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Aug 22, 2016

The English That Has Embarrassed So Many. Part 5


Do you know that grammatical blunders are not always as a result of you not knowing the rules governing the English language? One might be competent in a particular language but still commit blunders when using/writing the language. This is known as ‘performance error’ and it is caused by certain factors such as: stuttering, loss of memory, drunkenness etc. Therefore, do not always see someone who commits grammatical blunders as a dullard or one suffering from language poverty.
In this part of the tutorial, I shall be discussing with you other grammatical blunders that have enslaved many learners of the English language. These blunders are:

1.    I am here/writing to propose/oppose the motion which says...
2.    Sir, I want to sign my course form.
3.    Am sorry for offending you.
4.    Please, on/off  the light.
5.    The reason why I beat her is because she slapped me./The reason is because...

Now let’s see why the above sentences are ungrammatical and please, mark the underlined words.

Sentence one: I am here/writing to propose/oppose the motion which says...
Sentence one is a very common mistake among students writing their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), especially those answering the argumentative essay. While serving in Niger State, I was given the opportunity to work for WAEC and NECO as an Assistant Examiner (AE) of English language and during the coordination process, I was taught by senior examiners of English that a motion is not a living thing hence doesn’t ‘say’ but ‘state.’
Therefore, the right thing to say is:” I am here/writing to propose/oppose the motion which states...”

Sentence two: Sir, I want to sign my course form.
Sentence two is structurally grammatical but contextually ungrammatical. It is a common mistake among undergraduates. During my second year in the university, I took my course form to my lecturer for him to sign and on meeting him, I said, ‘Sir, I want to sign my course form’ and he immediately replied, ‘Okay, sign it na.’ His prompt response gave me the conviction that I had messed up grammatically but not knowing the right thing to say, I helplessly stood in front of him until he rescued me from the embarrassing chains of the English language.
Sentence two is ungrammatical because the meaning of the sentence is different from what the speaker actually means. What the speaker means is that his lecturer should sign his course form but the sentence simply means, the speaker, seeking permission from his lecturer, wants to sign the course form himself. That is why I said the sentence is structurally grammatical but contextually ungrammatical. By context, I mean the actual meaning of the sentence.

Therefore, the right thing to say is: “Sir, could you please sign my course form.”

Sentence three: Am sorry for offending you.
Many learners of English ignorantly feel that ‘am’ is the contracted or shortened form of ‘I am.’ ‘Am’ is a form of the auxiliary verb, ‘BE’ and in any sentence, it should be preceded by a subject (the first person pronoun ‘I’) e.g. I am a boy. I am going to school. You can also have 'am' coming before the first person singular pronoun, 'I' for example: Am I the person you are referring to?

Again, the contracted or shortened form of ‘I am’ is ‘I’m’ and not ‘am’ so it is totally ungrammatical to write/say, ‘Am coming’ or ‘Am going to school.’ The right thing to write/say is: ‘I am coming’ or ‘I’m coming.’

Having said that, the right expression for sentence three is: “I am sorry for offending you’ or ‘I’m sorry for offending you.”

Sentence four: Please on/off the light.
I think this is Nigerian English and not Standard English. In English language, there is no verb like ‘on’ or ‘off’ but ‘switch on’ and switch off.’

 Therefore, the right sentence is: “Please switch on/switch off the light.”

Sentence five: The reason why I beat her is because she slapped me./The reason is because...
The above sentence is tautological because ‘reason’ ‘why’ and ‘because’ mean the same thing. They state the cause of an action.

The right expressions are: “The reason I beat her was for slapping me.” or “I beat her because she slapped me.”

However, the phrase 'reason why' is used by the native speakers of English and the oxford English dictionary upholds it as grammatical.

On my part, I consider it as ungrammatical because one of the definitions of 'why' is 'reason' and both are used to state the cause of an action so tell me, if 'why' also means 'reason', isn't it tautological to say, 'the reason why?'




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