Words You Are Using Incorrectly in Singapore

For some English words, used in Singapore, the usage has been skewed because of the translation from Mandarin.


Our top three favourites, from the list above, would have to be; help, keep and follow.


help – The casual phrase “can you help me buy…” or “can you help post these letters” would seem a little strange in native English speaking countries. Although grammatically correct, contextually this sounds like you need assistance or aid, rather than you need someone to do something for you.

‘Help’ in this form is to give aid or assistance. “Could you help me carry this table.”

However, the usage in Singapore is due to a direct translation of the Mandarin word 帮(bang1), which is used in a phrase such as: 你(ni3)可(ke2)以(yi3)帮(bang1)我(wo2)买(mai3) [You can help me buy] or [You can buy for me]. 帮(bang1) has two meanings; “for” and “help”. So it can mean to assist, however it can also mean one person doing something on behalf of another (“for”). The structure is exactly the same, but it should be translated as “can you buy FOR me”.


Another word related to the Chinese direct translation is ‘keep’. “Put in order” or “tidy up” in Mandarin is 收(shou1)起(qi3). The phrase 收(shou1)起(qi3)你(ni3)的(de4)书(shu1) is wrongly converted to ‘[keep your books].



Also with the word ‘follow’ based on 跟(gen1). 跟(gen1) means follow or to go with. The phrase 你(ni3)可(ke2)以(yi3)跟(gen1)着(zhe4)我(wo3) is [you can follow me] or [you can go with me]. Obviously there is confusion for the word ‘follow’, as this does mean to proceed behind. Therefore “you can go with me” or “you can come with me” should be used.




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