English photo mistakes

Taking pictures has turned from an expensive hobby to something that people do on an every-day basis, not just on holidays or special occasions. Let us look at some typical language mistakes that occur in this context.

1. Non-native speakers often use the phrase “to make a photo”, whereas the correct expression is “to take a photo“. (In German, you say “ein Foto machen“.) Note that instead of photo, native speakers often use picture.

2. Usually, you don’t take a photo or picture from someone or something, but of someone or something. For example, if you ask someone to photograph you, you should not say

Can you take a picture from me?

because you would be asking that person to take a picture that you already have (the German translation of “to take something from someone” is “jemandem etwas wegnehmen“). Instead, use the phrase

Can you take a picture of me?


Can you take my picture?

A more polite way of saying that is of course

Would you mind taking my picture?

3. A professional who takes photos is not a photograph (which has the same meaning as the short form photo), but a photographer. (For German native speakers, the origin of this false friend is the word Photograph, or in the new German spelling, Fotograf.) A similar example is the word pair murder and murderer (German: Mord, Mörder).

4. In the latest reform of the German language in 1996, the spelling of Photo has been changed to Foto. While some people still use the old spelling, I have noticed that others (including me) find it hard not to accidentally make the same spelling change in English. While in German, Photo is now Foto, in English photo remains photo



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