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Do you make this common first language translation mistake?

By 11 October 2017Language Tips

Let me explain you

Sometimes our first language can interfere with our use of English because we translate phrases directly from 1 language to the other.


The sentence above is a really common example of this which non-native speakers often say when talking to patients. In English, with ‘explain’ we use ‘to you’. Think of it as a gift of information, we give gifts TO people. It is the same for ‘talk and speak’ but not for ‘tell or say’.

Here are some more correct examples:

I’ve explained the sugery to your mother.

Can I speak to you about your concerns?

I will explain all the options to you before you make a decision.

In the first and last examples you can see that we can put what we are explaining between the verb and the person we are explaining it to:

I think the nurse has explained the need for resting your leg to you.