What do we say when we make a mistake? Maybe it’s an expletive. (Did you you know the pronunciation of expletive is different in British and American English?) In this video we look at some swear word alternatives like bother, shoot and damn.

You’ll also learn the phrasal verb screw up and the more polite phrasal verb mess up.

We also look at the expressions ‘by mistake‘ meaning by accident and ‘It’s my fault‘, meaning I accept responsibility. And you’ll see examples of the word fault as a countable and uncountable noun.

Click here to learn some rules for when we use make and when we use do.
Click here to learn more everyday English expressions

Things to say when you make a mistake

Welcome to the Good Morning show. In today’s program we’re going to be talking to Hillary Clinton. Oh, I’m sorry. That’s the wrong picture. We’ve clearly made a mistake.

Hi everyone, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And this lessons about things you can say when you make mistakes.
Where should we start?
Well the first thing we say is often an expletive.
She means expletive.
Expletive. The pronunciation’s different in British and American.
Say expletive.
An expletive is a word that shows you’re angry or upset.


Argh! Oh….
The next thing you’d say is not polite.
Yeah, expletives are generally rude words. I’m sure you know these ones. They’re common curse words.
Be careful though because they are very rude.
Yes, don’t say them to your boss or peoplke you don’t know well.
What are some polite alternatives?
Hmm. I’ve heard some people say ‘oh bother’, but that’s normally if it’s a small thing.

Oh bother, I’ve spilt my tea.

‘Bother’ sounds very British. In the US we might say ‘shoot’.

Oh shoot, I left my wallet at home.

Again, we say this for small mistakes.
Yes, if you want to add some emotion, I think ‘damn’ is a useful word.
Is it rude?
It’s a little rude but it’s better than the curse words if you’re at work or something, and it shows you’re upset.

Oh damn. I forgot to put petrol in the car.
Damn. I just made a mistake.
I just sent everyone the wrong dates for the meeting.

Notice that Jay said ‘I just made a mistake’. We use the verb ‘make’ with mistake.
In some languages it’s do a mistake’, but not in English.
Yes, so don’t make that mistake with mistake! ‘Make’ and ‘mistake’ both start with the letter m. Perhaps that will help you remember.
OK. Now are there other ways to say ‘I’ve made a mistake’?
Yes. We often use phrasal verbs. Let’s see one in action.

Oh no, I’ve screwed up again!
What have you done?
I forgot to press save before I closed the document.
He’s always screwing up like that.

The verb is ‘screw up’. It’s slang and it’s a bit rude.
Again, you probably don’t want to say it to your boss. But there’s another verb you could use instead – mess up.

Can I try it?
OK but be careful. It took me ages to get this far. Don’t mess it up. …
Oh sorry

Mess up means to do something badly.
It’s a phrasal verb again and it’s a little more polite than screw up.
And another phrase you can use is ‘by mistake’.

I drank your coffee by mistake. How much sugar is in that?
5 teaspoons. I like it sweet.

So ‘by mistake’ means ‘by accident’.

Hi. Your pay check has arrived.
Oh good. Hey! Somebody’s already opened this.
Yeah, sorry, I opened it by mistake. You didn’t earn as much as me last month.

So by mistake – by accident.
By mistake means you didn’t intend to do it. Or did you?
Now the word mistake is a noun here, but it can be a verb too. And then it means you think one thing is another.
For example, you have to keep your pills safe because children might mistake them for candy.
Mistake is an irregular verb – mistake, mistook, mistaken.

Oh Mary.
Do we know each other?
Oh sorry, I mistook you for someone else.
No problem.

I mistook you for someone else means I thought you were one person, but you were another.
Yes, it sounds a little formal to me. I think normally I’d say it differently.

Oh Mary.
Do we know each other?
Oh sorry I thought you were someone else.
No problem.

That sounded more natural.
Yes, and there’s another thing we often say when we’ve made a mistake.
Let’s look at how we do that.

Who designed these calendars?
Oh I did. Do you like them?
How many copies did you print?
I don’t know.
I ordered 500. Is there a problem?
Yes. Look at February. There are 30 days.
Oh, that’s a mistake.
I’m so sorry Kathy. It’s my fault. I didn’t notice.
It’s my fault too. I didn’t check it before it went to the printers.
We’re both at fault.
30 days!

Now here’s a very useful phrase. When we say ‘it’s my fault’, we’re saying we’re responsible.
We accept the blame for what went wrong.
We admit we did the wrong thing. And if we don’t want to accept responsibility, we can use the negative.

You need to do this again.
It’s full of spelling mistakes
It’s not my fault. My spell checker doesn’t work
Then use a dictionary.

So ‘it’s not my fault’ means it’s not my responsibility. Don’t blame me.
Fault is an uncountable noun here, so it has no plural form. But the word fault has other meanings where it’s countable.
For example?
Well, people can have faults.

Good luck with your presentation. Are you nervous?
No, I’m going to be fantastic. They’ll love me.
Jay may have some faults, but lack of confidence isn’t one of them.

So here faults is plural and it means the bad or weak parts of someone’s character.
I don’t really have many faults.
Yeah right. And faults can also mean other things that are wrong. Machines can have faults. Faults are things that stop them working correctly.
A fault in the design.
A structural fault.

You need to use the other copier. This one’s not working.
Really? Why not?
They think it’s an electrical fault.
Told you.

OK, I think it’s time to review, don’t you?
Yes, let’s see what you can remember. When we make a mistake, the first thing we say is often an expletive.
Or an expletive.
An expletive is usually a swear word or curse word. But there are some more polite alternatives. For example in the UK we could say ‘Oh bother!’
And in the US we could say ‘Oh shoot!’
Here’s a really useful one: Oh damn!
We usually use the word mistake with the verb make.
And we use phrasal verbs too like ‘I’ve screwed up’.
And we can also say ‘I’ve messed up’.
If we think we’re responsible for a mistake we’ll say ‘It’s my fault’.
And if we think we’re not responsible we’ll say ‘It’s not my fault’.
And that’s it. Now you know what to say when you’ve screwed up and made a mistake.
If you’ve found this video useful, please share it with a friend.
And make sure you subscribe to our channel.
See you next Friday everyone. Bye Bye.

Click here to learn some rules for when we use make and when we use do.
Click here to learn more everyday English expressions


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