Of cost and cause II

Before we could finish the analysis of the excerpt being considered last week we had run out of space. Today, that excerpt is presented as sample 1.

Sample 1: “The president, in his remark, said over six decades, oil exploration in the region had caused the rural communities their sources of livelihood in the face of acute degradation of their land and water among other damaged biodiversity in the region…It smirks of attempts to gain recognition and position individuals for possible negotiations with the FG…The preferential treatment got by Tompolo, Atake, Boyloaf, Asari and other ‘Generals’ at the detriment of ‘Commanders’ and foot soldiers have been a cause of friction…They are hiding under a platform of underdevelopment to perpetuate these evils…He said there are 45 communities around the Benin River without portable drinking water…Gory tales of inhuman treatment and human rights abuses allegedly carried out by the military from the creeks is further alienating the Federal Government and the military in the region…”(Ogoni Clean up, the Struggle and the UNEP Report, The Nation, Sunday June 5, 2016) Last week, we illustrated the usage of the word cause as a way of clearing the confusion created by the reporter in his use of the word cost. We saw that the reporter had selected the word cause where he needed to have used cost.

Next, we illustrate the usage of the word cost. Please read the following sentences: 1) I would not want you to do anything that may cost you your job. 2) What the crisis has cost the two communities cannot be quantified. 3) About half a century on, the Nigerian nation is still computing how much the civil warcost it. 4) How much does that car cost? 5) The cost of living is intolerably high in that country. 6) The cost of the machinery must be calculated in dollars and not in naira. 7) Should the government bear in its totality the cost of educating every citizen? 8) The late General Murtala Mohammed’s attempt to rid the country of corruption cost him his own life. 9) There must be radical reforms in this country, whatever those reforms may cost us. 10) That single decision to reduce the workers’ salaries cost him his reputation as a respectable politician.

Next, we pay attention to the word smirk which occurs in the following context: “It smirks of attempts to gain recognition…” When a person smirks, he smiles contemptuously or self-satisfactorily. It can also be used as a noun.

That word, smirk, must have been confused with smack. The expression of interest is actually smack of. If you say something smacks of another thing, you mean it suggests it; it gives an impression of it; it gives a feeling of it.

The following sentences illustrate its usage: 1) The man’s suggestion smacks of jealousy. 2) The whole arrangement smacks of conspiracy. 3) The way the man and the woman interacted smacked of indecency. 4) The white man’s closing remarks smacked of racial prejudice. 5) The Governor’s address to the labour leaders smacked of selfishness and insensitivity. 6) This secretive way of handling things smacks of dishonesty.

Now we consider the word perpetuate which occurs in the following context: “They are hiding under a platform of underdevelopment to perpetuate these evils.”

It should be obvious to the enlightened readers that the word perpetuate has been used in confusion with perpetrate. The confusion must have arisen from poor spelling and pronunciation abilities.

The word perpetrates usually collocates with something bad or criminal. Please read the following sentences: 1) Three key officials of the ministry have been arrested for perpetrating a large-scale fraud. 2) The violence was said to have been perpetrated by people who are no more in the service of the establishment. 3) Undercover policemen are out to fish out those who have perpetrated one crime or the other. 4) The soldiers who perpetrated mutiny have been arrested, court-martialled, convicted and jailed. 5) Women should not give those men with warped minds the opportunity to perpetrate rape. 6) If those who perpetrate crime regularly escape sanction, then others would be encouraged to do same.

To perpetuate something is to make it endure, make it to be in existence for a long time, make it perpetual. Please read the following sentences: 1) The Bible is the chief documents perpetuating Jewish and Christian values. 2) One of the functions of the family is to perpetuate love. 3) We should find a means of perpetuating the positive aspects of our culture and discarding the negative ones. 4) The media have a duty not to perpetuate the divisive features of our national life. 5) Nature has a way of perpetuating valuable qualities and destroying less desirable ones. 6) Religions are known to perpetuate values regarded as dear to the Supreme Being.

Finally for today, we consider the grammatical status of the word have as it occurs in the following context: “The preferential treatment got by Tompolo, Atake, Boyloaf, Asari and other ‘Generals’ at the detriment of ‘Commanders’ and foot soldiers have been a cause of friction.” Many Nigerian users of English do not know the difference between the forms have and has.

Readers should please note that the subject of the verb presented as have is treatment, a singular noun. There are two alternative ways of viewing the error committed by the reporter: Either he does not know that the form have is plural (as against the singular has) or he mistakes the contiguous plural noun (soldiers) for the element that should determine concord. Actually, the form required in the context in which the form have occurs is has.

This error offers us an opportunity to revise our rules of concord which we revisited recently.

What is the difference between have and has?

Consider the following sentences: 1) I go to school every day. 2) We go to school every day. 3) They go to school every day. 4) You go to school every day. 5) He/Shegoes to school every day.

In each of those five sentences, the verb to go is in its present simple form. There is a correlation between the form of the subject and the form of the verb. In the first sentence, the subject is in its first person singular form. The assumption here is that there is a speaker who uses the pronoun I. The speaker is regarded as the first person. Since the speaker is only one person, the pronoun I is said to be a singular one. A first person singular pronoun I takes the form go when the tense is present simple.

The subject in sentence (2) is a first person plural pronoun, we. Since it is assumed that two or more persons are speaking, we say that the pronoun is in the plural form. As it is with the pronoun I, the verb-form that goes with this pronoun is go when the verb is in its everyday form.





In sentence (3), the pronoun they, which is the subject, is in the plural form. Besides, it is the third person form. What do we mean by the third person? A first person—say I—speaks to a person directly about another person. That other person is a third person. In our case, the third person is plural—they. The verb-form that goes with the third person plural subject isgo.

The subject of sentence (4) is you, a word that can either be singular or plural. In English, it is only the context that shows whether the pronoun you is intended as singular or plural as the following sentences illustrate: (6)(a) You are a fool. (6)(b) You are fools. In those two sentences, it is the complement that indicates the number. In (a), youis singular; in (b), it is plural.

Now we come back to sentence (4). Whenever the pronoun you occurs, whether as singular or plural, the verb-form it takes is go. Youis a second person. A first person–I—speaks to a second person—you—about a third person.

Sentence (5) hashe (or she) as its subject. This form is a singular one and it is a third person. A first person—I—speaks to a second person—you—about a third person—he. The third person singular number– represented as he—invariably takes the verb-form goes. Of all the persons and numbers we have considered so far, it is only the third person singular number—he—that takes the verb-form that ends in s or es as the case may be. All other persons and numbers take the verb go—without the s or es. This distinction is very crucial and a failure to understand it has resulted in many users writing ungrammatical sentences. The distinction is a very clear one and you should make effort to grasp this elementary detail before you go on.

The other point we need to make is that the verb go has been used only as an illustration to avoid confusion. Any other verb in English behaves in exactly the same way as go, relative to the persons and numbers discussed so far.

The following sentences illustrate the point: 7) Hespeaks good English. 8) He writes a lot. 9) Sheloves the man. 10) He deceives most people. 11) It wags its tail. 12) He drives dangerously. 13) She possesses a balanced mind. 14) She sings beautifully. 15) She works round the clock. 16) It surprises me—this sudden change of mind. 17) Hecomes from a wealthy family.

Unlike the third person singular number (he, she, it), all other persons and numbers take the form of the verb without the s or es: 18) They speak good English. 19) We love each other. 20) Youwrite a lot. 21) I work round the clock. 22) They possess balanced minds. 23) You drive dangerously. 24) We sing beautifully. 25) Theysurprise us. 26) You come from a wealthy family. 27) They deceive their friends. 28) They wag their tails.

Before we make the next point about the subjects of these constructions and their relationship to their verbs, we want to introduce another verb-form, have. For the purpose of our discussion, we recognize three forms of the verb have. These are: have, has, and had. For the moment, we are interested in the distinction between have and has: 29) I have some books. 30) We have some books. 31) They have some books. 32) You have some books. 33) He has some books.

From sentences (29)-(33), we can see that all the persons and numbers except the third person singular number (he) take have. The third person singular takes has. It is now obvious that the form goes and similar forms such as: speaks, reads, writes, etcare related in concord to the third person singular subjects. Notice that in sentences (29)-(33), the verb-forms have and has have been used as main verbs and not as auxiliaries. When they are used as auxiliaries in perfect tenses, they behave in exactly the same way in relation to the persons and numbers of the subjects.

Consider the following sentences: 34) I have bought some books. 35) We have bought some books. 36) They have bought some books. 37) Youhave bought some books. 38) He has bought some books.

Again, notice that has is used only in sentence (38) in which the subject is a third person singular pronoun. It is also important to note that the distinction we have made between have and has disappears in the past form. The past form of both have and has is had. Similarly, the distinction between speak and speaks, write and writes, sing and sings, etc disappears in the past form.

For example, the past form of both go and goes is went; of both write and writes is wrote; of both sing and sings is sang.

Compare the following sentences: 39 (a) They had bought some books. (b) He had bought some books. 40 (a) We sang beautifully. (b) She sang beautifully. 41 (a) I worked round the clock. (b) He worked round the clock. 42 (a) You had some books. (b) She had some books.

The pairs of sentences in (39)-(42) demonstrate that the distinctions we have pointed out between the verb forms that go with the third person singular subjects and all others do not apply in the past form. The major point we have noted is the distinction between such forms as have and has; go and goes; write and writes; speak and speaks; work and works. Can you relate those verb-forms to their corresponding subject-forms?

Next, we draw attention to the fact that the pronouns we have used as illustrations can be replaced by nouns or noun phrases: 43) Olu goes to school every day. 44) Olu and Ayo go to school every day. 5) My friend and I go to school every day.

Sentence (43) has a singular subject (Olu) and therefore attracts the form of the verb with es. The word Olu can be replaced with the pronoun he—which we have described as the third person singular number. Each of the other two sentences has a plural subject and therefore takes the form of the verb without es.

We can use the verb have with each of the subjects in those three sentences: 46) Olu has a book. 47) Olu and Ayo have two books. 48) Myfriend and I have two books.