With a View to Holding the Fort

Sample 1: “A former Commissioner of Police in Oyo and Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr Leye Oyebade, is set to arrive the state this evening. His deployment to Oyo State by the Inspector General of Police, Mr Adamu, where he had held forth as State Police Commissioner is not unconnected with the seeming (sic) break down of law and order…OYOINSIGHT.COM gathered that Oyebade will swing into action by visiting trouble spots, organise aerial helicopter patrol and engage community and other critical stakeholders with a view to stem the mayhem in the bud.”(DIG Oyebade arrives Oyo State, set to deploy helicopter patrol, Opera News, 25 October, 2020)

Let’s pay attention to the phrase: “by visiting trouble spots, organise aerial helicopter patrol and engage community and other critical stakeholders.” Please note the –ing form (visiting) following the preposition “by” directly. Why is that verb (visit) in its –ing (or gerundive) form? It is precisely because it is now a noun, the object of that preposition (by). So far so good.

Do you notice that, unlike visiting, a gerundive form, the verbs organise and engage are in their basic, infinitive form. This grammatical feature of the structure is difficult to explain and defend in view of the fact that the presence of the preposition (by) which imposes the –ing form on the verb visit should equally affect the verbs organise and engage. Please read the structure again and tell me if you have any grammatical ground for objecting to my decision to convert the two verbs to gerunds: organizing, engaging.

Next, I draw your attention to the expression: “with a view to stem’’. Please note that the verb stem is preceded immediately by to and it is in its basic, uninflected form. However, the appropriate form should be stemming and not stem.

In other words, the expression “with a view to” must be followed by the –ing form of the verb.

But in other cases, wherever the verb is preceded by the particle ‘to’, that verb has to be in its basic, uninflected form (or the infinitive form):

1) My intention is to proceed on leave immediately.

2) They are planning to change the name of the school.

3) The soldiers decided to attack the notorious village.

4) The committee members are to consider the matter urgently.

5) The payment motivated him to work harder.

6) The sermon encouraged him to tackle the problem boldly.

7) He attempted to kill his wife.

8) She wanted to use her feminine qualities to win his heart.

9) The accountant had planned to delay the payment.

10) The lawyer has been paid to represent the two suspects.


Now compare those sentences with the following:

1) Loans and fertilizers were made available to farmers with a view to increasing agricultural yields.

2) They set forth early in the morning with a view to reaching their destination by 9 am.

3) Several checkpoints were created with a view to arresting the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

4) Two anti-corruption agencies were set up with a view to reducing bribery and corruption to the barest minimum.

6) A curfew was imposed on the town with a view to stopping the senseless blood-letting.

7) More policemen are being recruited with a view to increasing police presence in every nook and cranny of the country.

8) Infants are to enjoy free medical care with a view to reducing the infant mortality rate in the country.

9)  The accounting officer changed many of the figures with a view to perpetrating massive fraud.

10) He has been writing articles in newspapers with a view to undermining the government.

11) Sanitary inspectors have been visiting every house with a view to reducing the incidence of the epidemic.

12) Soldiers are guarding major entry points with a view to preventing terrorists from gaining entrance.

13) The coach brought the scorer in ten minutes into the second half of the match with a view to improving the team’s scoring chances.

14) The man sold his car with a view to settling his long-standing debt.

15) The government is planning to adjust its fiscal and financial policies with a view to improving the economy.

16) A new law is being proposed with a view to improving the living conditions of women and children.

Next, we note the expression: “where he had held forth.” The word that requires special attention is ‘forth’. That word has been selected in confusion with the noun fort, a confusion arising in part from a pronunciation crisis. Even after the appropriate word has been substituted, the expression still leaves something to be desired. The definite article (the) is missing.

Actually, the idiomatic expression known in the English lexicon is: ‘hold the fort’. In their attempt to use this expression, some Nigerians end up offering several erroneous or defective ones like the following:*hold forth; *hold fort; *hold forte; *hold the forte.

At any rate, as we have noted, the correct form of the idiom is hold the fort.


Next we illustrate the usage of this expression:

1) I will soon forward a letter to the chairman about the officer who will hold the fort while I am on leave.

2) The management has taken a decision on the man who is to hold the fort in the absence of the MD.

3) I have held the fort twice in the last five years when the manager was out of the country.

4) It is unfair to ask such a junior officer to hold the fort when there are at least four high-ranking officers around.

5) The MD has not gone on leave in the last ten years because he thinks there is no capable hand that can hold the fort in his absence.

6) The incompetent hands were hurriedly employed during the brief period that the man held the fort for the manager.

7) I cannot take such a drastic policy decision while I am holding the fort because I don’t want to create any problem for the substantive manager when she comes back from leave.

8) The manager did not suggest his name as the one to hold the fort while he is on leave because he has no confidence in him.

9) Many people objected to the idea of him holding the fort during the MD’s overseas trip because he is believed to be arrogant, corrupt and self-seeking.

10) He did so well when he held the fort during the manager’s illness that many workers actually dreamed of him becoming the substantive manager.

11) All the money accumulated in preparation for the second phase of the project was squandered when Mr Adeniji held the fort during the period of the MD’s suspension.

12) When I was holding the fort, I was careful not to tamper with the existing structures, realising, as I did, that my leadership of the company was temporary.

How do we use the word forte? Before commenting further on this word, we need to note that the only difference between it and fort in terms of spelling is the letter e. The word fort contained in the idiom whose usage is illustrated immediately above does not have the final e which the word forte contains.

A person’s forte is an activity or area of life in which he has strength, which he finds easy or enjoys.


Please read the following sentences:

1) Mathematics not being my forte, I try to avoid any activity requiring extensive mathematical calculation.

2) Realizing quite early in life that singing is his forte, he has gone to the university to study music and formed a band which he leads.

3) Although he studied medicine, he keeps going back to fine art which has always been his forte.

4) Although there are people whose forte is writing, every educated person should be interested in developing the skill of writing.

5) If your forte is talking, traditionally people would counsel you to train either as a teacher or pastor.

6) I was almost certain that you would become an engineer given the fact that your forte had always been mathematics.

7) Should men whose forte is cooking take over the kitchen while their wives engage in other activities beneficial to the family?

8) Pupils whose forte is football should not be prevented from making a career out of it for footballers are now respected worldwide.

9) Achebe had a great literary mind, with story-telling as his forte.

10) I love literature in general, but poetry is my forte.


Next, we illustrate the usage of the word forth. The word means forward, going out. Now read the following sentences:

1) We set forth as early as 5 am so that we could arrive there before dusk.

2) He was restless, pacing back and forth.

3) This is the season the plants bring forth leaves and fruits.

4) From there the cows went forth, destroying farms and gardens.

5) The church prayed for them and sent them forth.

Now, we have said the appropriate expression is: “Prince Uche Secondus, who is holding the fort albeit in an acting capacity.” We have made a number of changes in the expression offered by the reporter. We have removed the word forth and replaced it with fort, also warning against bringing the word forte into the context. We noted that the forms fort and forte are two different words. Furthermore, we brought the definite article (the) into the context, noting that the presence of the word in the context is obligatory.

To hold the fort is to hold an office in an acting capacity. The person holding the fort is there until the owner of the office comes back. That is the idea of holding the fort.

To make the point absolutely clear, let us note the following. Do not say: “Ayo is holding forth during the chairman’s leave.” You should say: “Ayo is holding the fort during the chairman’s leave.” Do not say: “The Administrative Officer has held the forth twice this year when the MD was out of the country.” You should say: “The Administrative Officer has held the fort twice this year when the MD was out of the country.” Do not say: “We will not allow an incompetent person to hold fort the next time the manager goes on leave.” You should say: “We will not allow an incompetent person to hold the fort the next time the manager goes on leave.” Do not say: “The company made rapid progress last year when the Engineering Manager held forte for the MD.” You should say: “The company made rapid progress last year when the Engineering Manager held the fort for the MD.”



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