Of harmless and harmful (II)

THERE remains one important issue we need to address in last week’s excerpt returned here as sample 1.


Sample 1: “The drug (which) according to report is manufactured in Bangladesh and was their only hope of saving his life; his family members sort the help of Nigerians overseas…It is so sad that some people can be so harmless even to the sick.”(Very painful: Ajimobi was duped #50 million…Opera News Hub, 27 June, 2020)

We note the word sort used in the following context: “his family members sort the help of Nigerians overseas.” Confused by weak pronunciation skill, the writer cannot tell the difference between sought (the past tense and past participle of seek) and sort (a verb whose past form is sorted).

Please read the following sentences: 1) The problem is that he sought help in wrong places. 2) The situation was so complicated that he sought legal advice. 3) Members of the family sought the intervention of the elders. 4) The company sought financial assistance from one or two commercial banks. 5) The National Assembly soughtinterpretation of the relevant sections of the constitution from the Supreme Court. 6) The previous regimes have sought to diversify the economy.

In each of those sentences, the form sought has been used as the past tense/past participle of seek.

Now read the following sentences: 1) Let’s sort the files out into the ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ ones. 2) There is an issue we have to sort out before the next general meeting. 3) All sorts of people come here on weekends. 4) His house is a sort of common ground for people of different interests. 5) All legal claims are being sorted out by our Legal Department. 6) Your request will be sorted out by the Accounts Department.


Sample 2: “The cause of his death was not immediately known as at the time of filing this report, however a member of the church disclosed to our source that the fallen man of God had underlining ailments before the incident.”(Pastor collapses, dies on the altar in Warrri, Opera News Hub, Tuesday, 7 July, 2020)

We are addressing a case of mistaken identity involving the present participle, underlining, which occurs in the structure: “had underliningailments”. The word underlining is here confused with underlying. To address this problem, we must trace the two verbs to their respective basic forms: underline – underlining; underlie – underlying.

To underline something is underscore it, to emphasize it, to draw attention to its importance or seriousness. (1) The recent development in Nigeria underlined the importance of transparency and accountability. (2) The staggering statistics recently released by the Road Safety Commission has again underlined the need to have a proper driving culture in the country. (3) If nothing else, the Nigerian Civil War underlined the need for the federating units to sit down and negotiate the terms of their co-existence. (4) The Boko Haram violence underlines the extent to which religious fanaticism can go. (5) The ocean surges underline the importance of protecting nature against indiscriminate and improvidential damage.

The –ing participle form of underline is underlining: (1) Flooding has become an annual experience in Lagos, underlining the importance of having adequate drainage facilities. (2) The repeated calls for the review of the 1999 constitution seems to be underlining the obvious fact that the constitution has too many obvious lapses. (3) Underlining the relevance of technological development, the article evaluates the slow progress that has been made by many African countries. (4) The outbreak of cholera has become a recurrent phenomenon, underlining the importance of hygiene and the need for improved health facilities. (5) Underlining the need for government intervention, the symposium favoured a regime of freedom of association.

Now, the verb to underlie means to be serve as the basis of, to support underneath, to be the cause of. Its past form is underlay and its past participle form is underlain: (1) We may never know the motive that underlies that seemingly philanthropic gesture. (2) Our efforts are underlain by the desire to increase economic production. (3) Fear, no doubt, underlay the confession of his misdeeds. (4) Unrestrained ambition underlay the breach of trust that led to the killing of his beloved boss. (5) His decision to marry a second wife is underlain by lust and lack of contentment. (6) Mutual jealousy underlay the in-fighting and the eventual anarchy in the once-vibrant establishment.

The –ing participle form of underlie is underlying: (1) The underlying motive for the mass murder was vengeance. (2) The principle underlying any true revolutionary change is justice. (3) The underlying reason for the popular call for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) is the desire for regional autonomy. (4) The underlying factor behind the economic and political strength of many advanced nations is the existence of and adherence to certain core values. (5) The underlying motive for setting the bank on fire was the desire to destroy some vital records.

At any rate, let the word underlying replace underlining in the structure under examination.


Sample 3: “They are equally alleging the national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that he is the backbone behind the actions of the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomole…(Oshiomole faces final battle before election…Opera News Hub, 12 June, 2020)

We pay attention to the word “alleging” which occurs in the following context: “They are equally alleging the national leader of APC.”  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.

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 of things 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 wasallegedthat a particular landlord had links with the armed robbers terrorizing the neighbourhood. 7) It wasalleged that the coach was taking bribes before admitting the players into the camp.



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