Unguarded Statements

Sample 1: “Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, CCSO, yesterday cautioned former President OlusegunObasanjo and Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, against inciting Nigerians with their unguided statements on President MuhammaduBuhari and the state of the nation…It, however, advised Nigerians to come up with useful ideas that could assist the present administration consolidate on its achievements.”(Don’t incite Nigerians with unguided statements, CSO warn Obasanjo, Soyinka, Opera News, Friday, 18 September, 2020)

I draw attention to the word unguided which occurs twice as follows: “inciting Nigerians with unguided statements”; “don’t incite Nigerians with unguided statements”(headline). The expression, unguided statements, is grammatically impeccable. The problem is that it fails to convey what the context suggests the writer intends to covey. The word associated with that context is unguarded.(More on this later.)

Many writers in the Nigerian context, limited by pronunciation weakness, are unable to distinguish usefully between the forms guide and guard. Now read the following sentences: (1) You can’t drive unless somebody guides you. (2) People should be guided by their conscience. (3) Leaders are expected to guide their followers. (4) Those who commit violent crimes usually refuse to be guided by their conscience. (5) I’m going to the palace; can you guide me?

The word guide has been used as a verb in each of the five sentences above. To guide a person is to show him or her which way to go, the right direction, the best course of action, how to do a thing, etc. This word can also be used as a noun as the following sentences demonstrate: (1) Since I have never lived in this town, I am not a reliable guide here. (2) What you have said can serve as a guide to them. (3) If you want to succeed, make God your daily guide. (4) Unless you have a guide you’ll miss your way.

A guide is a person or thing that guides’ – that gives direction, shows the way, that enlightens. The word also occurs in such contexts as guideline. Whether it occurs alone or as a part of another word, guide always carries the idea of showing direction or giving enlightenment.

There is another noun form you need to learn very carefully: guidance. The following sentences illustrate how the noun is typically used: (1) You must rely on God for your guidance. (2) Before they choose their career, young persons should seek guidance. (3) Children cannot dispense with the guidance provided by their parents. (4) John is studying Guidance and Counselling at the university.

Now guard: The sense of the word guard can be gleaned from the following sentences: (1) Two policemen are detailed to guard the bank. (2) You should guard our interest jealously. (3) God’s angels guard his people.

From the sentences above, we know that the word guard, a verb, means to protect, keep watch over or preserve. This word is clearly different from guide.

The word can also be used as a noun: (1) Two fierce-looking guards are keeping watch over the palace. (2) A new guard has been employed. (3) The guard was dismissed for breaking into the house he was supposed to be guarding.

From the sentences above, we could see that a guard is someone who guards. We should carefully distinguish the word guide (and its various forms) from the word guard (and its various forms).

Do not say: *”The soldier is *guiding the bank”, when you mean: “The soldier is guarding the bank”. Do not say: *”The teacher is to give guardiance to his pupils”, when you mean: “The teacher is to give guidance to his pupils”.

Again the word *guidian does not exist in English. What we have is guardian.

A guardian is someone who takes care of a child or a ward. We also talk of a guardian angel – an angel believed to attend to every individual and protect them. The phrase *guidian angel does not exist in English. There is indeed no newspaper in Nigeria called *The Guidian; what we have is The Guardian.

Furthermore, we talk of guarded enthusiasm by which we mean that the enthusiasm is limited, restricted or restrained. The expression *guided enthusiasm is unlikely in English since it does not make much sense. But it is possible to have both guided movement and guarded movement.

A person may be accused of making an unguarded statement or talk in an unguarded manner. The adjective unguarded in these phrases means not cautious, thoughtful or careful enough. It is not impossible to have unguided statement. But it is unusual or uncommon.

Next, I draw your attention to the expression, consolidate on which occurs in the context: “that could assist the present administration consolidate on its achievements. ”The problem here is that, like many Nigerians, the writer has brought in a particle (on) where no particle is required.  The verb consolidate does not take any particle at all. It would appear that the writer has confused the usage of the verb build with that of consolidate. Yes, the verb build takes the particle on; but consolidate does not.

Now read the following sentences: 1) Having spent the last four years building infrastructure, the Governor has promised to spend the second term consolidating his efforts. 2) Now in control of most of the seats in the national assembly, the party plans to consolidate its lead by gaining most of the governorship seats in the country. 3) What I need now is a fairly substantial loan to consolidate my business. 4) The team scored two goals in the first half of the match and consolidated by scoring another goal within the first five minutes of the second half. 5) The newspaper spent the first five years of its existence expanding its circulation; now it is consolidating its spread. 6) It is no longer our priority to increase the number of our customers; our concern now is to consolidate—to retain and continue to gain the confidence of those customers.7) Having presented his major arguments in favour of his client, the counsel went ahead to consolidate his arguments at the next sitting. 8) The APC should now concern itself with consolidating its hold on power by providing welfare for Nigerians. 9) We are consolidating our leadership position in the oil business by building fuel stations across the length and breadth of this country. 10) The Armed Forces have consolidated their hold on the captured areas by building garrisons in strategic locations.

Readers should please note that we have not allowed the particle (on) to feature after the verb consolidate because the word does not require it.

Now read the following sentences: 1) The Governor will spend the second term building on the efforts of his first term. 2) The mobilizing agency is now building on its initial enlightenment campaign. 3) Secondary education is planned in such a way that it builds on primary education. 4) Every good teacher should know how to lay a foundation and build on it later. 5) I am not sure the lady has agreed to my proposal; but I will try and build on my earlier discussion with her. 6) In the last class, we saw how tense functions in sentences; today, we will build on that by constructing sentences illustrating tense patterns. 7) Have we built anything substantial on the foundation laid by the heroes of our independence? 8) Our spiritual lives must be built on the principles of the scriptures. 8) A nation should not be built on falsehood. 9) Do not build your hope and confidence on the promises made by man. 10) You cannot build something on nothing.

Unlike the verb consolidate, the verb build takes the particle on as those sentences demonstrate.


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