Of life, live and leave

SAMPLE 1: “Tiwa was one of those dedicated girls at Berkeley,” reveals another source. “She put aside distractions and concentrated on her dreams. All she did was leave and breathe music.”(Tiwa Savage Undressed…The Sunday Sun, May 8, 2016)

I draw readers’ attention to the verb leave which occurs in the following context: “All she did was leave and breathe music.” That the word leave occurs together with breathe tells us immediately that the former is a wrongly selected lexeme. To breathe is to live and to live is to breathe. In other words I see no logical connection between the verb breathe and the verb leave. The appropriate verb is live.

Like many other Nigerian users of English, the reporter has a problem accurately distinguishing between the vowels that make the difference between these verbs: live and leave. The one is a short vowel; the other is a long one.

Let’s note, however, that in a sense the choice of the lexeme leave does not belong to the reporter. The choice was made by a ‘source’. Furthermore, the source did not commit his words to writing:He made verbal emissions which the reporter represented graphically, in writing. One of the words so represented is leave.

Even if the ‘source’ had mispronounced the verb live, presenting it as leave, the reporter is supposed to know better and represent it properly (as live) in writing.

To correct this error, we need to have a picture of all the words and forms that are likely to confuse users in a second language context like ours. Now read the following sentences:

1) We now live in a rapidly changing world. 2) Those who live in northern Canada will tell you that the region can be extremely cold. 3) Some people live under the illusion that they will live forever. 4)Is it true that some human beings live in the forest even in the 21st century? 5) Mosquitoes breed and live in unhygeinic conditions. 6) Fishes live in water; animals live in the forest. 7) We do not live to eat; we eat to live. 8) Those who live in poverty are no less human than those who live in affluence. 9) Good Christians live by the principles of Christ. 10) People who live in the desert are used to intense heat all the year round.

The form live as used in those sentences is the basic, everyday form of the verb. The everyday tense also uses the form lives when the third person singular number is the subject. Read the following sentences: 1) The Nigerian president lives in Abuja. 2) The traditional ruler lives in luxury. 3) A big snake lives in that cave. 4)She lives with her children in the UK. 5) The young boy lives by begging. 6) She lives with her family on the outskirts of the town. 7) The man lives with HIV. 8) He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. 8) The notorious politician who stole a lot of public funds now lives in luxury somewhere in Europe. 9) The preacher who lives by what he preaches is likely to be respected by his followers. 10) Christ died, was buried, rose from the dead and lives forever.

The continuous or progressive form is living: 1) We are all living for God. 2) Nobody should forget that we are living in the 21st century. 3) The NGO is to assist those who are living in extreme conditions. 4) The boy and the girl are already living together as husband and wife. 5) The fertilizers are meant for farmers who are actually living on their farms. 6) People who are living with HIV should not be stigmatized. 6) Africans are living under the illusion that they will easily catch up with the developed world in the area of technology. 7) People who are living on politics can never do any other job. 8) She was already living with another man when her husband attempted to reconcile with her.

Interestingly, the form living is also used as an adjective. The following sentences illustrate that usage: 1) All living things, including human beings, were created by God. 2) A musician, she is one of the living legends of our time. 3) Bacteria are living organisms that cannot be seen with our naked eyes. 4) There are people whose living conditions are horrible. 5) These healthy children are aliving proof that deadly diseases have virtually disappeared from Africa.

The past tense and the past participle forms of the verb coincide in lived: 1) I have lived all my life in Lagos. 2) The early man lived centuries ago. 3) The family once lived in the US. 4) For years, they lived in extreme poverty. 5) I lived with my grandmother for about ten years. 6) The young man had lived a reckless life in Lagos.

There is another adjective/adverb form which is identical at the level of spelling to the basic form of the verb—live. This is just accidental and the usage or context will indicate the difference. Besides, the two words are pronounced differently. Please read the following sentences: 1) Please be careful; that live wire is too close to the fridge. 2) A huge stock of live ammunition was seized by the police. 3) There are many live snakes in the zoo. 4) Football fans could listen to live commentary on the historic match at 4pm tomorrow. 5) The activities of the president in the UK will be broadcast live.

Now we come to the word life, the noun form of the verb live. Please read the following sentences: 1) No life can survive under that severe temperature. 2) The Bible says the life of the flesh is in the blood. 3) Life is too precious to be handled with levity. 4) The foetus has its own life. 5)There is indeed life after death. 6) Theologians recognize a distinction between biological life and spiritual life. 7) Nobody has a right to take another person’s life. 8) It is the duty of every responsible government to protect life and property. 9) Life, they say, begins at forty.

The plural form of life is lives, a form that is similar to the third person singular form of the verb considered earlier but pronounced differently. Let’s read the following sentences: 1) Thousands of lives were lost during the civil war. 2) Lives of citizens were in danger. 3) The children’s lives are precious to us.

Next we illustrate the usage of the verb leave, meaning to move from one place to another. Please read the following sentences: 1) Buhari will leave Abuja for Israel next week. 2) Buhari is leaving Abuja for Israel next week. 3) Buhari leaves Abuja for Israel next week. 4) Buhari left Abuja for Cairo last week.

As can be seen, the past tense of leave is left. The following sentences offer us the opportunity to compare some of the forms we have learnt so far: 1) He is leaving Ibadan  tomorrow. 2) He will be living in Ibadan as from tomorrow. 3) Jonathan leaves Abuja tomorrow. 4) Jonathan lives in Abuja. 5)Jonathan will leave Abuja tomorrow. 6) Jonathan will live in Abuja as from tomorrow. 7) Jonathan left Lagos for Abuja. 8) Jonathan lived in Lagos.

Now leaf/leaves: 1) One green leaf fell from a mighty tree. 2) Give me one cheque leaf. 3) The trees shed their leaves during dry season. 4) He tore two leaves from the book. 5) Green leaves are a sign of a healthy tree. 6) Vital food supplements are obtained from leaves and roots. 7) The leaves of the tree provide a shade for travellers.

Those forms have to do with trees or plants. The singular form is leaf and the plural form is leaves.By extension, these forms are used for parts of books. Sentences (2) and (4) illustrate this fact.