Of Clergy, Belief, Believe… (i)

Sample 1: “Tinubu urged the clergies at the event to pray for the repose of the soul of the departed and for the comfort of their bereaved family members.”(Tinubu mourns Kaduna train attack victims…Opera News, 29 March, 2022).

The word that interests us is clergies which occurs in the following context: “Tinubu urged the clergies.” Both the plural form and its usage are unconventional. The word is not normally pluralized with the final –ies as we have it in this report.

The form clergy is invariably maintained but in addition modified by the definite article (the): the clergy. This expression is usually construed in the plural. It refers to the leadership of religious organisations, a body of religious leaders. It is often used in contrast with the laity, meaning the religious following or members of a congregation. However, when we need singular and plural forms, we opt for: clergyman/clergywoman and clergymen/clergywomen.


Now read the following sentences:

1) The problem of corruption has to be tackled by both the clergy and the laity.

2) The clergy are reluctant to admit women into their fold.

3) You can only join the clergy by divine calling and training.

4) The strength and quality of the laity are determined by the strength and quality of the clergy.

5) The laity should be guided by the clergy in matters of scriptural interpretation.

6) In terms of godliness and holiness, there should be no difference between the clergy and the laity.

7) It is the attitude and conduct of the clergy that will determine whether they will be respected by the laity.

8) Membership of the clergy seems to be reducing gradually.

9) The clergy command respect all over the world.

10) Was there any time in religious history when there was no difference between the clergy and the laity?

11) My grandfather was a highly respected clergyman.

12) The idea of clergywomen is a recent phenomenon in Christendom.

13) A clergyman or a clergywoman is an ordinary human being with a special spiritual experience and duty.

14) It is advisable for a woman to become a clergywoman only after she has stopped bearing children.

15) Must a prospective clergyman or clergywoman take a vow of celibacy?

In the light of this discussion, the word clergies should be changed to the word clergymen in the context under review.

Sample 2: “This as he expressed the believe that Covid-19 pandemic has ended in Nigeria.” (Lawmaker protests against wearing of face masks…Opera News, 11 March, 2022)

We note the word believe as used in the following context: “he expressed the believe that…” The most cursory attention to the slot occupied by the form believe should indicate that it belongs to a noun. That grammatical slot is nominal, that is. Let’s ask ourselves: Is the form believe a noun? If there is anyone who can’t answer this question correctly, such a person has no business being part of this discussion. To answer our question, the form believe is not a noun but a verb. The noun form is belief. It is actually the noun form (belief) that the context requires.

The next task is to illustrate the difference between the two forms and draw attention to words that have a tendency to cause confusion of the sort we are trying to clear here.

We start with the noun form (belief):

(1) Our belief in the existence of the almighty God is reinforced by what we observe in the natural phenomena.

(2) I have this belief that talent must be supported with hard work if it is to be appreciated by people.

(3) Religious beliefs do not necessarily conflict with scientific principles.

(4) The insensitivity and cruelty of our leaders are beyond belief.

(5) Despite the belief to the contrary, no race is superior to the other.

(6) Some people go to the university in the mistaken belief that higher education automatically confers greatness.

(7) My belief in the power of the press is unaffected by the messy roles played by some newspapers in the weakening of our democracy.

(8) I fail to understand how a man who professes such a strong belief in democracy should identify with those who are undermining it.

(9) Many times, popular beliefs are founded on fiction rather than reality.

(10) Many rural dwellers have no genuine belief in the modern financial system.

Now the verb:

(1) Those who believe in the existence of God are no less intelligent than those who don’t.

(2) Although the marriage seems to be happy now, I believe the woman has made a wrong choice.

(3) When you tell and listen to lies a lot, you soon begin to believe lies.

(4) If you believe and practise the word of God, your life will be the better for it.

(5) There is nothing in his words or conduct that would make anybody believe the boy.

(6) It is difficult to believe that a business that started barely five years ago would have branches all over Africa and Europe.

(7) The contemporary young men don’t believe that marriage is anything to be taken seriously.

(8) Members of the white race believe that they are intellectually superior to Africans.

(9) If you believe that tall story, then you can believe anything.

(10) Even if you believe that doctrine, please don’t teach it to your church members.

We now examine and illustrate the usage differences between relief (noun) and relieve (verb). First relief:

(1) For hours we had lived in mortal fear, but relief came our way when the soldiers appeared with their guns at the ready.

(2) Money can bring relief and comfort, especially after a long period of poverty, but peace comes only from the knowledge of God.

(3) Having exhausted all our food items, we least expected relief when it came: abundant supply of raw food brought by my mother.

(4) We breathed a sigh of relief when we heard that our company had won the contract.

(5) There couldn’t have been a bigger relief than the arrival of a baby a few days after the bereavement.

(6) It is unfortunate that up till now the victims of the flood disaster have not received the relief promised by the government agency.

(7) The newly manufactured drugs are known to be effective for pain relief.

(8) Several hours after taking the drugs, he did not experience any relief.

(9) A short period of relief was followed by a bout of sharp, unmitigated pain.

(10) The main aim of modern medicine, some have argued, is to provide relief from pain.

Now the verb-form, relieve:

(1) The sudden appearance of the boy who had disappeared for close to a month relieved my anxiety.

(2) There are herbal products that relieve pain faster than modern drugs.

(3) One of the important benefits of sporting activities is that they help to relieve tension and boredom.

(4) The payment has relieved me of a heavy financial burden.

(5) The overhead bridges were designed to relieve traffic congestion in the Lagos metropolis.

(6) The offer is intended to relieve the poor and the needy.

(7) I was relieved to learn that some of the members of our club who were being detained by the police had been released.

(8) Apart from giving us the energy required for daily living, food helps to relieve the pain caused by hunger.

(9) Instead of relieving my emotional pain, what you have said has increased my trauma.

(10) These days, young men see marriage as a burden of which they will be glad to be relieved.

The difference between the forms safe and save is similar to that between relief and relieve. The verb form is save, and the readers would notice immediately that the only difference in terms of spelling between the adjective (safe) and the verb (save) is represented by the difference between the letters f and v. The difference, minor as it might seem from the orthographic point of view, should command all seriousness at the level of grammar. It helps to always remember that significant syntactic and semantic differences may be signalled by seemingly trivial orthographic variations. This observation is applicable to all the pairs of words considered today.

As we have noted, the adjective form is safe and the verb form is save, and the usage of each is illustrated as follows, beginning with safe: (1) It is better to keep a safe distance from that beast, for it can charge suddenly. (2) The WHO has been emphasizing safe sex as a way of keeping the population down. (3) It is not safe to stay in the villages adjoining the cantonment while the shootings are going on. (4) The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has emphasized the need for its members to work in safe environments. (5) Before anything else, let us thank God for the safe arrival of the members of our family. (6) The leader of the team has warned that it is not safe to roam the street at night. (7) It is not safe to swim when the tide is high. (8) Alone in darkness and in a house as big as this, I don’t feel safe at all. (9) Is it safe to drive through that road at this time of the day? (10) Is my box safe by the road side?

Next, we illustrate the usage of the verb save: (1) Who can save the country from a party whose leaders do not believe in the welfare of the people? (2) The civil society groups have vowed to save our young democracy. (3) If the money had been made available much earlier, I would have been saved the embarrassment that I experienced three days ago. (4) I try to save some money, however small, every month. (5) The timely intervention of France and NATO saved thousands of lives in Ivory Coast. (6) With the identification and withdrawal of the killer drugs from circulation, millions of lives have been saved. (7) Measures are being taken by experts to save our forests from further damage. (8) I will take you in my car to save you the trouble of trekking ten miles. (9) In the next six months, I should have saved enough money to buy a new car. (10) I want to save my energy for the more demanding task.

Now read the following constructions in which the noun proof is put in sentences: 1) The grandeur of nature is sufficient proof that God exists. 2) If your conscience is the only proof of your innocence, then you don’t have any proof. 3) Scientists have long provided proof that the earth is spherical. 4) The prosecuting police officer has been unable to provide any proof that the man committed the crime. 5) Providing proof can be extremely embarrassing to victims of rape. 6) Lawyers, judges and policemen are interested in having proof as to who committed what crime. 7) My rather heavy accent is a proof of my Yoruba origin. 8) There is no proof that the sciences are more ‘difficult’ than the arts. 9) He was confronted with proof of his involvement in the crime. 10) Without providing any proof, nobody would accept your claims. 11) The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 12) The court has asked him to present the proof of his ownership of the property.13) The lady is a living proof that no condition is hopeless. 14) The DNA test provides the proof that he is the father of the child. 15) The police refused to accept the so-called proof that he was not at the scene of the crime. 16) Do psychiatrists regard intelligent conversation as proof of perfect sanity? 17) Is there any proof that men and monkeys went through the same evolutionary processes up to a point? 18) Human behaviour all over the world offers the proof that man is naturally depraved.

You can now read the following sentences containing the verb form: 1) You must be prepared to prove your case in a court of law. 2) Can you prove that love is blind? 3) Scientists have long proved that the earth is spherical. 4) The job proved to be a difficult one. 5) The prosecutor was not able to prove the case against the suspect. 6) Let us hope the new drug will prove effective. 7) Your absence does not prove that you were not involved in the crime. 8) It is up to you to prove the authenticity of the document. 9) His mental alertness proves that he is not as old as his appearance suggests. 10) All evidence points to the fact that he is a foreigner; he has to prove that he is a Nigerian. 11) As black men, do we need to prove that we are as intelligent as white men? 12) The recent developments have proved all of them wrong. 13) Up till now the lawyer has not been able to prove his client’s innocence beyond reasonable doubt. 14) Experience has proved that if we do not protest we cannot secure our rights. 15) No one can prove, using historical facts, that one monarch is superior to the other. 16) I believe intuitively that this is the correct position even though I cannot prove it using hard facts. 17) He was laboring to prove a trivial point. 18) The Nigerian experience has proved that a nation can survive a major civil war without losing its corporate existence.


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