surprise me at all, because where I grew up in rural Idaho, we absolutely say that

you might can do this. You might can get that. Oh, absolutely.

I wasn’t as used to hearing it, to be honest. Yeah.

Because it’s a regional dialect, right? These are colloquialisms that are very accepted and

common in certain regions, especially of the United States. So the ones we’re talking about

today, but they are, that’s not every region. So depending on where you grew up, these will

sound very wrong, very ungrammatical. So we don’t recommend you use them, but we do have an important

recommendation for you about them. Right, Lindsay? Yeah. We just want you guys to be ready. You know,

on this podcast, again, we don’t limit you to textbook English. We’re going to show you all

the English you’re likely to hear and show you what you might want to pick up and what you might

want to leave down and not choose to use. Right. And it’s important to know, like you said, Lindsay,

you would never correct him, right? Never. Because it’s very accepted regional colloquial language.

He didn’t even notice he made that. It would have been very awkward if you corrected him and he

might even disagree and say, you know, I’m just speaking. This is accepted speech. It would be

offensive. And also, I mean, it would cost me money because lawyers charge $500 an hour.

I needed the information. I’m not going to waste time correcting someone’s grammar.

Oh, no. So save time and money, guys, by knowing about these phrases.

Exactly. So we just moved on. I mean, it’s totally irrelevant when you get to this point. So let’s go

through two or three of these for our listeners today. This is going to be a fun episode.

Yes, for sure. So the first one is the one that our attorney used. You might can, which really

means you might be able to. But because it’s those three words, four syllables, be able to,

we’re shortening it to you might can. You might can get them to agree with you.

Yeah. And I guess that’s why. Right. You know, sometimes I try to get in the person’s head. Why

did they decide to say that instead? Even though he obviously knows it’s wrong. Why did he decide

not to say you might be able to? I guess it’s because it’s shorter. Right. He’s saving my

time, which I appreciate. And it’s just accepted in his regional dialect. I guarantee you all of

his neighbors say it. His parents say it. It sounds wrong to him when someone doesn’t say it.

But you know what’s funny, though? He lives in San Francisco now.

Well, so he probably. So it’s so hard to get rid of it, though. Right. There are some things that

I still every now and then say. And everyone who lives by me is like, excuse me, what?

Yeah. Yeah. I love it. I love it. All right. What else, Aubrey?

Well, so interesting about that. I would maybe say that, but I would be more likely to say

you maybe can. You maybe can combine this. Right. So there are these two options.

Both are very informal speech. I do not recommend you guys use them at work. Wherever you are,

it might be flagged to a native speaker as wrong. And they’ll know that could be part of

your regional dialect. But it is it does sound ungrammatical. So don’t use it. But where you’re

going to hear you might can and you maybe can. You maybe can do that. You know, it doesn’t sound

as bad to me. Maybe a little better because it feels like we’re taking two things that separately

totally work. And it just feels less off. And it might even be less ungrammatical,

at least because maybe where it’s an adverb, you can stick it wherever. Right. It’s not

necessarily incorrect, whereas might can is a little less like you can’t just put that wherever

you want in a sentence. Unfortunately, painful, painful on the ears. It’s like, what’s that

expression? It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Exactly right. That’s a good idiom of something

that really gets under your skin really bothers you guys. Write that one down again. I think

that’s a good note really quick that you you don’t want to judge. Right. Even if it’s a pet peeve,

even if it is nails on a chalkboard, you want to be careful not to say something judgmental or give

them a look like, what did you just say? Right. We just you know what? It’s OK. It’s spoken speech.

Move on. Don’t worry about it. Move on and move on to the content. Right. In a way, we don’t have

time for this. Right. Guys, it comes back to connection. I don’t want to lose the relationship

with the lawyer. I don’t want to lose my understanding of what he’s saying. Right. I

needed to maximize every second of that hour, that expensive hour to make sure I understand

what we’re doing here. So it comes back to connection. Exactly. So there’s a second one

very similar to say you might could do that. Right. These are all very similar.

You might can you might could you baby could. Right. And this means you might be able to do

that. So you might could meet up after work. I say this. I hear it. It probably sounds very wrong

to you, Lindsay, but it’s part of my regional dialect. And guys, remember, again, just to make

sure it’s clear, we’re going to say this a few times today. We’re not saying you should use this

right. We’re saying we’re saying you should be ready to hear it and move on and come back to the

content and the human connection. OK, another one, Aubrey, they might could find a babysitter.

You might hear that. Right. Yes. I heard a friend say not that not that long when I was in Idaho

this summer, we needed some friends to find a babysitter. And my sister was like, they might

could find a babysitter if they start calling now. Absolutely. Oh, it’s so funny. It’s so funny.

OK, Aubrey, what else do we need to know? Is there a third thing that we might want to watch

out for here? Yeah. So used to could, which just means used to be able to this, we say in Idaho.

I feel like most of the time when I ask someone, do you guys say this? They say no. So I think it’s

rural northwest maybe for the most part. But I would love for you guys to let me know if you hear

this anywhere else. Leave a comment. We say it to you know, would say you used to could turn right

there, but they changed the stoplight. So instead of saying used to be able to, we shorten that to

used to could. Yeah. Or you used to could hike there, but it’s now closed. This makes me think

a lot of if you take a tour of a town with someone who’s lived there their whole lives,

for example, and they can’t help but go down memory lane about, oh, you used to could be

able to used to could park there. And I put be able to in there because it didn’t sound right to

me. I know I could tell it’s a very foreign to your region. But yeah, people that like to live

in the past, right, they might be likely, especially if they’re older, maybe don’t

listen to a ton of media or who knows, they might say this or it’s just part of it’s just a habit.

Right. And I do want to highlight in that they say used to used to could. And even though it’s

smushed all together, we often get questions about used to and used to without the D.

Oh, yeah. And Jessica and I recently recorded an episode about this for IELTS Energy.

Yeah. You likely have this question. What’s the difference? So go check that one out. It’s 989.

Should you say used to or used to? Yes. Give you some really good details about keeping them apart.

Yeah. Keep them apart. This is a question I used to get all the time when I would work

one on one with students in New York City all the time, especially for you guys at your level.

So that one is over on IELTS Energy podcast. Yes, exactly. Right. If you’re not following,

be sure to follow IELTS Energy. Even if you’re not studying for the IELTS exam,

we talk about grammar and vocab and idioms. There’s lots of great info over there. So I

recommend the IELTS Energy podcast. Me too. And guys, that podcast is downloaded around a million

times a month. So it’s a huge show. Right. You’re going to have lots of listening company over

there if you hit follow on that show. Good stuff. Yes, for sure. Let’s do a role play, Lindsay,

so that you guys can hear these. We’re doing two different ways here. It’s a little different.

We’re going to do a role play that’s very informal that I might hear in my hometown.

And then we’ll share the role play of what this would sound like with correct grammar. And this

is how we recommend you say these things. And I did add maybe to say like, I could maybe do that

because in speech, I think that’s acceptable. All right. I’m ready. Here we go. All right.

So here we’re discussing, just like you were saying, the changes to a town where we both

grew up. You used to could play in a park over there, but it’s been replaced by apartments.

Oh, such a bummer. They might could add a new park on the corner there.

Yeah, I might can ask someone if that’s in the works. You can’t even do it without laughing.

I can’t even do it without faking kind of a country accent or something. It’s almost like

I have to put an accent in there. You’re so judgmental. You’re judgmental of us country bumpkins.

I know, but I can’t do it. I can’t. So all right, let’s go through it. Show our listeners where we

used these mistakes. Yes. So I first said you used to could play, which means you used to be

able to play in the park over there. Right. And then I said, such a bummer. They might could

add a new park. Again, it feels so unnatural. Might could add a new park on the corner there.

You definitely would say they might be able to add a new park.

Exactly. Or just they might. They might add a new park.

And then you said one. Yeah, I might can ask someone. I might can ask someone if it’s in

the works, meaning like I might call and see if I know someone who I might can do that.

I love it. But why do you think that like you could also just say I can ask someone I can’t

or I could. Why do you think it seems like the pattern is here that we like to add might

in front of everything? You know what I mean? That was more that I’m trying to squeeze them

all into a role play. OK, because you wouldn’t have you. You probably wouldn’t say I might be

able to ask someone, though. I think my thought when I was writing that was imagine, you know,

someone on town council. Right. And so you don’t say like I can ask someone you’re thinking like,

hmm, I might be able to ask someone because you’re thinking of this person you maybe know

that you could ask. OK, got it. Got it. All right. Cool. Now, guys, we’re going to give

you the correct grammar, right? Let’s go through it again. Here we go. OK, so here I am. You used

to be able to play in a park over there, but it’s been replaced by apartments. Such a bummer.

They maybe could add a new park on the corner there. Yeah, I can maybe ask someone if that’s

in the works. OK, so here we’re putting maybe and could together. Right. So we still had the

you used to be able to play. And the first thing that I said, that’s the full longer.

And, you know, but you will hear this. I think that’s what you would say,

Lindsay. Right. You would take that extra step. I would to take a little longer. Yeah,

it does take a little longer. It’s a little more wordy and annoying on the tongue. Right. To say it

is more work. Yeah. Feels like there should be one word for these four words. Yeah, it’s true.

It’s true. And then I said such a bummer they maybe could add a park. So we’re saying that

this is OK to say they maybe could add. Yes, it’s still informal speech, but we speak informally at

work. I say this. I hear this at work unless I mean, if you’re in a job interview or if you’re

if it’s formal writing. Yeah. And I would say they may be able to add a new park. Right. I

would speak or write more formally. Right. But other than that, this is a little informal,

but it is correct. Yeah. What I would tend to say here is I would say maybe they could add a new

park. Maybe they could starting with maybe start with the adverb. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. And

then I said I can maybe ask someone and say I could say maybe I can ask someone. And I think

you’re right. I probably would have more of a tendency to say the maybe first. Yeah, I love it.

OK. So, Aubrey, what is the takeaway for our listeners today? What do we think?

Well, first of all, I think it’s such a vital soft skill to be able to hear a grammar mistake

and not react, not judge, not correct. Just move on, like we said. Right. It shows empathy and

compassion. Yeah. Build connections. I think that’s pretty vital. And don’t show it in your

don’t show it in your face. Don’t flinch. Right. No reaction. Don’t make a face. Just human

connection. Right. Because we want this to write. This is the whole idea. As you guys are learning

English as a second language or as a third language or twelfth language. Right. You want

to not be judged. Right. Again, it’s the other side. You want that person to come back to the

content and the connection of what you are saying. So we want to do the same thing with

native speakers who might just be having fun with how they grew up and they never took it out of

their language. Yeah. And imagine doing the opposite. And that, you know, criticizing,

judging, correcting can really break down or ruin connections. It creates awkwardness.

It’s no one likes to be criticized. And like you said, might be being silly or they might

not even notice because they’re so used to this error that’s accepted in their regional dialect.

You don’t want to risk that risk hurting the relationship, the connection.

Yeah. I mean, that’s what I love about this show. Right. We come back to connection. We

come back to the value the person has beyond just the words they’re saying. Right. Like my lawyer

knows so much about a state law that I want to get every word. I want to get every piece of

information. I’m hanging on every word because I don’t understand 80 percent of it anyways. And I

need to ask it to be repeated over and over again. You know, a brilliant mathematician might make this

mistake, but they’re brilliant. Right. So it’s not the words. It’s what they have to share.

Exactly. It’s just like us. We make grammar mistakes sometimes,

but that’s not the most important thing, because we have to share is more important.

Don’t essentialize people. Right. Right. They’re more than their words. So good.

Good stuff. Very interesting today. Thanks for bringing this up and sharing this stuff,

Aubrey. Good stuff. Lindsay, I’ll see you next time. Talk to you soon. Have a good one. Bye.

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