Of overtures and concord (II)

WE started studying an error-ridden excerpt last week, noting that it was plagued by all kinds of grammatical, stylistic and semantic distortions. We continue the analysis today and the excerpt is re-presented as sample 1.

Sample 1: “Shortly after the death of her mother, arising from complications of advanced pregnancy, her father started making nocturnal overtures at her…Mojisola who volunteered her story, having overheard this reporter asking questions on why cases of incest is suddenly on the rise, told the not too palatable story of how the soldier cousin used candle and all sorts of objects on her sister and serially raped her…Rather, she would ascribe the present situation to increased reporting of such incidences…sexual violence and paedophilia is and will remain bizarre…Of the 155 cases, analysis showed that the most sexual offences, 69% was perpetuated against children between 0—10 years…the findings here also showed a frightening perpetuation against the very young and vulnerable…Having being in the forefront of the battle against sexual violence for well over half a decade, MrsEffa-Chukwuma confessed to having received and attended to some really bizarre cases…Sexual violence is perpetuated by people victims know, love and trust…cases of mothers sexually abusing their children is a rare occurrence…”(Incest Epidemic Reloaded, The Nation, Sunday, April 23, 2017)

One of the problems we encountered in this excerpt last week had to do with concord: cases of mismatch between the forms of the relevant noun phrases and the forms of the verbs. There are at least two more such cases in the excerpt.

Take this example in which the singular verb-form, was, appears: “the most sexual offences, 69%, was perpetuated (perpetrated) against children.” How can we explain the reporter’s choice of the singular verb-form, was? That choice must have been inspired by the word 69% which appears to be a singular word but which contextually has a plural import. The noun which is actually important for the purpose of concord is offences. That is the noun heading the phrase whose form is logically connected to the verb-slot. Even a pupil in an elementary class should be able to tell us that that noun/noun phrase is plural: “the most sexual offences.” The plurality of that noun phrase and the need to present the verb in its plural form are not in any way affected by the fact that the word 69% comes between the noun phrase and the verb-slot. At any rate, the verb should be changed to its plural form: were.

Next, we note the singular verb-form (is) which occurs in the following context: “most of the NGOs…are almost unanimous that cases of mothers sexually abusing their children is a rare occurrence.” It is difficult to explain the reporter’s choice of a singular verb-form (is) without one being tempted to say something uncomplimentary about his competence in the use of language, for there is nothing in the context under consideration that can suggest even remotely the choice of a singular verb- form. The important noun for the purpose of concord is cases, a word that is clearly plural. In view of that, the verb should be changed to its plural form: are.

Now we note the grammatical form, having being, which occurs in the following context: “Having being in the fore-front of the battle against sexual violence for well over half a decade.” It is important to note that the form being is following the form having directly. To appreciate the grammatical point at issue here, perhaps it is best to immediately contrast this form with been, a form with which the former is often confused. But, as we shall demonstrate presently, the confusion is uncalled for in view of the fact that there are clear-cut grammatical principles guiding their respective appearances in grammatical contexts.

At any rate, it is precisely because the form being has been assigned to a grammatical slot belonging to been that we have needed to draw attention to the structure. First we must note that the form being is immediately preceded by the word have (or having) in the context under examination.  Second, we must note that the form, whose status and grammatical appropriateness are being evaluated, is of the structure: be plus ing. The point that must not be missed here is the –ing feature of the word.

We must say here that the have – form and the –ing form do not occur together as they do in this structure. The have – forms occur with been and the be – forms occur with being. The have – plus – been structure occurs in the context of passive sentences as the following examples illustrate: (1) The lawyer has breached the procedure (active) = The procedure has been breached by the lawyer (passive). (2) The legislators have approved the budget (active) = The budget has been approved by the legislators (passive). (3) The politician has denied all the allegations (active) = All the allegations have been denied by the politician (passive). (4) The women leader has encouraged girls to go to school (active) = Girls have been encouraged to go to school by the women leader (passive). (5) The boys have washed the cars (active) = The cars have been washed by the boys (passive).

Note that in the passive version of each pair of the sentences above, the word have or has (or had) is a close companion of been. Now, this is an invariable rule: Do not use been unless it is preceded (as it is in the illustrative sentences) somewhere by have or has or had.

This rule does not change even when the structures are not passive as the following sentences illustrate: (1) Youhave been a wonderful host. (2) It has not been easy. (3) It has been a long time. (4) We have been friends for a long time. (5) It has been an unpleasant experience.

The form being, on the other hand, is regularly and consistently preceded by a relevant be – form. For the avoidance of doubt, be – forms are: is, am, are, were, was. This form – being – is found mostly in the context of passive constructions:  (1) The lawyer is breaching the procedure (active) = The procedure isbeing breached by the lawyer (passive). (2) The politicians are denying all the allegations (active) = All the allegations are being denied by the politicians (passive). (3) Nigeria is importing petroleum products (active) = Petroleum products are being imported by Nigeria (passive). (4) The women leader is encouraging girls to go to school (active) = Girls are being encouraged to go to school by the women leader (passive). (5) The boys are washing the cars (active) = The cars are being washed by the boys (passive).

Please note that in the passive version of each pair of the sentences above, the form being is preceded by a relevant form of be. This rule is invariable, and does not change even when the structures involved are not passive: (1) Youare being unnecessarily difficult. (2) The girl is just being petty. (3) You’re being funny.

From the discussion and illustrations so far, we know that the following structures are defective: *is been; *are been; *were been; *was been; *am been. The correct forms are: is being; are being; were being; was being; am being.

Similarly, the following forms are defective: *has being; *have being (or *having being);                     *had being. The correct forms are: has been; have been;had beenand having been.

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