Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have recently encountered a person from Uganda who insisted that the phrase “It’s no use of doing something” is correct, as opposed to “It’s no use _ doing something.”

Taking the descriptive approach, would that usage be correct in Ugandan English as opposed to the person’s idiolect? Would it be marginally acceptable in some other variety of English? Would it be acceptable in a major English dialect (if yes, which one)? I don’t know of any corpora for marginal English dialects, so I am at a loss.

share|improve this question
    
Could it be possible that the person actually said "It's of no use doing something"? Because in that case it is correct use of "of". –  masarah May 4 '11 at 16:21
    
Unfortunately, it was “no use of doing,” but yes, this version is the one that crossed my mind first. –  user3286 May 4 '11 at 16:24
    
I see. In that case I can't help you, other than to say that the Ugandan must be wrong in this case. –  masarah May 4 '11 at 16:27

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I am not a descriptive expert but I think there is a line to be drawn between literally describing what someone does and being able to identify how to communicate in English. In this case, the meaning is certainly clear and a Ugandan speaker claims that it is the correct way to speak something in English. Your question narrows this down to Ugandan English which is fair.

Whether we can answer this question revolves around two other questions:

  • Is the phrase incorrect in English at all?
  • How do we determine if Ugandan English has made an exception to a standard English feature?

In my opinion, the answer to the first question is that “It’s no use of doing something” is incorrect and should be avoided. The grounds for this seem more idiomatic than grammatical. I don't think there is something inherently wrong with the phrase; people just don't use it.

The second question is tougher and the following is the extent of my Google-fu and my personal process of arriving at an answer.


Ugandan English is bizarre and certainly deserves some room with regards to making exceptions. A few examples from Wikipedia (post-formatting) regarding shifted meanings:

"Pop", is used to replace words like bring and come. For example: Danny, pop that bottle here. Heno, pop to my house.

The verb to put on is often substituted for to dress, to be dressed, or to wear. One may hear remarks such as "That lady is rich, don't you see how she is putting on," and "The police are looking for a man putting on a red shirt."

And a good example of some major grammar changes:

Ugandans will frequently combine two sentences into one using the word and. For example, a barber will say "Sit down and I cut your hair," or a messenger might say "They told me to come and you give me the package."

Seeing these examples make me think choosing a different preposition is a relatively minor change and entirely plausible. Some unique behavior regarding prepositions was found via an anecdotal blog (with additional support):

‘to pick someone’ - meaning: to pick someone up. The first time someone told me that they’d pick me from town, I thought: ‘Pick me? Am I an apple?’ I was then told that there is no real time for all those unnecessary prepositions, because everybody understands ‘to pick someone’ just fine.

Actually searching for the phrase "no use of doing" got a few hits referencing Uganda (and a bunch more for India) but nothing I found talked about its acceptance. They just seemed like people talking and could have easily been mistakes.

What is interesting is that I did get a hit on Macmillan:

what’s the use? SPOKEN

used for saying that something is not likely to have a successful result, and so there is no point in doing it

What’s the use of doing something?

What’s the use of complaining?

This is slightly different than "There is no use of doing something" but close enough to again bring the phrase into the realm of "variant" instead of "incorrect."

In the style of Mythbusters, I feel it is safe to call this completely plausible. I was able to find uses of the phrase in English (including one dictionary) and the speaker's instance leads me to tilt toward the answer being yes. Without any better evidence against the phrase being accepted I advise treating the sentence as grammatically correct in Ugandan English.

Edit: The speaker has put the claim in some context. The relevant part:

I said he was right. [...] I can't be sure of anything, I hear it that way and I can't insist that it was right or wrong.

My advice remains unchanged but it certainly seems slightly less apt. I have an email out to the British Council Africa blog.


More research nodes worth picking at include an article in the Cambridge Journal archives I was unable to read and picking up the phone to call a handful of people looking for someone who teaches English in Uganda — an alternative to the phone could be IRC. I don't know anyone in the area. If I cared enough I could probably get a phone trail through the local churches via overseas missionaries.

share|improve this answer
    
"Pop" can be used in at least some of those ways in UK English too. –  Colin Fine May 5 '11 at 10:07
    
@Colin: US usage usually includes a different set of prepositions: "Pop on over to my house." "Pop in for a chat." Does UK drop the preposition as well? "Pop to my house." –  MrHen May 5 '11 at 13:12
1  
@MrHen: Yes, but perhaps more limited than in Uganda. We would use the phrases you have given, but "I'll just pop to his house" is normal, as is "Pop it in there" (i.e. "put it in there"). –  Colin Fine May 5 '11 at 14:56
    
"What's the use of" sounds right. "There's no use of" sounds unfamiliar. *North American English speaker. –  NateMPLS May 5 '11 at 17:42
    
@Colin: Ah, I see. Thank you. –  MrHen May 5 '11 at 18:11

My Ugandan dialects are a bit rusty; but is certainly incorrect in standard English, and I've never heard it in any English dialect so far. Proving that it is "ungrammatical" in any dialect would seem a daunting task...

share|improve this answer

I don't find any results on either COCA or BNC for "it's no use of", as expected, but there are a few on google, and not all are asking about the phrase. For example:

Whether it is used in Uganda or not I can't say, but there do seem to be some people somewhere who use it.

share|improve this answer

The Ugandan is me, and I did not insist. I said he was right. Sorry I couldn't read it all apart from the examples you've given like... "pop" which I never use at all. I can't be sure of anything, I hear it that way and I can't insist that it was right or wrong. I am so surprised that someone took it this far. I'm not a lexicographer to detect any minute grammatical error. Thanks.

Edit in response to comments: Maybe I did pick it up on the street unknowingly. I have taken time to read what they talked about Ugandan English in Wikipedia. I can call 10% of it "Ugandan slang" and 90% of it is not English at all. It's like another dialect, or words that were directly translated from indigenous languages spoken here in Uganda (that I never use) to be introduced in English especially when someone gets stuck while speaking. The majority of people that use such are those who have never gone to school, or those who have had little formal education. That version of English is not taught anywhere. I admire your spirit of descriptivism. Keep it up.

share|improve this answer
    
You agreed with me that it's not Standard International English, right, but only after I made use of Google Books Ngram Viewer, which only covers major English dialects such as American and British English. This “no use of v-ing” had to come from somewhere, you might have picked it up on the streets, and this is what I am interested in as a matter of fact. –  user3286 May 5 '11 at 8:47
    
Thanks for the update! @Vitaly: I did include a update in my answer pointing to this. I'll poke you if the blog ever emails me back. –  MrHen May 5 '11 at 13:18

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.