I just appeared for GATE 2013. In its aptitude section, I was totally confused. The question was to identify the grammatically incorrect sentence. The sentences were:

  1. He is of Asian origin.
  2. They belonged to Africa.
  3. She is an European.
  4. They migrated from India to Australia.

According to me (3) and (4) are correct but I am confused whether 1st is incorrect or 2nd. Please clarify if we can use "belonged to" in this regard (belong to a country). Moreover, the first sentence is even more doubtful, as we generally say

He is Asian.

It already means that his origin is Asia.

So please, tell me which is the incorrect sentence and why?

  • Should appear on ELL instead, if eligible. – Kris Feb 10 '13 at 11:32
  • @Kris Failed to get you..what do you mean by "ELL"? – Bhushan Firake Feb 10 '13 at 11:35
  • Good question; good that you asked. Visit English Language Learners Q&A at ell.stackexchange.com -- you will find it useful. Try and contribute actively as well. – Kris Feb 10 '13 at 11:37
  • @Kris Thanks for the link...always want to learn and contribute.. – Bhushan Firake Feb 10 '13 at 11:39
  • @BhushanFirake GATE question? Man! I marked B as well!! Infact, everyone I know marked B. No doubt we would have got that since most of pronounce it as if we are having 'u' at the start (e silent). – Akshat Goel Feb 10 '13 at 15:08

The only sentence in the least bit doubtful is the third. One would normally say and write she is a European. Although European begins with a vowel, it is pronounced yu̇r-ə-ˈpē-ən or yu̇r-ə-ˈpēn, with an initial y- sound, so it would be a rather than an. I'm not sure this counts as a grammatical error, though.

The other sentences are perfectly fine, although for sentence 2, one can only belong to Africa in a poetic sense, as Africa is not an entity capable of legally owing anything.

  • oh my god..what a silly mistake it iss...!! – Bhushan Firake Feb 10 '13 at 10:21

3 is incorrect. Since "European" starts with a consonant sound, it should be "a European".

  • But is that really a grammar error? My choice would have been 2, which (as it is written) means Africa owns them. Oh well. – Mr Lister Feb 10 '13 at 14:42
  1. He is of Asian origin. This is correct because it could be referring to someone who is of Asian origin but doesn't live in Asia, or wasn't born in Asian.

    1. They belonged to Africa. Depending on the context this should be "they belong in Africa". I can't think of a correct sentence that uses "belonged to Africa".

    2. She is an European. Although "AN" is correct, most people would say "A European" because "An European" just sounds wrong.

    3. They migrated from India to Australia. Emigrated would be the more usual word to use.

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