Discourse, Discuss, Discussion

Sample 1: “As Christians across the country set out to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, news about the death of prominent personalities has continued to dominate public discuss.”(Tears as three prominent Nigerians die within 24 hours, Opera News, 25 December, 2020)

I draw attention to the word discuss which occurs in the following context: “news…has continued to dominate public discuss.” The word occurs in the slot of a noun—a position characteristically belonging to a nominal item. In fact the noun is supposed to be modified by the adjective public. It is quite clear, however, that the worddiscuss is a verb, one sitting uncomfortably in a position belonging to a noun.

The error probably arose from a pronunciation crisis morphing into grammatical confusion. The three forms from which the reporter chose obviously the most inappropriate one are: discourse, discussion, and discuss.

Let’s start our discussion by illustrating the usage of the noun discourse.


The word discourse means verbal transaction generally, verbal composition:

1) The preacher’s discourse is at once stimulating and challenging.

2) The discourse provides insights into African traditional mode of worship.

3) We gathered every night to listen to my grandfather’s discourse on what morality was like in the olden days.

4) Each of the activists presented a discourse on their views on the recent development.

5) Even though the discoursewas largely informative, it offended the sensibilities of members of the audience.

6) He is less inclined to giving discourses than being involved in practical situations.

7) Their discourses are more effective than the traditional herbal products they advertise.

8) The play contains lengthy discourses which prevent it from rising rapidly to a crisis.

9) What the nation needs now are practical and inspiring examples and not discourses on ethics and morality.

10) We have listened to discourses of this nature at conferences and seminars without any development being generated.

11) One of the weaknesses of the discourse is that it does not offer any solution to the political problem.

12) The discourse fails to address the fundamental cultural differences among the ethnic groups that make up the country.

13) The representatives of government complained that the guest lecturer presented an incendiary discourse.

14) A thousand discourses cannot achieve what practical steps can achieve.

15) There are situations in which insightful discourses can inspire revolutionary action.

Next, we illustrate the usage of the worddiscussion, the noun form of the verb discuss.


Please read the following sentences:

1)Discussions on constitutional amendments are currently going on at the national assembly.

2)Let’s have a brief discussion before the commencement of the class.

3) No form of discussion is allowed in the exam hall.

4) In this paper, the discussion carries ten marks; the analysis carries five marks; and the calculation carries five marks.

5) The little girl overheard their discussion in which the lady disclosed her plan to get rid of her husband.

6) It is a strange fact that Nigerian politicians usually have their meetings and discussions at night.

7) Since all marriages are preceded by discussions, all marriages can only be sustained by healthy conversations.

8) The presentation of the reports was followed by a long discussion interrupted now and then by questions which sounded more like comments.

9) The discussion was carried out in whispers, inaudible to those for whom it was not intended.

10) The discussion was too general to be of any use to a scientific audience.

11) The discussion veered off the topic and touched on issues that were only tangential to the conference.

12) The discussion was characterized by irrelevancies, inconsistencies, and illogicalities.

13) The discussion was frank, open, and truthful.

14) I had to leave the venue of the meeting when I could no longer tolerate the open deceit and manipulations that characterized the discussion.

15) This is not how to conduct a discussion intended to put an end to the bitter enmity between two families.

16) The discussion was conducted in an atmosphere freedom, friendship and love.

17) You cannot write the letter until you have had a private discussion with the chairman.

18) This is a matter for personal discussion.


Now we illustrate the use of the verbdiscuss:

1) She said she was not ready to discuss the matter until all the people involved were present.

2) We cannot discuss this report until all other reports have come in.

3) The matter must be discussed by the sub-committee first before it can be brought here for further discussion.

4) The case has been discussed thoroughly at the previous meeting.

5) Several disciplinary cases are to be discussed at the next meeting.

6) I feel free to discuss this matter with you because we have been friends for decades.

7) I must discuss the boy’s poor performance with his teacher.

8) Matters like this should not be discussed in the presence of children.


Sample 2: “Ahead of the election, many members in the two parties may soon consider leaving their formal party for another if they eventually weigh the possibility of a party defeating the other.”(Oshiomole has not even spent 3 weeks in Edo…Opera News Hub, 29 July, 2020)

We are interested in the adjectiveformal which occurs in the following context: “leaving theirformal party.” It should be obvious that the word has been used in confusion with former. The contextual meaning tells us in clear terms that the reporter has picked a wrong word. The word belonging to that context is former.

There is a difference between formal and former, a difference often blurred in the Nigerian perception by poor pronunciation. Having made that point, we need to illustrate the difference in meaning and usage between former(ly) and formal(ly).


Now read the following sentences:

1) It was surprising that a former chairman of our party could be so shameless as to join another party.

2) He earns much more salary here than he did in his former employment.

3) Disciplined and respectable as he seems, he has had two former wives.

4) Former students of the institution are holding meetings on the possibility of giving it a facelift.

5) In former times, Sanitary Inspectors had some of the powers reserved exclusively today for the police.

6) I ran into a former classmate who introduced me to the new business.

7) Two former governors are being prosecuted for embezzlement and related corrupt practices.

8) It is interesting listening to the testimonies of the former armed robber, now an evangelist.

9) One of the guests is a former beauty queen.

10) One of the governors is a former labour leader.

11) The clinic was formerly housed in an old property belonging to the Local Government.

12) The school formerly belonged to a Christian Mission.

13) The young man was formerly working with an expatriate firm.

14) Our rates of pay were formerly higher than those of the civil servants.

15) It was formerly thought that the earth was flat.

16) Mathematics was formerly regarded as an arts subject.

17) The Nigerian economy formerly ranked among the strongest in the third world countries.

18) The English language formerly belonged exclusively to the British Isles.

19) The nursing profession was formerly associated with women only.

20) Twins were formerly believed to be demons or gods unfit to live with humans.

The word formal(ly) has do with official situations or conditions or behaviour.


Now read the following sentences:

1) It is now time to formally welcome our guests.

2) The former leaders have not formally handed over to the new leaders.

3) The President formally announced the dissolution of the council yesterday.

4) The formal inauguration of the 8th Senate was characterized by controversy.

5) The occasion was declared open formally by the Vice Chancellor.

6) Formal education in modern times is synonymous with western education.

7) Before any other thing, we must have formal introduction.

8) Nobody can occupy a position like that without formal training.

9) The case will be presented formally today.

10) To be admitted into the hall, you have to be formally dressed.

11) Jokes of that nature should not be cracked on formal occasions.

12) A formal meeting is being arranged between the new Senate President and the President of the Federal Republic.

13) A letter has been written formally appointing him as MD.

14) Since the meeting has not adjourned formally, nobody should leave.

15) The chairman formally assumed duty last Wednesday.

16) The Matriculation day is the day new students are formally admitted into the university system.

17) The so-called engagement is the occasion the future groom’s parents formally request the future bride’s parents to release their daughter to them.

18) Retirement marks the retiree’s formal disengagement from service.

19) This is not an occasion for formal, boring speeches but for celebration and jollity.

20) The book will be formally presented to the public before the end of the year.

At any rate, the word former should replace formal in the context under review.


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