Sometimes intolerant!

SAMPLE 1: “Senator Sani while reacting yesterday to El-Rufai’s letter, said the governor who accused him sometimes ago of being disloyal to APC for speaking out his mind had done the worst than he did, adding that if his own utterance was blunt, El-Rufai’s was dubious…The difference is that the President is tolerant to criticism and alternative views.” (El-Rufai’s Letter to Buhari Dubious—ShehuSani, theSunday Sun, March 19, 2017)

Let’s note the expression tolerant to which occurs in the following structure: “the president is tolerant to criticism and alternative views.” We are particularly interested in the particle to following the adjective tolerant directly. The choice of that particle is inappropriate. People are said to be tolerant or intolerant of adverse comments. In other words, the appropriate particle is of. Now read the following sentences: 1) Military governments are generally intolerant of opposition. 2) Some parents are intolerant of suggestions from their children. 3) The problem with our religious leaders is that they are intolerant of other religious views. 4) A no-nonsense man in his youth, my father is becoming increasingly tolerant of his children’s views. 5) It is a good character trait to be tolerant of other people’s opinions. 6) Trulysound scholars can never be intolerant of other people’s attitude to life.

Next, we note the expression“had done the worst than he did.” It is important to note two words here: worstand than. How is the word than used? It is used in conjunction with a comparative adjective or adverb morphologically marked as –er: better, higher, bigger, slower, brighter, stronger, healthier, trimmer, etc. In many other cases, the word more is employed where the morphological change is unacceptable. Without one of these options, the word than cannot be used.

The word than can also be used when it is preceded by the word rather. Now read the following sentences: 1) A humble man is greater in the sight of God than an arrogant man. 2) Wealth is far better than poverty. 3) The lady is more brilliant than her husband. 4) This film is far more interesting than the previous one. 5) I would rather pass the night here than travel late. 6) She is a better writer than any other member of the class.

It should be clear that the form than is used with the comparative degree of adjectives and adverbs. But the word worst is not a comparative but a superlative degree. It is used where three or more entities are being compared. Other examples of the superlative degree are: best, greatest, biggest, easiest, highest, shortest, simplest, slowest, richest, etc.

Now read the following sentences: 1) Diseases are the worst enemies of human beings. 2) Aeroplanes are the fastest means of transportation in modern times. 3) In terms violent crimes, this is the worst part of the city to live in. 5) It has been speculated that this is the deepest part of this river. 6) The lion is one of the rarest animals. 7) Have you ever been to the busiest part of the town? 8) Miserliness is one of the worst vices one can think of. 9) Chemical weapons are arguably the deadliest invention of the modern man. 10) Chief OlusegunObasanjo is popularly regarded as one of the luckiest Nigerians that ever lived.

Perhaps what the writer wants to say is something like this: far worse than; much worse than.

Finally in this excerpt, we examine the word sometimes which occurs in the following context: “the governor who accused him sometimes ago.” We have had cause to comment repeatedly on the arbitrary nature of part of the English spelling system, noting that a single letter may be the only meaning-bearing signal constituting the difference between two words or between two variants of the same word. Such is the case with the forms sometime and sometimes, the former being the appropriate one in the context in which the writer has used the latter.

As should be obvious, the only visual difference between the two words is the presence of the letter –s in the one, which is absent in the other.

The word sometimes (please note the final –s) means occasionally, on occasions, once in a while: (1) Even the most educated people are sometimes confused as to the difference between the words “sometimes” and “sometime”. (2) I sometimes have this feeling that the end of the world is near. (3) Surprisingly, it sometimes rains in December. (4) Dull and incoherent as he is, he sometimessprings surprises by making brilliant points. (5) In spite of themselves, people in power sometimes show compassion. (6) Climatic changes usually occur gradually, but they sometimes occur suddenly. 7) Even highly educated people sometimes spell words wrongly. 8) Situations can be so bad that you sometimes wish you were not born. 9) Under satanic influence even the most religious people sometimes succumb to horrible temptations. 10) She is generally calm and sedate, but sometimes throws a tantrum.

The word sometime (without a final –s, mind you) means at a time in the past or future about which you are not certain: (1) Sometime in 1962, horrendous violence broke out in Western Nigeria. (2) We can hold the meeting sometime towards the end of the week. (3) I saw him last sometime in January. (4) You can take your leave some time before the Christmas/New Year break so that it can run with the break. (5) The impression the government gave some time in 2008 was that the remaining subsidy on the prices of petroleum products had been removed. (6) There was a prophecy, sometime before you were born, to the effect that you would be a great man. 7) The news of General Abacha’s death was broken to Nigerians sometime in 1997. 8) We can discuss this matter sometime next week. 9) The protest took place sometime last year.

Please note that the word sometime can be rendered as one word or as two words. The important point to note about the difference between sometimes and sometime is that the presence or absence of the letter –s is of great significance. When you mean occasionally or once in a while the letter –s must feature. It is obligatory. It is not a cosmetic element. On the other hand, when you mean that something happened at a time in the past or will happen in the future at a time about which you are not sure, never make the mistake of including the letter –s.

At any rate, the word sometime should replace sometimes in the context under review.

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