There and their (I)


SAMPLE 1: “…he has not picked up any local dialect or the national language, English, which are dominantly spoken by indigenes…Been a light sleeper, I only had one opportunity to look through the window before ducking through the back door and escape into the bush…There remains were deposited at the Bishop Shanahan Mortuary at Nsukka…The reality is that the menace of the Fulani Herdsmen is real. In fact it has become a routine exercise in many farming settlements in the northern parts of Nigeria…Fulani herdsmen don’t understand any other language other than their own…Fulani people places premium attention on seniority, rank and class…They also learn to live under harsh weather conditions while tending to their wares…For Alhaji Lukmon Mafindi, chairman of Miyetti Allah in Taraba, rustlers are the biggest treat to herdsmen…Needless to add, Fulani herdsmen will attempt to dominate it environ if given the opportunity…While farmers are skeptical about the idea on the strength that vacant or free land is hard to come by due to expanding farming…He added that education is also key in order to teach host and renters that mutual understanding and social integration will keep us together than isolation and mistrust.”(Grazing Reserves: Lasting Solution or More Problems? The Nation, May 1, 2016)

This text exhibits a number of egregious errors, those that are too elementary to be associated with a discourse of this level seriousness. For example, the reporter cannot differentiate between the words there and their.

Take this: “there remains were deposited.” Anyone with elementary education would immediately identify the error in the use of the word there.

Now let’s illustrate the difference between the words there and their. Please read the following sentences: 1) There are many more people outside the hall than inside. 2) There is no wisdom in that suggestion. 3) There were rumours that the president had another woman in his life. 4) There is no reason to leave so early since the programme is scheduled to commence late in the afternoon. 5) There were many undercover security men snooping around. 6) There was no truth in the story. 7) Neither the chairman nor the secretary was there. 8) I was able to pick some useful information here and there. 9) How soon will you be there? 10) I was there waiting for you for almost three hours.

For the proper usage of the word their, please  read the following sentences: 1) Their house is not far from ours. 2) The ancient Jews and their forefathers are part of the heroes of the Christian faith. 3) Their lawyers are holding a meeting with our own lawyers next week. 4) Sadly, their plan is to destroy their opponents’ business interests. 5) I find it difficult to understand why they could not mind their business. 6) Their directors are planning to reduce the workforce. 7) It is not their duty to tell us how to run our own affairs. 8) Their students are not even half as brilliant as our own. 9) Their house is directly opposite the bank. 10) How can our failure be a reason for their celebration?

The following sentences each contain the two words under consideration: 1) Were you not there when their thugs attacked our chairman? 2) It is their fault that their representatives were not there when the case started. 3) There were a few men at the meeting who claimed to be representing their bosses’ interest. 4) A lady went there, met the children, claimed be their mother’s friend and took some money from them. 5) I was there when our president visited that country and said something positive about their political system.

It should be obvious now that the word their should replace there in the context under review.

Next, let’s examine the grammatical implications of the choice of the form been in the following context: “Been a light sleeper, I only had one opportunity to look through the window…” The appropriate form for this context is not been but being. The only condition for the form been to occur in a context like is the presence of the form having: “Having been in a trance for half an hour, I woke up suddenly…” or “Having been tried and trusted, the manager was elevated…”

This leads us to a discussion of the difference between the forms being and been.What rule is involved here? To understand the nature of the error, we need to sketch and illustrate the two rules that are here confused. First is the rule of the perfect tense situated in the structure of the passive tense. The perfect tense is of the following nature: have/has/had plus a past participle form of the verb. Let’s read the following sentences: 1) David has written the letter. 2) The girl has spoken the truth. 3) The men have broken their promise. 4) The officers have prepared the report. 5) The boy had released the secret before the warning came. 6) The police had arrested the man before the court order was vacated.

Those are examples of the perfect tense outside the passive structure. The same grammatical principle is maintained in the context of the passive structure. In this case, the structure is of the form: have plus been, where been represents the past participle. Now read the following sentences: 1a) The company hasbought new cars (active sentence in the perfect tense) 1b) New cars have been bought by the company (passive sentence in the perfect tense). 2a) The police have arrested the criminal. (active sentence in the perfect tense) 2b) The criminal has been arrested by the police. (passive sentence in the perfect tense) 3a) That transaction has created many fraudulent loopholes. (active sentence in the perfect tense) 3b) Many fraudulent loopholes have been created by that transaction. (passive sentence in the perfect tense) 4a) The central government had constructed numerous roads. (active sentence in the perfect tense.) 4b) Numerous roads had been constructed by the central government. (passive sentence in the perfect tense) 5a) Soldiers have invaded the crisis-torn zone (active sentence in the perfect tense) 5b) The crisis-torn zone has been invaded by soldiers. (passive sentence in the perfect tense) 6a) The library has stocked over six million books. (active sentence in the perfect tense) 6b) Over six million books have been stocked by the library. (passive sentence in the perfect tense)

The second rule is that of the continuous or progressive tense. The rule is of the nature: be plus the ing form of the verb (ie is going; was singing; were washing; are training; etc). Let’s read the following sentences: 1a) The church is planning a one-week revival programme. (active sentence in the progressive tense) 1b) A one-week revival programme is beingplanned by the church. (passive sentence in the progressive tense) 2a) The people were distributing seditious pamphlets. (active sentence in the progressive tense) 2b) Seditious pamphlets were beingdistributed by the people. (passive sentence in the progressive tense) 3a) The scientists are examining the specimen. (active sentence in the progressive tense) 3b) The specimen is being examined by the scientists. (passive sentence in the progressive tense). 4a) The girl was washing the clothes. (active sentence in the progressive tense) 4b) The clothes were being washed by the girl. (the passive sentence in the progressive tense) 5a) The musician is composing new songs. (active sentence in the progressive tense) 5b) New songs are being composed by the musician. (passive sentence in the progressive tense) 6a) The lecturer isgrading the scripts. (active sentence in the progressive tense) 6b) The scripts are being graded by the lecturer. (passive sentence in the progressive tense.)