How to Use ‘Beware’ vs ‘Be Aware’

How to Use ‘Beware’ vs ‘Be Aware’

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#thegrammarhelpline today explores the right way to use ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’. It is a common grammar error among bilinguals, Malaysians included. It is easy to mistakenly use ‘beware’ for ‘be aware’ and vice versa. In today’s post, we will find out how to use ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ correctly, and as always, Bahasa Melayu translations available for clarity in understanding the difference between the two.

Before we delve into how to use ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ correctly, let’s first understand why this is a common grammar error among Malaysia. Both ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ call for caution. However, do note the slight nuance between the two. One could mean to cause alarm, and the other to cause disarm.

Common Errors Revolving ‘Beware’ and ‘Be aware’

Have you heard people saying, “Beware of social distancing!”
Or, “Beware in class.”
Perhaps, “Beware of social sensitivity.”

All three examples above are common mistakes by non-native English speakers when using beware. In all three examples above, ‘be aware’ should be used in place of ‘beware’. That is because the meaning of ‘beware’ is ‘be alert to dangers‘. Consider the examples when the meaning of ‘beware’ is applied:

Be alert to the dangers of social distancing

This sentence seized making sense once one is aware of the right way to use ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’. Logically, there is no danger in social distancing. In fact, it is standard practice since the world has been under the COVID-19 pandemic. (To see the difference between the use of ‘has been’ and ‘had been’ you may check out the post here.)

The correct sentence shall be:
Be aware of social distancing.

Be alert to the dangers in class.

The above sentence intends as an advice for a child to pay attention to the teacher in class (in a typical Asian mom way, nonetheless). Clearly, the advice is for the child to ‘be aware’ of what is happening in the class. The incorrect use of ‘beware’ here hints of warning as if the child should be aware of some danger that is waiting for him in class. Which can be assumed would not have come from a strict but well-meaning mother.

The correct sentence shall be:
Be aware in class

Be alert to the dangers of social sensitivity.

This sentence is supposed to show that all should be informed of social sensitivity. If there was anything one should beware of in that subject, it is the effects of social sensitivity. Using the correct term in such a sentence portrays professionalism. Plus, awareness of social sensitivity enhances likability.

The correct sentence shall be:
Be aware of social sensitivity.

Suffice to say, the wrong use of ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ distort the meaning of a sentence!

See the difference between ‘Beware’ and ‘Be aware’ from these Bahasa Melayu translations!

Now we will look into sentences using ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ including their Bahasa Melayu translations. For ease of understanding, sentences will be paired (‘beware’ and ‘be aware’). The Bahasa Melayu translations will show the huge difference in meaning between the use of both words.

Beware of online scams. VS Be aware of online scams.

While it is easy to assume that these sentences carry the same meaning, these sentences convey different intents. Check out their translations in Bahasa Melayu below:

Beware of online scams.
Berhati-hati dengan sindiket penipuan atas talian.

The sentence above cautions against one of the dangers of the Internet, specifically scams. The Bahasa Melayu translation also carries warning undertones.

Be aware of online scams.
Ambil maklum mengenai sindiket penipuan atas talian.

The sentence above asks one to be in-the-know of online scams. This could be due to the fact that online scams evolve and prey on those who are unaware of the latest online scam technique. While the Bahasa Melayu translation shows that ‘be aware’ carries the meaning of ‘ambil maklum’.

Beware of the dogs. VS Be aware of your surrounding.

The purpose of this example is to show the difference between ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ in terms of the nuance of caution they carry. These examples will show why confusion happens among Malaysians between the use of ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’. And that the nuance in meaning can be seen from the explanation of the Bahasa Melayu translations as per below:

Beware of the dogs.
Berhati-hati dengan anjing.

The sentence above cautions against the dangers of dogs and serves as a warning.

Be aware of your surrounding.
Berwaspada dengan persekitaran anda.

The sentence above cautions against the ignorance of one’s surrounding and serves as a reminder.

Conclusion

From the examples above we can see why ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ are used interchangeably by Malaysians. As both ‘beware’ and ‘be aware’ exercise caution, it is easy to mistake the two for having the same meaning. Being aware of the difference between the two words is the key to getting it right.

The key to getting ‘beware’ vs ‘be aware’ is to ask yourself this question: Is this warning going to ALARM someone of risks or REMIND someone of risk?

If the warning serves as an alarm, use ‘beware’. On the other hand, if the warning serves as a reminder, use ‘be aware’.

Was this explanation helpful for you? Remember, the ideas in your head are only as good when conveyed effectively for the world to benefit. For more tips on effective communication using precise English grammar, subscribe to my weekly email here.

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