Last week, we examined the responses of some Nigerian graduates and students to the claim of the Minister of Education, Prof. Adam Adam, that some of them do not know how to read or write well. In the process of trying to oppose the minister or to explain why the situation is like that, most people made many grammatical mistakes that seem to justify Adam’s position.
Remember, here is one of the comments I presented:
What will be most appreciated in Nigeria is a certificate that we don’t value skills, someone with a series of certificates that can’t create anything
While neither Adam as a minister nor the Nigerian government in general can escape some of the blame, what should be most important is finding ways to improve things. We need to identify the problems and offer solutions. Even if we don’t do it for the sake of ‘graduates’, we have to do it for the sake of younger and wider society, because so-called culprits operate among us, and language is contagious. In addition, many of the errors that mark or distort the English language with the letter of youth are those that permeate all layers.
My observation of the speech and writing of many of our young graduates is that they have challenges with some aspects of English time – sometimes including those who have studied English. All have gone through a course in the use of English or general studies, but issues related to tension remain. For example, many misuse continuous time by using it for actions that take place regularly or always, while what is needed in the context of the present tense:
He always says he can do better. (Wrong)
I often pray that God will give me a good job. (Wrong)
He always says he can do better. (Exactly)
I often pray that God will give me a good job. (Exactly)
But are these just misdemeanors by Nigerian graduates? No!
Related to this is the fact that some people also believe that only verbs in the present tense are adverbs as they always, regularly and often work with them. As a result, where they should use the word in the past tense, they use the present tense:
When I was in school, I always attend classes. (Wrong)
There was no cause for alarm because we attend classes regularly. (Wrong)
I always attended classes at school. (Exactly)
There was no cause for alarm because we attended classes regularly. (Exactly)
There is, there is or there is
Whether they are auxiliary verbs or main verbs, “had” is the past participle of “ima” or “ima”. Unfortunately, mixing the three ingredients is one of the burdens that many graduates bring from higher institutions in Nigeria. This does not mean that universities, polytechnics and various faculties are the ones affected by the syndrome; but the institutions, at least in many cases, are unable to cure them of it.
There is and there can express the present action, while it expresses the past:
The man has three cars. (He has them; he still owns cars.)
The three men have two cars each. (At this point they have.)
The man had three cars. (It used to be. Maybe he’s gone, maybe he’s gone or whatever, but again he’s not all three.)
The three men had two cars each. (The situation has changed in one way or another.)
However, in the context below, problems generally arise:
We finished the exam before the riots started. (Wrong)
She submitted the letter before I found out about the vacancy. (Wrong)
Statements are, though common, erroneous, because although ‘has’ and ‘has’ can express the present participle or aspect, ‘had’ expresses the past participle. When two actions have occurred, and one occurs before the other, we use ‘morality’ to denote the first thing that happened:
We finished the exam before the riots started. (Exactly)
She submitted the letter before I found out about the vacancy. (Exactly)
It was against being, double past tense and subjunctive mood
We don’t have enough time to fully discuss the three areas here, but I’m glad we treated them in this class on some occasions. All interested graduates – and all those – interested in the topics, should check them in “PUNCH”, in print or online.
Perhaps because both variants of the verb to be, to be, and to be are often confused:
You are not honest with yourself. (Wrong)
You are not honest with yourself. (Exactly)
If I had studied nursing, I would have traveled to Dubai. (Wrong)
If I had studied nursing, I would have traveled to Dubai. (Exactly)
By double past I mean an expression like:
She attended all the lectures. (Wrong)
She attended all the lectures. (Wrong)
Finally, subjunctive mood refers to some customs that do not conform to the usual grammatical rules, but which we must adhere to:
It’s time to start working. (Wrong)
The doctor suggests he go home tomorrow. (Wrong)
I pray that God will help me. (Wrong)
To tell the truth, how many graduates know that what we have below are correct terms?
It’s time to start working.
The doctor suggests he go home tomorrow.
I pray that God will help me.
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