Singular food…

SAMPLE 1: “It’s true that food that is prepared and served by these street side vendors is unhygienic and are susceptible to water-borne and food-borne illnesses.”(Watch it: That Road Side Food May be Dangerous, the Sun, 30 September, 20190)

We start with the grammar of the headline and relate it to the grammatical concern we have in the relevant sentence in the report. The headline reads: “That Road Side Food May be Dangerous.” Please note that the headline opens with the demonstrative pronoun: that. That pronoun is a singular one and given that it is one of the modifiers of the word food, it is obvious that the reporter correctly regards that noun (food) as a singular noun.

Now, let’s compare the grammar of the headline, as noted above, to the grammar of the first part of the first sentence in our excerpt: “It’s true that the food that is prepared and served by these street side vendors is unhygienic…” First note the verb-form (is) that stands between the word that and the participle prepared. That form being obviously singular is consistent with the singular form of the determiner (that) noted in the headline. Again, we note a second appearance of the singular form of the verb (is) in the same sentence: is unhygienic. So far, we have satisfactory evidence that the noun food is correctly treated as a singular noun, which it actually is.

But the reporter suddenly shocks us with a brazen choice of a grammatical form that departs from the choices he has made consistently so far. Referring to the same noun (food), he writes: “and are susceptible to water-borne and food-borne illnesses” The plural verb-form (are) coming immediately after the conjunction (and) and immediately before the adjective susceptible is conspicuously at variance with the reporter’s treatment of the noun food as a singular entity up to this point. This lack of consistency is very difficult to explain and certainly more difficult to defend in a work of this importance and seriousness.


Sample 2: “He called on teachers to reciprocate the government gesture by putting in their best and impacting knowledge into pupils.”(Mega Schools Die in Ondo as Public Schools Rise, Sunday Vanguard, 9 June, 2019) The word that interests us is impacting occurring in the structure, “impacting knowledge into pupils.” Given the fact that it occurs in the context of schools and knowledge, we have an intuition-based suspicion that the word impact must have been mistaken for another word, impart. So similar are the spellings and pronunciations that the only difference between the two words is represented by the difference between -c- and -r-. Yet, trivial as that difference may appear at the level of spelling and pronunciation, it is enough to demarcate the boundary between two words, with all the implications of that difference.

It is convenient and useful here to properly identify each of the two words by demonstrating its usage. Used exclusively as a verb, the word impart usually collocates with (or occurs in the context of) sharing or giving of knowledge or information: (1) The principal duty of a teacher is to impart knowledge. (2) A great leader does not merely impart knowledge to his followers, he imparts his spirit to them. (3) A journalist imparts information, especially current and relevant information. (4) Extension officers are expected to impart modern techniques of farming to the rural farmers. (5) The primary duty of a creative writer is not to impart knowledge but to please by a special use of language.

Used mainly as a noun in British English, the word impact is about the effect or influence of something on another thing or person: (1) The government officials are assessing the impact of food importation on local food production. (2) It may take some time before the impact of formal education on the citizens is noticeable. (3) The new developments are evidence of the impact of the new policy on the rural populace. (4) The impact of the protracted dry season on farming will soon become manifest. (5) The impact of balanced diet on a person’s health is unquantifiable. (6) The impact of the global economic meltdown on the national economy will be with us for some time. (7) The early rains have impacted positively on agriculture.

The word impact has been used as a noun in sentences (1) to (6) and has been used as a verb in sentence (7).

The import of the discussion so far is that impart should replace impact in the context under examination.


Sample 3: “The objectives of the Teen Mom’s Clinic, she said, is to identify teenage mothers and provide them with health care services, as well as link them to social support services and avenues…”(Combating Teenage Pregnancy, the Sun, 25 November, 2018)

We are interested in matters of concord—the grammatical relations and forms within a linguistic structure. Please note the singular verb form (is) which opens the following phrase: “is to identify…” We need to find out the noun/noun phrase to which it owes its singular status. The only grammatically and logically relevant noun is objectives and it is quite obvious that that noun is in its plural form. That plural form dictates that the verb should be in its plural form as well. At any rate, the plural form of the verb (are) should replace the singular form (is) in the context under review.