SAMPLE 1: “She noted that she was preparing the evening meal when suddenly the sound of sporadic gunshots rented the air around their village, a development which made everyone, men, women, young and old to scamper everywhere for safety”(Fulani Herdsmen Made us Widows—Agatu Women, The Sun, Sunday, March 27, 2016)
I draw your attention to the curious form, rented, which occurs in the following context: “sporadic gunshotsrented the air.” The various forms of this word together with other forms with which they are often confused have been discussed several times on this page. Since the confusion evidently lingers, it is expedient for us to look at the forms again with a view to securing better understanding on the part of our readers. Repetition and reiteration are important for the purpose of making points clearer and enabling them to be properly digested. In some places, we will feel free to adopt and adapt some of the words we have used previously.
The verb from which the formrented is supposed to derive is rend, meaning to break through violently, to tear apart, to make a loud, deafening noise. The form rented has been presented by the reporter as the past form rend.
However, there can be no mistake about the fact that the writer’s head is racked by confusion regarding the forms rend, rent and rented. There is the verb rent, meaning to take and use for some time, say an apartment, a facility, a vehicle, etc, for a fee. The forms of that verb are: rent, rents, renting and rented. Usage examples: 1) She rents a car every week for that purpose. 2) He has been renting out his father’s houses for the past five years. 3) The facility was rented for five hundred thousand naira. 4) I have not rented any house since I secured this job; the company has been providing accommodation. 5) The university has been renting facilities from the company.
The noun form of that verb remains rent: 1) She always takes a loan to pay her rent. 2) When is your rent due? 3) Rents have gone up astronomically since the increase in the prices of petroleum products. 4) Is the house for rent? 5) We pay an annual rent of one million naira.
We need, however, to distinguish the various forms of the verb rent from the various forms of the verb rend. The verb rend has the following forms: rend, rends, rent, rending. As we have noted, this verb means to tear violently apart, break into pieces with violence, to utter loud, deafening noise. Usage examples: 1) Every night, the noise of carousing men rends the air. 2) When the president arrived, shouts of ‘APC’ rent the air. 3) A hefty branch of the huge tree was rent by the storm. 4) Heart-rending stories of death and destruction were told by the hapless returnees. 5) Her loving and innocent heart was rent by a bitter disappointment. 6) It was the tradition of the ancient Hebrews to rend their clothes as a sign of penitence. 7) The rocky hill was rentby an earthquake. 8) It was a terrible crash in which the vehicle was rent into two.
It is important to note that the past tense of rend is not rented but rent; the past participle is not rented but rent.
It is also important to note the difference between rend and render. The following sentences are defective: 1) We are *rending an account before the end of the financial year. 2) She narrated a soul-*rendering story of how her husband and children were brutally murdered. 3) He collapsed while he was *rending a song. 4) That sad development *rendered her heart. 5) Increased technology seems to be *rending many workers redundant.
Those sentences are re-presented as follows with the appropriate word replacing the wrong one in each case: 1a) We are rendering an account before the end of the year. 2a) She narrated a soul-rending story of how her husband and children were brutally murdered. 3a) He collapsed while he was rendering a song. 4a) That sad development rent her heart. 5a) Increased technology seems to be rendering many workers redundant.
At any rate, the form rent should replace rented (as the past tense of rend) in the context under review.
Sample 2: “Talks about how university teachers use their overbearing advantage over their students to intimidate and seduce female students is widespread…The proposed legislation, whose sponsors span across all geo-political zones of the country, also stipulates as offences solicitation of sex or sexual advances by lecturers which result to intimidation, hostile or offensive environment for students…”(Senate Takes on Randy Lecturers, TheNation, Sunday 8 May, 2016)
Let’s note the singular verb-form (is) which occurs in the following context: “Talks about how university teachers use their overbearing advantage over their students to intimidate and seduce female students is widespread.” It is clear, no doubt, that the verb (is) immediately preceding the adjective widespread is in its singular form. It is our duty now to identify the relevant noun/noun phrase whose singular status must have influenced the reporter’s choice of the singular form of the verb.
I think the appropriate place to start is to ask ourselves: What is the subject of the sentence? It should be obvious that the subject of the sentence is the noun talks. The next question is: What is the status of that noun—singular or plural? I believe anyone with elementary education should be able to identify talks as a plural noun. I do suspect the confusion resulting in the choice of a singular verb-form in the place of a plural verb arises because of the long verbal distance between the subject and the verb slot. At any rate, given the plural nature of the subject-noun, talks, the verb is hereby changed to its plural form: are.
Let’s note the expression span acrosswhich occurs in the following context: “the proposed legislation whose sponsors span across all geo-political zones of the country.” Please note that the preposition across following the verb span directly does not normally collocate with that verb. I have this gut feeling that the usage of the verb span has been confused with that of spreador cut. Of course both the verb spreadand cut can take the particle across but span cannot.
Now read the following sentences: 1) The deadly activities of the Boko Haram insurgents have spanned four years now. 2) She had a brilliant career that spanned almost thirty years. 3) The Old Oyo Empire spanned almost the entire geographical area now known as Western Region of Nigeria. 4) The marine scientist claims that the pollution spans up to one hundred nautical miles. 5) The pipelines conveying fuel to various parts of the countryspan over one thousand kilometres. 6) The desert, we are told, spans more than five thousand square miles. 7) The proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge will span thirty kilometres. 8) The Prophet Elisha’s ministry was said to have spanned fifty years. 9) Wole Soyinka is unique as a writer in that his writings span all the genres of literature. 10) His career as a civil servantspanned the tenures of five Heads of State.
Please note that in each of those sentences, the preposition across has not been allowed to collocate with span.
The discussion of the excerpt continues next week by God’s grace.