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I Was Shamed By 2 Kids (And How I Learnt English Grammar)

I Was Shamed By 2 Kids (And How I Learnt English Grammar)

“Have you ate your food?” I stammered, unsure whether my grammar was correct.

Emmanuel and his kid sister, Shade, burst into laughter. They were respectively 9 years and 7 years. I was 18 years. I knew I had misfired. I began sweating profusely.

I had overheard Emmanuel telling his mother how “…uncle Tosin speaks incorrect English” but I had chosen to ignore the naughty boy because… that was all I could do.

So I knew I had to cover up my latest goof. I pretended to be laughing with them so I could feel a bit less embarrassed.

“I know the sentence is wrong. I just want to know if you will notice the error,” I lied to them. They believed me.

It was really humiliating, but that incident turned out to be a great blessing for me.

Here’s the full story…

I attended a public secondary school.

Although I was privileged to have some really competent, dedicated and experienced teachers, the public education system was generally bad.

I still have my grudges against the Intensive English textbook we used. Either it was too theoretical and abstract or I was too dumb to appreciate its methodology.

Mind you, I was the best student in the Arts class and the second best student in English Language (Onyebuchi Chidinma was the English Language champ).

So you can safely conclude the whole class had a serious challenge understanding and confidently speaking the English Language.

In consequence, I had a C6 in the English Language in my WAEC examinations. Other than Fine Arts in which I had a C4, the other subjects I sat for were all distinctions.

My poor performance in English Language notwithstanding, I was glad I made all my papers. 90% of my colleagues didn’t.

While I was waiting to write my UME (now UTME), one of the places I worked was a canteen. I was in the canteen with my boss’ kids one sad day when I murdered a grammar rule.

“Have you ate your food?” I asked Shade, hoping my grammar would not create a scene.

It did!

Emmanuel and Shade burst into laughter. I began sweating profusely. I lied to the naughty kids I was only testing their grammar proficiency. Silly me!

End of movie.

I avoided speaking with the kids henceforth unless it was inevitable. I didn’t have a problem with their mother since I spoke with her in Yoruba Language.

The incident made me embarrassed and angry for days.

My grammar proficiency wasn’t that bad after all. I could sometimes speak English Language for 30 minutes without committing a major blunder, as far as I kept my diction simple and thought well before uttering each sentence.

I was in a situation many people would not even see as a problem, let alone find a solution to. But I decided I didn’t like the way things were going.

I entered the driver’s seat

I started asking around for help on improving my English grammar. I came across the book, “Fundamental Formulas of the English Language” by Barr. Oscar Izeyor Iyoha and instantly fell in love with it.

Most English grammar textbooks I had seen were copy-cat compilations of abstract theories. Oscar’s book was an exception. It was full of simple, actionable lessons and well illustrated exercises.

For 6 months, I studied nothing else but the book.

It made all the difference. Thanks to the solid foundation the book laid for me, I had a brilliant score in English in my UME… I’ve won 11 essay contests and published high-impact books… And I’ve built a writing career I cherish.

Although I’ve studied and benefitted from tons of other English grammar books since then, Barr. Oscar’s book was the foundation. God bless him, a grammar genius!

NB: Due to demands by readers, I contacted Barr. Oscar yesterday. He said the book is only available in Lagos and Benin. If you need to, call him on 08033463636.

Let’s talk about your dream

As you probably know, this blog is on a mission to help writers like you live their dreams.

And what do writers dream?

Being able to write better and help others with their words. Building a readership (which is best done via blogging). Getting published. Bagging some laurels. Making handsome earnings from writing and not having to take up or stick to some boring 8-5 jobs.

You love those, don’t you?

But the bad news is you… you won’t live your dream if your grammar sucks.

No! You need not become a picky grammar geek. You might not even know all the technical terminologies and rules that guide the English grammar.

But you do need a working understanding of how to assemble the 26 English letters and punctuation marks without coming across as unintelligent or careless. And you need to put that understanding to practice and build up your confidence in it in speech and writing.


Grammar Conquest: a free 7-day course

So, as my contribution to see you live your writing dreams, I’m launching Grammar Conquest, a 7-day grammar course.

And have no fears… the course is entirely free. No catch whatsoever.

Grammar Conquest

The course focuses on 7 grammar areas I see many writers make mistakes in.

Each day for 7 days, starting from whenever you join us, I’ll email you an in-depth grammar lesson. So help me God.

But wait… there’s no grading and no certification. If you’re the paper qualification type, you can stay away.

Again, this course won’t be the magic wand to cure all your grammar setbacks. It will just give you the practical knowledge and inspiration in 7 areas of grammar that confuse many writers I know.

And like Oscar’s book, (I hope) this course will be an exception. Here’s what I mean:

  • Most treatises on English grammar are drab, too ‘academic’ and theoretical. Grammar Conquest will be lively, conversational and practical.
  • Most free courses are an assemblage of wishy-washy contents. Grammar Conquest will give you practical value anyone should be glad to pay over $100 for.

Now, I want you to do 3 things:

First, register your email to join the free course:

Second, enter your blog name (link title), email and blog URL in the link up below to let others know you’re joining us in the course (you don’t have a blog? Shame! Go start one here.). That’s free promotion for your blog and you can connect with other bloggers too 😉

Finally, leave a comment below to tell me ONE embarrassing situation speaking bad grammar has put you. Or you can tell me the ONE biggest grammar challenge you’re having at the moment.

That’s it.

Grammar Conquest is here… so get set to conquer your grammar woes.

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Learn English grammar in 7 days... FREE
About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Great one Abdul. Your construction of the English language is one of the reasons I love reading your posts. Sometimes it appears as if you are in front of me delivering a speech as I smile along.
    It’s impressive how you write.

    I really can’t picture an embarazing moment like that because I have learnt how to take it slow and pick my words one after d other.

    A secret: Many people say I write well, but I have to confess, there a times I have to ccheck the dictionary and even consult a friend to help in a sentence.

    English language is simple when you are fortunate to get the right books. All these yeye books in secondary schools don’t do it.

    Anyway, I want to have a better command of the English language. Like seriously.
    You will help?

    • Thanks for the nice words, Ola. Sweet to hear them. I think it’s perfectly cool to check the dictionary or consult others when writing.

      Grammar Conquest should help.

      P.S. My name is “Abdullahi” and cannot be shortened. “Abdul” is derogatory.

  2. Haaa! I’ve murdered the English grammar many times, but now getting better. Thanks to constant reading and writing. And I’d love to learn more. Can’t wait to see the Grammar Conquest in my inbox, soon. 🙂

  3. That is the power of determination. When I showed pity for my cousin who attends a public school in a stark Yoruba town where Yoruba is being used to teach every subject, my dad told me he was once in the same position. English speaking posed a problem for him too but after secondary school, he was keen to get it right and today, my dad is one of my mentors when it comes to the possession of knowledge. This is a really inspiring write up. Come to think of it. How many of the greatest men in Nigeria attended the best secondary schools? Wole Soyinka’s parents were illiterates.Look at him today. More ink to your pen brother!

  4. Encouraging post! I look forward to receiving your grammar conquest mails. Thumbs up bro!

  5. What a great opportunity!

  6. I remembered the day I visited my level adviser. As a 200 level student, I was scared of the man due to his scary face. Coupled with the fact that the H.O.D, a professor, was with him in the office that day, I was shaking and sweat filled all my armpits. At last, I found the courage to mutter a sentence and guess what, it was stupid! I said; “yes sir, good afternoon sir, I wanted to see you sir.” The man looked at me in a sorry manner. “You wanted to see me? My friend correct yourself or get out of my office!” He said. The height of the humiliation came when he asked of my state and abused me by it.

  7. ABDUL KOROMA says:

    Thanks for being honest and candid to share a goof but i pacify you that you aren’t alone! As much as some of are perceived to be better speakers, we goof on a daily basis. What only save our faces is that fact that many are grammatically blind hence they hardly see our manifest goofs.Waiting for Grammar Conquest…..

  8. well i have made a lot of gramatical errors and i am still making it. yeap! Imagine me saying ”i will try my possible best” although using it in my every day language is no problem but it is gramatically wrong

  9. you are not just a writer. to me, you’re a person who lights the way for travelers and passers by in the dark. and I believe I am one of those you’re lighting up the way for. God bless you!
    as a child, I had a lot of fears. I fret a lot. whenever I did something and get a negative remark, I back off! I was at a neighbour’s one day and a boy hit me, then I started to sob. when i was asked what the problem was, I pointed at the boy saying “he blowed me”. then everyone started to laugh. I felt so embarrassed. i didn’t know blowed was a wring word and they could have corrected me instead of laughing. ever since then, before I became fully grown/matured, I was always careful. I never wanted to speak in public for fear of making a blunder and being laughed at.

  10. Abdullahi, you are one writer i will forever be greatful full for knowing. Positive, has been your impact and influence in my writing/blogging career.

    I have made a whole lot of goof, but one which was quite obvious and embarrassing was using the word “yeah” in an interview i once had. Even after being corrected severally by my interviewer. Looking forward to grammar conquest.

  11. Abdullahi, your style is very simple and crisp; quite like one who is versed in the nuances of the language and relishes the fact thouroughly.
    It is good.

    Here goes my story:
    I was sitting with some classmates under a tree about 7 years ago and one of them requests funds from our collective purse as i was the custodian of the class’s funds. I declined his request, he wouldn’t have it and proceeded to heckle me.
    I recall blurting out: ‘You should have given me further notice’.
    It should have been ‘prior notice’.
    Everybody laughed like a bastard.
    In those few moments I lost all desire to be human.
    It’s been seven years yet some of them still call to give me ‘further notice’ before they visit.

    P.S: Due to the time lapse and fuzzy memories, i took some liberties with the facts of this story.

  12. Funny.. I can’t remember having had a bad experience with a grammatical blunder before.. but there is always room for improving

  13. Ayeyemi Taofeek Kehinde says:

    Thanks for this post. These challenging events are countless. I hope the Grammar conquest would help.

  14. Huh.. English grammar construction is no child’s play oh, the moment you think you’ve hit it,you come back and find dozens of errors.
    The learning continues, the learning continues with grammar conquest!
    Thanks alot.

    • That’s so true. I still make mistakes (though not the unpardonable ones) often. Even for this piece, a kind reader earlier contacted me to correct a mistake I made and I quickly fixed it like it never happened. Smart me 😉

  15. Emmanuel Olatunji says:

    This is an inspiring write up. I am very glad to read this. Looking forward to reading more inculcating write ups in the up coming Grammar conquest. Thank you Mr Abdullahi

  16. Durojaye olalekan says:

    Thank you Mr. Abdullahi. The whole thing looks like you are the one have been waiting for all my life. I have problem with English Grammar…big one, even till date. I cannot count the scenes that I have fumbled in my English expression in the presence of collegues and younger ones. I love readinig and writing but my writing is suck. Sometimes I write better than I speak. Mr. Abdullahi, speaking or constructing a good english is my major problem. I want tO believe your coaching will do me a whole lots of good. Thank you.

  17. Positive is your influence to my blogging and writing endeavour. And for that, i always look forward to your new post.
    The only goof i could recall that cause me some embarrassment was repeatedly using the word “yeah” in an interview, even after been correct by my interviewer.
    Looking forward to grammar conquest coach.

  18. Stanley Aganoke says:

    Abdullahi, don’t know what touched me to read this post, cause I’ve been ignoring many of your post but i must confess i’m happy and lucky to have read this one. They are two memorable blunders that have made in the past that whenever i stop to remember them or someone who witnessed any of the two blunders reminds me, i always SHUDDER. one of my blunders was, “Have trow it away”. Now i try to be meticulous when placing words in my sentences. still not perfect though, so i hope grammer quest will help.

  19. I like it whenever I get a chance to grow and develop my craft. This month on my blog the monthly theme (which is a monthly tradition) is Trying new things. I thiink in my case I would need to try something I haven’t done for sometime. Grammer Contest am glad you are here. Thumbs up Abdullahi for this wonderful initiative.

  20. amusa lateef says:

    When i said ” it’s high time we start reading hard for exams because it is drawing near” I hated myself pretty much for messing up big time with this horrible statement…but the funny thing was that the individuals i was addressing that day did not even realize I was wrong. LOLs. Thumbs up to Abdullahi, my former hostel mate.

  21. Basmallah says:

    Hmn…Grammer! something i’m a stickler for. Sometime in 2013, I delivered a letter to one of my staff advisers. On opening it he asked if I had gone through it and I replied in the negative, he then passed it on to me for reading. Behold..this great blunder,in my embarrassment he began this lecture on the fine points of cross checking my writing for dotted i’s,crossed t’s and a host of other visible blunders.
    This man is a PhD holder in History and int’l studies. Believe me when I say that on returning the letter back to the writer,I gave him hell.

  22. Haa! Hope I didn’t “carry” last “sha”?

    Thanks Abdullahi for your tremendous efforts.

    More grease to your elbows.

  23. Abdulsalam Maaruf says:

    Jakallahu khairan katheera brother, l am new on this platform but l have heard a lot about your contributions to the society and nation at large in ensuring that we speak good english. I want to improve my grammatical expression (speaking and writing) and hope your Grammar Conquest program will conquer all my fear…. can’t wait to receiving your mail…. Thanks in anticipation

  24. Rahee Odus says:

    Hello everyone, I cannot remember an embarrassing moment when I’ve made grammatical errors. I must have goofed sometimes but i usually correct myself immediately I notice. I’m looking forward to this course because I know I shall learn something no matter how little. 😊

  25. Adeta Taqwallah says:

    Well, i don’t think i have one to share for now only if i would start inventing lies. its not that i do not want to share stories like that but it never happened to me. Bruv seriously i really want to get involved.
    probably because i am not trending that path, though am really trying but its not an easy task

  26. ohita afeisume says:

    Thanks once again, Abdullahi for your interesting post. I have been following you for a few months now and have been quite amazed by how your eloquence and simplicity merge together.Your humility and generosity in offering help are qualities I admire too.

    As a teacher of English Language and
    Literature -in- English for over two decades, I quite agree with you that some of the recommended texts are not adequate. In fact, not one but several different textbooks are needed to teach the various aspects of these subjects.The problem though has always been how to get students to buy them. Many parents do not understand and would rather spend good money buying ceremonial clothes- “aso-ebi” rather than investing in their children’s school needs.If only they can get their priorities right.

    Besides, many students do not appreciate that reading and writing good English is not only a function of working through copious exercises in textbooks. They need to read far and wide- other books such as novels, newspapers and magazines.Any student who does this will build up a large vocabulary for himself. The new words learnt should be used in speech and in writing as “practice makes perfect.” This was the way I was brought up. I have my parents and my teachers (especially in the primary and secondary school)to thank for this.

    The beautiful thing about it all is that learning is a journey that never ends.You have taught me so many things in a short while.I have come to a point where I actually want to blog as you have explained it all so clearly. After all, I am working on my novel writing and I need a platform to build readership. Now I am even educating my children on the benefits of blogging.You cannot imagine that sometime ago, my adult children who are all computer literate made fun of me because I could not bring myself to handle the computer. They would tease saying: ” Mummy, come and touch the computer. It doesn’t bite!”So here I go registering for “Grammar Conquest”.Just to let my fellow readers know the correct spelling is “Grammar’ You see,I am a lifelong learner.
    Thanks so much for your e books.They have always encouraged me to keep writing.

  27. Joseph Olaoluwa says:

    Hi Abdullahi Tosin!!! I have been a favourite fan of your newsletters and to be sincere; it has been highly rewarding. Well, I was opportuned to have a Dad who took it upon himself to get home tutors for me all through primary and secondary school while letting my mum homeschool me for as long as I can remember- so I never had Grammar problems but I do have challenges however with punctuation and some tense changes. My writing career has been rewarding though I am yet to get that blog yet. ***cowers in shame*** (I will do so actually) but my critic dad has warned me to seriously get a hang of my grammar in the not-so-distant-future as it can hamper my writing career. I have signed up bro and I am dire need of it!! Looking ahead!!

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