Concord, comparative adjectives, paving the way

SAMPLE 1: “It is no longer news that herbal drugs are indiscriminately hawked and illegally sold at any point across Nigeria despite the serious health risks it poses.”(Most Nigerians abuse herbal medicine…Sunday Vanguard, 29 December, 2019)

Our interest is in concord matters: matters of harmonious grammatical relationship among the grammatical forms in a given structure. Please consider the noun drugs, noting the fact that it is in its plural form—what with its final plural morpheme –s. Having opted for the plural nominal form, the reporter goes ahead to choose the verb form are—a plural form clearly in harmony with the plurality of the noun—drugs. The grammatical choices made so far are certainly without any blemish.

But later in the excerpt, we have the choice of the singular pronoun it: “despite the serious health risks it poses.” The singular pronoun (it) is then, correctly, followed by the singular verb-form: poses. It should be immediately clear that the choice of the singular pronoun (it) fails to be in harmony with the plural choices witnessed earlier in the text: drugs, are.

At this point the principle of grammatical agreement breaks down. We are left with only one choice: to convert the pronoun (it) to its plural form (they) and change the verb-form following it to reflect the plurality: “despite the serious health risks they pose.

Sample 2: “According to a research conducted by Professor Bes Rastrollo and others, ice cream, just like every ultra-processed food, is rich in poor quality fat, added sugar and salt, along with low vitamin density and fibre content, and they are economically profitable—very palatable and convenient.” (Red Card: Ice Cream, Sunday Punch, 16 June, 2019)

Again, we focus attention on grammatical agreement— a phenomenon that is usually the outcome of wholesome interaction between logic and grammar. The excerpt is about ice cream, a compound word that is clearly singular. Read this: “ice cream, just like every ultra-processed food, is rich in poor quality fat, added sugar and salt, along with low vitamin density and fibre content, and they are economically profitable…” The singular verb-form (is) is correctly selected in the phrase is rich to indicate that ice cream, the focus and the opening element of the structure, is singular.

But suddenly, the reporter dismisses the singularity of the noun ice cream, which the logic and grammar of his sentence have supported quite conspicuously and convincingly, by bringing up the plural pronoun, they. The logic breaks down completely. The choice of the plural pronoun (they) is absolutely unwarranted.

Sample 3: “Former Abia State All Progressive (APC) governorship aspirant, Ndukwe Iko, in this interview with Musa Odoshimokhe explains why the Southwest is well prepared for the presidency in 2023 than the Southeast and how the party will retain Abia North Senatorial District. (Southeast no ready for 2023, The Nation, 29 September, 2019)

I draw readers’ attention to the word than which occurs in the context: “why the Southwest is well prepared for the presidency in 2023 than the Southeast.” 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 Olusegun Obasanjo is popularly regarded as one of the luckiest Nigerians that ever lived.

It should be obvious that the word more is missing in the context under consideration. At any rate, the structure should read: “why the Southwest is more (well) prepared for the presidency in 2023 than the Southeast.”

Sample 3: “According to the victim, the arrested Wasiu is the leader of the squad, who paved way for the arrest of three others, while the remaining ones were still at large.”(Soldiers arrest suspected kidnappers in Ondo, The Nation, 6 October, 2019)

We are interested in the expression, ‘pave way’ which occurs in the structure: “who paved way for the arrest of three others.”The important point to note is that the article the is missing immediately before the noun way. The expression should actually read: pave the way.

Now read the following sentences: 1) The removal of the manager paved the way for a thorough reorganization of the company. 2) The arrest of the mastermind paved the way for the arrests of a number other criminals in the neighbourhood. 3) The electrification of the area paved the way for the location of many industrial plants in the area. 4) Many old buildings were pulled down to pave the way for the huge ultramodern commercial centre. 5) The cancellation of the old Modern Schools paved the way for the current 6-3-3 system of secondary education.

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