Sample 1: “The victims where shot after being dispossessed of their phones and other items by the assailants. According to an eye witness, the victims who were in the traffic were coming from Dadanru area while the assailants surface from the area beside premier hotel. Eye witness revealed further that after shooting the victims, the assailant jump on the motorcyclist who carried them and move…As at the time of filing this report, the two who sustained gunshot injury have been taken to the hospital.” (Traffic robbers shot two in Ibadan, Opera News, 24 October,2021)
Almost everything that could go wrong grammatically and stylistically has gone wrong here. Some of the errors are identified, analysed and corrected.
First, note the form where which occurs in the following context: “the victims where shot.” Compare the use of that item (where) with the form were as used in the following contexts: “the victims who were in the traffic were coming from Dadanru area.” It should be obvious that the grammatical context occupied by the form where is identical to that occupied by the form were (in its two appearances). The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this is that the writer believes there is no difference between where and were or that the one is a variant of the other. Nothing can be further from the truth.My guess is that the error stems from a pronunciation crisis on the part of some Nigerians who often pronounce were as where (and presumably vice versa). It is likely the case that they would select where or were blindly in a context requiring just one of them. In other words, the two words remain undifferentiated in reality. Elementary as these issues are, it is expedient to illustrate the usage of the words involved to avoid the risk of misleading young and vulnerable readers.
Please read the following sentences illustrating the usage of the verb were:
1) If I wereyou I would not borrow a kobo for the burial of such a useless relative.
2) Janet and Ajetunmobi were husband and wife until December last year.
3) The girls were punished for coming late.
4) All the bills were thrown out by the National Assembly because they were allegedly sponsored by the opposition party.
5) The patients were discharged prematurely because the health workers had gone on strike.
6) The children were always complaining about their father’s absence from home.
7) The two women were always trading insults in public.
8) The five names that wereinitially on the reserve list were later brought to the main list.
9) The villagers were not interested in talking to the police.
10) The offensive clauses were later removed from the constitution.
Please note that like is, am, was, and are, the word were is a form of BE. It occurs in contexts similar to those in which the other forms of BE occur.
But specifically, it is:
1) used with plural nouns
2) in its past form. Actually, it is the past form of are.
Now compare its usage with that of where:
1) Where were you when the inspector arrived?
2) Where would you like to spend the next holidays?
3) Where in western Nigeria is the place in which hot water is flowing side by side with cold water?
4) Where are you living?
5) Nobody seems to know where the information leaked.
6) You should know that where your right ends iswhere another person’s right begins.
7) Where else in Africa is the press as vibrant as our own?
8) He is so energetic that one sometimes wonders where the energy comes from.
9) I will continue to live in Lagos, where I have lived for the past ten years.
10) I don’t even know where to start.
11) Where is your faith, you doubting Thomas?
Please let the verb where replace were in the context under consideration.
We still need to make reference to the form were to make another point. As the past tense of the verb are, the form were, which occurs at least twice in the except, has been correctly used as a marker of reported speech. Reports (of events which obviously happened in the past) require the use of the past forms of the verbs. The writer of the excerpt was evidently aware of this when he selected the form were. Surprisingly, however, there are many other verbs which manifest no evidence that the writer was minded to observe the rule consistently. Examples are:surface (which ought to have been conjugated as surfaced); jump (which ought to have been presented as jumped); move (which ought to have been in the form moved); and have (which, properly presented, should have been had).
There are a couple of other regrettable lapses which compromise the integrity and respectability of the text. Take the noun item, premier hotel. This is the name of an institution, a proper noun, if you like. A proper noun, if it is a single word, like Janet, for example, should normally begin with a capital letter. It would be a curious form of literacy that would allow the following examples of proper nouns to begin each with a small letter: *david, *richard, *rukayat, *rahaman, *rasheed, *bashir, *ademola, *tijani, *haruna, *Yakubu, *rebecca, *Joshua, etc. Each of those proper nouns should begin with a capital letter. The names, as they are represented here, demonstrate evidence limited literacy.
Institutiona lnames, like personal names, should be treated as proper nouns, which they are, and should begin invariably with capital letters: University College Hospital, Federal University of Agriculture, Federal Medical Centre, Bible Society of Nigeria, Federal Bureau of Statistics, etc. I am sure readers have noticed that each of the words in the institutional names begins with a capital letter except the minor ones (like the preposition of).
At any rate, the name should be written as: Premier Hotel.
Next, we are told that the ‘assailant jumped on the motorcyclist who carried them.’ How true could it have been that the assailant jumped on the motorcyclist and not on themotorcycle? This a typical example of careless writing.
“Investigations reveal that the fight resulted from lack of restraint by a student who alleged his roommate of using his pair of slippers without his permission/consent, the statement said.’ (Babcock University student who beat up roommate over slippers lands into trouble, Kemi Filani News, 4 March, 2021)
We pay attention to the expression “alleged…of” which occurs in the following context: “alleged his roommate of using his pair of slippers…” The particle of, attached to the verb alleged, properly collocates with the verb accuse: accuse of. The expression “alleged…of” is clearly unidiomatic. In addition, it is important to note that the syntactic structure in which the verb allege occurs is different from that in which accuse occurs, even though they have similar meanings.
Equally important is the fact that the particle for does not go with the verb accuse. The appropriate particle is: of.
Please read the following sentences:
1) The man and his wife accused each other of infidelity.
2) The APC and the PDP accused each other of manipulating the electoral process in certain parts of the country.
3) Nobody in good conscience could accuse General Muhammadu Buhari of stealing public funds.
4) When a party fails to win an election, it tends to accuse INEC of colluding with the other party to commit electoral fraud.
5) The governor accused his deputy of scheming to unseat him.
6) Voters accused soldiers of intimidating them on the day of the election.
7) Prominent religious leaders have been accused of corruption and sectionalism.
8) The night guard was accused of stealing and ritual killing.
9) Fortunately, no one can accuse me of financial impropriety.
10) The poor are often accused of being complicit in their own poverty.
Now the verb allege:
The following sentences, produced by some Nigerians, are defective:
1a)* We quarrel often because he keeps alleging me of things I know nothing about. Better:
1b) We quarrel often because he keeps accusing me ofthings I know nothing about.
2a) *The parties are alleging each other of manipulating the electoral process. Better:
2b) The parties are accusing each other of manipulating the electoral process.
3a) *The man alleged his lawyer of colluding with his opponent. Better:
3b) The man accused his lawyer of colluding with his opponent.
4a) *The old woman alleged the lady running the mill of stealing some of her pepper and grains. Better:
4b) The old woman accused the lady running the mill of stealing some of her pepper and grains.
5a) *The man alleged his wife of cheating on him. Better:
5b) The man accused his wife of cheating on him.
6a) *The union alleged the company of failing to fulfil its promise. Better:
6b) The union accused the company of failing to fulfil its promise.
Readers may be interested in knowing that there is a proper way of using the word allege.
Please read the following sentences:
1) Members of the president’s cabinet were alleged to have sabotaged his efforts to improve electricity supply.
2) The reports of the outcome of the election were alleged to have been written before the election took place.
3) Members of the ruling party alleged that INEC was partial in favour of a particular party.
4) The suspect alleged that the deceased was sleeping with his (the suspect’s) wife.
5) The lawyer alleged that the judge had been compromised.
6) It was alleged that a particular landlord had links with the armed robbers terrorizing the neighbourhood.
7) It was alleged that the coach was taking bribes before admitting the players into the camp.
8) Soldiers were alleged to have killed several peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
9) It was alleged that the leadership did not act promptly enough.
10) It is alleged that workers’ contributory retirement funds are being embezzled by government officials.
At any rate, let the verb accused replace alleged in the context under review.
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