There and their (III)

TODAY, we continue the analysis of the excerpt that has served as the basis for our discussion for the past two weeks. That excerpt is presented as sample 1.

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 AlhajiLukmonMafindi, 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)

We note the verb are which occurs in the following context: “he has not picked up any local dialect or the national language, English, which are dominantly spoken by indigenes” The verb in question (are) comes immediately after the relative pronoun which. Which noun is the antecedent of that pronoun (which)? Obviously, it refers to “the national language, English.” It cannot refer to both “any local dialect” and “the national language, English” An important word in the reading of this aspect of the text is the word or which separates the two nominal entities. Whenever two nominal entities are separated by the disjunctive element, or, the concord is determined by only one of the entities, usually the one closer to the verb. In this case, the nominal entity closer to the verb is “the national language, English”, an entity that is obviously singular.

It is equally obvious that the verb under consideration (are) is in its plural form. There is, then, no correlation between the singular nominal item and the plural verb form. This is an instance of breach of concord. At any rate, the plural verb-form, are, should be changed to its singular form (is) in consistency with its singular nominal antecedent.

Next, we note the verb places which occurs in the following context: “Fulani people places premium attention on…” We should note, in addition, the final –s in the verb (places). In that context, should the verb be presented as place or places? Notice that the nominal phrase that the verb (places) is meant to be in concord with is plural: Fulani people. That being the case, the verb-form should be without its final –s. What is the principle supporting this pronouncement? We shall return to it later.

Similarly, the choice of the verb-form, live, breaches concord in the following context: “Port Harcourt-based Soibi Max-Alalibo also live to tell his encounter with Fulani herdsmen in the Garden City.” Note that the verb (live) is without a –s. In this context, should the verb be presented as live (without a final –s) or lives (with a final –s)? It is important to note that the subject of the verb here is singular: “Port Harcourt-based Soibi Marx-Alalibo”. Given the fact that the subject is singular, the appropriate verb-form is: lives.

From the two instances considered so far, it is obvious the reporter has no knowledge of concord at all, of the difference between the form of the verb with a final –s and the one without it. It becomes necessary in the light of this to revise an aspect of our previous discussion of this matter.


Consider the following sentences: 1) I go to school every day. 2) We go to school every day. 3) They go to school every day. 4) You go to school every day. 5) He/She goes to school every day.

In each of those five sentences, the verb to go is in its present simple form. There is a correlation between the form of the subject and the form of the verb. In the first sentence, the subject is in its first person singular form. The assumption here is that there is a speaker who uses the pronoun I. The speaker is regarded as the first person. Since the speaker is only one person, the pronoun I is said to be a singular one. A first person singular pronoun I takes the form go when the tense is present simple.

The subject in sentence (2) is a first person plural pronoun, we. Since it is assumed that two or more persons are speaking, we say that the pronoun is in the plural form. As it is with the pronoun I, the verb-form that goes with this pronoun is go when the verb is in its everyday form.

In sentence (3), the pronoun they, which is the subject, is in the plural form. Besides, it is the third person form. What do we mean by the third person? A first person—say I—speaks to a person directly about another person. That other person is a third person. In our case, the third person is plural—they. The verb-form that goes with the third person plural subject is go.

The subject of sentence (4) is you, a word that can either be singular or plural. In English, it is only the context that shows whether the pronoun you is intended as singular or plural as the following sentences illustrate: (6)(a) You are a fool. (6)(b) You are fools. In those two sentences, it is the complement that indicates the number. In (a), youis singular; in (b), it is plural.

Now we come back to sentence (4). Whenever the pronoun you occurs, whether as singular or plural, the verb-form it takes is go. Youis a second person. A first person–I—speaks to a second person—you—about a third person.

Sentence (5) has he (or she) as its subject. This form is a singular one and it is a third person. A first person—I—speaks to a second person—you—about a third person—he. The third person singular number– represented as he—invariably takes the verb-form goes. Of all the persons and numbers we have considered so far, it is only the third person singular number—he—that takes the verb-form that ends in s or es as the case may be. All other persons and numbers take the verb go—without the s or es. This distinction is very crucial and a failure to understand it has resulted in many users writing ungrammatical sentences. The distinction is a very clear one and you should make effort to grasp this elementary detail before you go on.

The other point we need to make is that the verb go has been used only as an illustration to avoid confusion. Any other verb in English behaves in exactly the same way as go, relative to the persons and numbers discussed so far.

The following sentences illustrate the point: 7) He speaks good English. 8) He writes a lot. 9) She loves the man. 10) He deceives most people. 11) It wags its tail. 12) He drives dangerously. 13) She possesses a balanced mind. 14) She sings beautifully. 15) She works round the clock. 16) It surprises me—this sudden change of mind. 17) He comes from a wealthy family.

Unlike the third person singular number (he, she, it), all other persons and numbers take the form of the verb without the s or es: 18) They speak good English. 19) We love each other. 20) You write a lot. 21) I work round the clock. 22) They possess balanced minds. 23) You drive dangerously. 24) We sing beautifully. 25) They surprise us. 26) You come from a wealthy family. 27) They deceive their friends. 28) They wag their tails.

The discussion of the excerpt continues next week by God’s grace.