Of sour and sore

SAMPLE 1: “The figure, according to sources close to both parties, has been the sour point and could have led to whatever accumulated sums that sparked off the current impasse.”(How MTN, Glo Resolved Interconnect Dispute, Sunday Vanguard, August 4, 2019)

We pay attention to the expression the sour point which occurs in the larger structure, “has beenthe sour point”. Obviously a victim of bad pronunciation and therefore of wrong choice, the word sour hurts the expression in which it occurs, the sour point! Distorted pronunciation has created confusion in the mind of the writer as to the difference between the words sour and sore. Whether in ordinary or idiomatic usage, the writer seems helpless in deciding which is the correct one in which context.

We set ourselves the task of explaining the difference between sour and sore. The word sour is about taste, the kind that we experience when we drink lime or fermented milk. In this sense, the taste may be regarded as `good’ and desirable. In another sense, the sour taste is one we experience when we eat soup or food in its first stages of decay. That is the sense in which the sour taste is regarded as bad or undesirable.

Judge gunned down in Eastern Afghan province

It is from the latter sense that comes the usage illustrated as follows: (1) Their friendship had lasted for years, until the relationship went sour following a minor disagreement. (2) I can’t tell when the once sweet and vibrant marriage turned sour and the lady had to sue for divorce. (3) It is more difficult to mend a relationship once it turns sour than to start a new one. (4) For many people, life has been both sweet and sour, often more sour than sweet. (5) The meeting which had progressed smoothly for about two hours ended suddenly on a sour note. (6) It is obvious something is bothering him; he wears a sour face these days.

So far, we have used the word as an adjective. But it can also be used as a verb: (1) The subject you raised has soured his mood. (2) The allegation of infidelity has soured the relationship between her and her husband. (3) Everybody was happy and cheerful until something inexplicable soured the atmosphere. (4) That little distraction should not be allowed to sour the relationship between you and your friend. (5) Abuse in her childhood has soured her relationship with men. 6) Their relationship has been soured by allegations of infidelity. 7) Don’t allow financial matters to sour your relationship.

The word sore, on the other hand, is about physical pain, wound, discomfort arising from infection or physical hurt: (1) The poverty-stricken children are covered with boils and sores. (2) You need to drink plenty of warm water to overcome the sore throat. (3) He cannot sit because his bum is sore. (4) Please don’t refer to his marriage; otherwise he won’t stay for one moment here. It is a sore point. (5) We are in sore need of selfless and brilliant leaders. (6) The man had a hard time resisting the sore temptation to join the ruling party. (7) I can see that you have a sore interest in the lady (8) You have been sorely missed in this house. (9) The politicians of the older generation are sorely enthusiastic about the unity of the country. (10) Nation-builders are sorely needed in this generation.

The expression that inspired the discussion so far is: sour point. The word sour, as we have noted, has been wrongly substituted for sore. In other words, the expression known in English is: sore point. A sore point is one that has repeatedly or is likely to continue to cause disagreement or unhappiness or disquiet.

Now read the following sentences: 1) Restructuring has been a sore point in the Nigerian polity for decades. 2) The child born before the marriage union has always been a sore point in the family. 3) Census figures have been a sore point in Nigeria even before independence. 4) Please don’t discuss his broken marriage with him; it has always been a sore point with him. 5) Residents coming in late in the night have always been a sore point.

There is also the expression “a sore thumb”, sometimes erroneously presented as “a sour thumb.” The whole expression is “stand/stick out like a sore thumb”. To say that someone or something stands out like a sore thumb is to say that he/it is completely different from others: (1) When he arrived the J F Kennedy Airport in his flowing “babariga”, he stood out like a sore thumb. (2) It is a mud house in a modern estate, standing out like a sore thumb. (3) I was the only man in the midst of one hundred women, and I stood out like a sore thumb. (4) Extremely skinny, Jessica stuck out like a sore thumb in the company of overweight women. (5) His rickety car stuck out like a sore thumb among numerous posh cars.

Sample 2: “Primate Aduku said the decision of the D .O made him angry and sad that he made up his mind to join the Army so that he could come back to the village and also manhandle the soldier for humiliating his village head.”(In my family a man’s manhood never dies, Sunday Sun, 4 August, 2019)

Let’s note the word that following the phrase “angry and sad”in the structure: “the D.O made him angry and sad that….” The inclusion of that word (that) fails to fulfil a condition: It ought to have been preceded somewhere in the structure by the word so.

The following sentences illustrate the so-that structural pattern: 1) The power supply from the national grid is so unstable that all owners of small businesses have alternative ways of obtaining power. 2) The man is so poor that he cannot afford to send his only child to a public primary school. 3) It was so hot inside the house that we had to sleep outside. 4) The cost of living is so high in Abuja that only successful businessmen or corrupt civil servants can live there and have savings. 5) His voice was so loud that we felt he did not need a public address system. 6) He was so contemptuous of the leaders that he refused to honour them with his presence at the meeting. 7) He was so obsessed with fame that nothing else, not even the welfare of his family, mattered to him. 8) Technology was so strange at thattime that people would recoil on sighting the camera. 9) She is so careless with her tongue that she drops pejorative information about her husband even among her husband’s enemies. 10) He is so promiscuous that he does not discriminate between infants and mature women. 11) His case was so bad that even his lawyers did not give him any assurance of victory. 12) The disagreement was so severe that the business partners had to part ways.

The point requiring emphasis is that we cannot use the word that as it is used in the context of the sample sentence without it being preceded somewhere in the structure by the intensifier so. The structure should read: “the decision of the D.O made him so angry and sad that…”


16 common errors we make in everyday English

AS a language with the widest coverage in the world, English is a second language for a vast majority of its speakers. In a country where many regional languages are used, a lot of errors creep into the grammar and vocabulary of an average English speaker.

Writing and speaking in English as a non-native speaker has its own set of problems. Grammatical errors come in many forms and can easily confuse and obscure meaning. Some common errors are with prepositions most importantly, subject verb agreement, tenses, punctuation, spelling and other parts of speech.

Prepositions are tricky, confusing and significant in sentence construction.

Here are 16 English grammar mistakes commonly made:


Incorrect: Myself I am Suresh Babu.

Correct: I am Suresh Babu.

While introducing oneself, it is usually observed that the users mix up both the possessive pronoun ‘myself’ and the subject pronoun ‘I’.


Incorrect: I am having four brothers and three sisters.

Correct: I have four brothers and three sisters.

Present continuous tense cannot be used for pragmatic situations such as this. Simple present tense should be used.


Incorrect: He do not have a laptop.

Correct: He does not have a laptop.

Do not should not be used after the subject pronoun (He, She, It).


Incorrect: Does she has a car?

Correct: Does she have a car?

The helping verb does is used at the beginning and the main verb have denotes possession or ownership.


Incorrect: (Question) “Today office is there?” (Answer) “No office is not there.”

Correct: (Question) “Is today a working day?” OR “Are we working today?” (Answer) “Yes, we are working today or no, we are not working today.»


Incorrect: That only, she is very arrogant.

Correct: That was what I said. She is very arrogant.

Saying “That only” was the wrong way to emphasise what the speaker has already said.


Incorrect: Last before year she got very good marks.

Correct: Year before last, she got good marks.

Phrases that can be used: Month before last, Day before last, Week before last.


Incorrect: He did not wrote the test last week.

Correct: He did not write the test last week.

The helping verb did is followed by the present tense of the verb and not the past tense form.


Culled from: //www.indiatoday.in/

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