The study examines a study of grammatical errors in english among students. The study is a critical analysis of grammatical errors among students of Religious Studies, Babcock University. The study gave an account of the grammatical errors made by the selected students who are in the department of Religious studies.

The study adopts a descriptive survey and qualitative research design. The study focuses at investigating the areas of grammatical errors committed among students of Religious Studies Department, Babcock University.

The study revealed that; the participants committed three common errors, viz., subject/verb agreement (concord), misuse of pronouns and wrong lexical choice. The analysis of data reflects that these three aspects of grammatical errors have the highest number of frequency: 75.6%, 36.6% and 18.6% respectively.

The study concluded that emergence of error in the syntactic competence of university students are caused by mother tongue intereference and overgeneralization of syntactic rules; the complexity of the structures of the English verb tenses; a strategy of parallel structure;  the ignorance of grammatical rules; mother tongue interference; performance; and ignorance of the grammatical rules of the target language.

The study recommended that; Universities should review the curriculum for university’s Use of English; English Studies should be taught by specialists in English who are capable of doing the job effectively; Teachers should pay attention to the occurrence of those errors in order to provide relevant remedies as attempts to prevent the students from fossilizing the wrong concepts of language usage.



1.1              Background to the Study    

            Among the numerous issues associated with second language acquisition, error identification has been acknowledged as the most inevitable. Error, in such context, has been identified as a result of the transfer of the linguistic knowledge of the first language or mother tongue of the language user on the learning of the second language or target language. For the last fifty years and onwards, linguists and scholars have conducted many researches in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) (Gabrys-Barker, 2008). Many of these researches have studied the relationship between acquiring a language and native-like competence issue (Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2009; Munoz, 2008; Singleton, 2005) in that they studied the relationship between age and SLA and then the relation between native-like and SLA. However, some others have focused on the grammatical errors which the language learner makes (Gabrys-Barker, 2008) in that they have searched upon the errors which a learner makes in his academic activities such as spelling, sentence structure, word formation and word semantics. Since the thrust of this study is designed to handle the grammatical errors for second language learner, and grammar, a branch of linguistics, is a vital perimeter used for language analysis, then the need to examine the concept of language and its features in relation to grammar cannot be overemphasized.



            In an attempt to define grammar, Amusan (2015, p.12) posits that “grammar is the study of the rules that guide the combination of certain units of language to form larger ones”. In order words, he regards grammar as a linguistic phenomenon that studies the combined features of clauses and sentences of a language. Language is but a set of sentences formed in logical syntactic structure or combination (Chomsky, 1957). Furthermore, Finch (2000) argued that languages like English deal with word order, however some other languages do from the words per se. Meanwhile, Chomsky’s (1965) Universal Grammar (UG) stated that all languages share common basic features. However, Borsley (1999) discusses that problems of grammar are due to the fact that languages are not ‘clear-cut objectives’. Aronoff & Fudeman (2011, p.2) gave a linguistic definition of grammar as “the mental system involved in sentence formation or the branch of linguistics that deals with words, their internal structure, and how they are formed”. Moreover, they believe that grammar should not be only a secondary data source in theories for analyzing other language elements but it has to be handled on its own as a subject of study.

            Grammar “is a term used for the study of rules governing the way words are combined to form sentences” (Finch, 2000, p. 77). Hence, syntax is concerned with the way that the sentence is structured. Similarly, Bell (1991) states that grammar is the knowledge of manipulating sentence elements in the chain and choice of the system. He, further, defines syntactic knowledge as a “matter of knowing what elements exist in a language and how they may be legitimately combined” (1991, p. 207). It has been mentioned earlier in this study that many researches have been conducted to investigate SLA issues. Among these issues is the syntactic issue which is the focus of this study. The main subject of such researches is that learners of second language who are at the advance educational level continue making syntactic errors in their written productions (Gabrys-Barker, 2008). Accordingly, linguists distinguished between linguistic competence and performance. Linguistic competence is the knowledge in a man’s brain (Chomsky: I-language), however, linguistic performance is the actual use of this knowledge (Chomsky: E-language) (Gabrys-Barker, 2008).

            Learning English language is not as simple as we thought because there is a set of rules that must be learnt, which is called “grammar”. Grammar is one of the English components which are taught to every language learner. It has an important role in understanding the English language. Without proper knowledge of grammar, the students will find many problems to build up the sentences and express their ideas for communication activities. But if they have a good knowledge of grammar, they will be confident in speaking and writing English and also to use the language correctly and clearly.

        Error in language learning and knowledge of grammar has become one of the most important aspects that indicate development of second language (L2) learners’ Interlanguage (ILG) system (Lightbown and Spada, 2006). Corder (1981) has argued that errors are considered to be the features of the learner’s utterances which are in one way or another different from those of the native speakers. He further states that the learners of a target language are not aware of their errors and thus are unable to correct these errors themselves. The process by which these errors are encountered, computed and analyzed is called Errors Analysis. Richards (1985) as cited in Tomlinson (2011) has contended that Error Analysis includes the study and analysis of the errors made by the learners of a second or a foreign language. In the EFL (English as a foreign language) context, knowledge of grammar, particularly tense, is considered to be the most crucial and difficult part for non-native learners to master properly. The errors committed by the learners also indicate what the second language learners do not master and what they have internalized of the ILG system. Analyzing the Errors made by the learners is the best way to show the true proficiency level of target language they are learning and acquiring at a particular point of time. It also helps the second language researchers to recognize the students’ learning problems as well as the factors triggering it. The teachers, on the other hand, can provide their students with appropriate feedback and can use this information to prepare appropriate teaching materials and to design more effective lesson plans. As for the students/language learners themselves, the analysis is inevitable to language learning improvement. That is to say, analyzing these errors which are considered to be systematic in nature is insightful information for second language teachers, learners, researchers and the classroom teaching practice as well (Corder, 1994). Norris and Ortega (2003) have argued that error analysis is “used to elicit, observe and record the language (and language related behavior of second language learners) and to enable the resulting evidence in light of explanatory theories of the language acquisition process”.

In a multilingual nation such as Nigeria, the learning of English language in the formal school settings has become the focus of many researchers. As quoted by Chomsky (2004) in his theory of Universal Grammar, every language is characterized by core features and peripheral features. The core features are those features that are peculiar or common to all languages while the peripheral features are those features that vary from one language to another. Nigeria has over 250 languages apart from the three main national languages (Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo). These languages have been regarded by several researchers as languages which partly chare the same linguistic features with the English language. It is also affirmed that most of the features of the languages, especially the syntactic features have deviant features if compared to the ones in English language. The necessity for English language in the Nigerian context has brought about certain problems in learning. This linguistic situation is regarded as language interference or language transfer. Language transfer is a language situation whereby a child transfers the linguistic knowledge which he has about his first language to the learning of the second language. These linguistic situations could be positive or negative. If it is positive, such case is referred to as Pro-active interference. And if it is negative, such case is referred to as Retro-active interference.

               It obtains that apart from the retro-active transfer or interference of the L1 on the L2, there are various factors that contribute to errors as attributed to second language users. Differences amongst users’ native languages and the L2 play a role in those difficulties. In addition to variation in the sound system of both languages, language transfer and age also play a strong role in the acquisition process (Binturki, 2008). However, grammatical analysis is not the only issue L2 users have to deal with as phonologocal, semantical, vocabulary and morphological features are considered obstacles in the process of L2 usages. The following aspects of grammar tend to be violated in their grammatical constructions:  wrong usage of tense, concord or agreement errors, improper use of adjectives in the comparative forms, unhealthy plurality (most especially uncountable nouns), double negation, irregular making of verbs, wrong placement of pronouns  etc. This study has been able to ascertain that grammatical error in selected YouTube and radio conversation is worth examining. Lots of conversations on YouTube and Radio nowadays are characterized by errors. This is because these kinds of conversations belong to a spontaneous conversational discourse where speakers do not have any prior preparation of what the discourse is all about. Such discourses are often characterized by error.

            Sequel to the above, this study attempts a critical survey of grammatical errors among selected students of Religious Studies, Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State.

1.2       Statement of the Problem                                                     

            In the process of acquiring and learning a second or foreign language, a learner is going to make a mistake or an error. A learner might make a mistake because he does not master a language rule. However, an error might be a product of unawareness of a language rule. As many researchers claim, making errors is an unavoidable problem in foreign and second language acquisition.

            A number of researches which have been conducted to this effect broadly cater for grammatical errors in conversations, speeches and among students. Existing works have focused on the influence of mother tongue on the possibilities of errors among speakers of English language. While some of the researches focused on the influences of the three major indigenous languages in Nigeria (Yoruba language, Igbo language and Hausa language) on errors among speakers, others focus on the influence of other existing indigenous languages on the speaking of English in Nigeria.  Little or no attention has been given to the key aspects of grammar in the course of the previous analysis. It is against this background that the present study intends to investigate.


            This study, therefore, intends to fill this gap by examining the grammatical errors among students of Babcock University with focus.

1.3       Aim and Objectives of the Study    

            The overall aim of this study is to examine grammatical errors among Babcock students. The specific objectives are to:

1. investigate the percentage of students that commit grammatical error among the selected Babcock students;

2. identify the nature or class of grammatical errors committed by Babcock students;

3. identify the frequency of each of the errors identified among the students;

4. investigate the cause and effects of the grammatical errors committed by Babcock students;

1.4       Research Questions         

            The research questions formulated to guide this study are:

1. What is the percentage of students that commit grammatical error among the selected Babcock students?

2. What is the nature or class of grammatical errors committed by Babcock students?

3. What is the frequency of each of the errors identified among the students?

4. What is the cause and effects of the grammatical errors committed by Babcock students;

1.5       Scope of the Study                                                                     

            The scope of this study will therefore be limited to the analysis of grammatical errors among English speakers. This study will be concentrating on the grammatical error committed by selected students of Babcock as the basis for investigation will be the wrong usage of tense, concord or agreement errors, improper use of adjectives in the comparative forms, unhealthy plurality (most especially uncountable nouns), double negation, irregular making of verbs, wrong placement of pronouns etc.. The choice of grammar as the linguistic segment with reference to error analysis is not far-fetched from the fact that grammatical error is the commonest error among speakers of a language, and it is also devastating as it has tremendous gravity on fidelity in communication.

1.6       Significance of the Study                    

            The present study will serve as an eye-opener to every language user as it will enlighten them on the possible grammatical errors which are likely to be committed in every day-to-day use of English language.

            As this study is made available to different stakeholders within the domain of the English language, such as English language speakers, everyday language users, tutors, teachers, students and others who have interests in applying a broadly systemic functional approach to language teaching in school education, it will serve as a guide to them and will also be a means of improving on their grammatical weaknesses. It will also inform them that grammatical is a genuine tool worth examining when it comes to evaluating the academic standard or performance of students.

            The study will also be useful to language researchers who have great interest in examining various forms of grammatical features as reflected among students of English language in the course of learning and language usages.

1.7       Operational Definitions of Terms                                                                     

            The following terms would mean the following in the context of this study

Error: Error, in the grammatical sense, can be defined as the misplacement or misuse of grammatical rules which will therefore make a sentence or an utterance ungrammatical.

Grammar: Grammar is defined as those sets of finite rules that generate an infinite number of sentences. It deals with the structure of words and how they are combined to form sentences.

Syntax: Syntax is defined as the study of sentences, clauses and groups.

Morphology: Morphology is defined as the internal study of words.