Schlagwort-Archive: vocabulary

Misused Words & Expressions in EU Publications – Entry #2 – „to control“

Our second entry in the series on misuse of English in European Union documents take a look at a word that, in Germany, almost all English students and teachers love to hate: CONTROL.

How often have we read (or even written!) sentences that sound like this:

„I controlled your report, and I found a few mistakes.“

„After controlling the meeting minutes, I send them to participants.“

And even: „She was controlled in the tram today, and didn’t have a ticket.“

To non-German speakers, these sentences sound very, very authoritarian. That’s because control is something that comes from power. If you control someone, you force (zwingen!) them to do something!

With that in mind, here’s Jeremy Gardner’s entry on the word „control“ :


Explanation: To control does not usually mean to audit, check or verify and a control is not normally a check or an inspection.

Its most common meaning is “to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; to direct”. Thus, if we say that “the [European] Commission controlled project X in the Member States”, we do not mean that the Commission audited it, but that the Commission ran it. In combination with a few other terms contained in this list, this misuse can end up sounding quite sinister (e.g. “the Commission’s contract agents were on a mission in the United Kingdom to control execution under Axis II’).

Used as a noun, we do not carry out or perform controls. Controls are more likely to be systems that are in place (passport controls, for example). Hence, we can say that the Court checked to see if the key controls were in place, but not that it carried out controls.

Furthermore, when talking about systems, the best term will often be safeguard. For example, „a number of safeguards are built into the system to ensure that funds are spent correctly“.

 Examples: „Administrative checks must be undertaken on all applications for support and payment claims, and cover all elements that are possible and appropriate to control by administrative means.“

„Apart from the annual review of the reference amount, customs authorities are not obliged to carry out controls after authorization.“

Alternatives: Audit, check, verify, inspect/inspection, safeguard.


Excercises: fill in the blank with the correct word: inspect, look, check, verify

  1. Did you ________ if the warning light is on?

  2. I always ________ the document for mistakes.

  3. After ________ the package for damage, she opened it.

  4. Please ________ whether or not you have activated your account.


Misused English Words and Expressions in EU Publications – Entry #1 – „actual“

I might be preaching to the choir (offene Türen einrennen) here, but have any of you ever read EU publications and been totally baffled by what you read?

Here’s an example of what I mean: „Evaluating such a unique scheme is a particular challenge for all actors involved. Evaluation modalities have gone through significant changes over recent years“

An easier way to say this could be: „Evaluating this unique scheme is challenging to all involved parties, especially as the evaluation procedure has changed significantly in recent years.“ Does it make more sense now?

Fortunately, there’s an invaluable resource out there, for free, in digital format. It’s (quite descriptively) called Misused English Words & Expressions in EU Publications  and is authored by Jeremy Gardner, who works for the EU Court of Auditors. His website and the 59-page-long .pdf glossary of the misused words and expressions are available at:

I’ll be sharing some of the most useful (for non-EU-employed German speakers) entries from Mr. Gardner’s document, as well as adding a few exercises to each entry for you to try out. Leave your completed exercises, as well as any other thoughts about the Misused Words list in the comments! I’ll get back to you ASAP!



Here we go with:

1) Actual


“Actual” is sometimes used to refer to something that is happening now. However, in English it means “real” or “existing”. Sometimes, native speakers use the word informally to express surprise or give new (or more truthful) information, much like German speakers would use tatsächlich or eigentlich.

Authentic Example:

„This appropriation is intended to cover basic salaries of the staff, as listed in the attached table, based on the actual regulations and on the probable adjustments“. =aktuell

Alternatives: Current, present.

Further Examples of Correct Usage:  

„Dr. Herrmann isn’t in the office today. She’s actually in Cottbus, meeting with some project leaders.“ = tatsächlich

„Could you stop doing that and focus on your actual work instead?“ =eigentlich


Exercises: fill in the blank with the correct word – actual(ly), current(ly), present(ly)

  1. a) We’re all ___________ in the office. Nobody is on vacation.
  2. b) I don’t think that’s the ___________ problem. Henry just didn’t want to go into it.
  3. c) I don’t need to see the figures from the first quarter; I need the ___________ quarterly figures!
  4. d) Are you ___________ going to go to the Halloween party dressed as Donald Trump? You’re absolutely crazy!