The 2019 general election threw up a few surprises. It also left some grammatical landmarks that are likely to lead unsuspecting users of the English Language astray. This special edition of Editorial Conference examines some wrong expressions that were dispensed by reporters, editors, analysts, INEC officials, voters, political pilgrims and social media commentators. I hope you enjoy the fun that comes with it.
- I have a strong believe that the president will be re-elected. (Ok, prophet!)
Error: Believe (verb) is an action/doing word. Belief is the nominal (name/noun) form of the word, and that is what the user has.
Correction: I have a strong belief that the president will be re-elected.
OR: I believe strongly that the president will be re-elected.
- The election was largely violent-free. (Was it also angry-free?)
Error: This is similar to No.1. This time, an adjective (violent) is used instead of the noun (violence) which is the name of the thing that the election was free of. In the same vein, it would be wrong to say (as suggested in the remark on this expression): His facial expression is angry-free (rather: anger-free).
Correction: The election was largely violence-free; which means the election was largely free of violence.
- They are the people that ensures that all security challenges are curtailed. (Really!)
Error: Subject-Verb Agreement (SVA – A plural subject conjugates (combines with) a plural verb.
Correction: They are the people that ensure that all security challenges are curtailed.
- God will make bad leaders to pay (Karma)
Error: The error here is so simple that many would miss it. Yet, it is a very problematic error called PUNCTUATION. The end of a sentence is marked by a full stop, also known as period.
Correction: God will make bad leaders to pay.
- We have observers across every polling unit. (Super men!)
Error: Inappropriate preposition: Across means from one side to the other of an area/expanse with clear limits.
Correction: We have observers in every polling unit.
- Had the people knew, they wouldn’t have voted for him. (Now they know)
Error: Tenses: Wrong Tense. Simple past tense (knew) used instead of past participle (known).
Correction: Had the people known they wouldn’t have voted for him.
- In this country, people practice how to rig elections. (Practice makes perfect)
Error: Parsing: Use of the noun form instead of the verb form of the word practice.
Correction: In this country, people practise how to rig elections.
Exception: American English allows the use of practice as a verb.
- Running to the polling booth, his PVC fell out of his pocket. (What a fast runner!)
One might wonder what is wrong with this sentence.
Error: The use of the dangling or misrelated participle ‘Running…’ at the beginning of the sentence. This gives the impression that it’s the PVC that was running to the polling booth and not the voter. Generally, dangling modifiers should not be used to begin sentences, as they cause ambiguity (even within sentences).
Correction: His PVC fell out of his pocket, as he was running to the polling booth.
Funny enough, reporters seem (NOT seems) to be in love with dangling modifiers, as we shall see in the following cases:
- Being unable to vote, the polling station was closed. (Too bad!)
Error: Unrelated/misplaced modifier causing ambiguity: Who/what was unable to vote; the polling station or the voters?
Correction: The polling station was closed, as/because voters were unable to vote.
- Our reporter saw many voided ballot papers, moving from one polling booth to the other. (Blood of Jesus!)
Error: Unrelated participle; moving placed after ballot papers conveys the impression that the voided ballot papers were moving from one polling booth to the other. Weird, isn’t it?
Correction: Our reporter saw many voided ballot papers, as he was moving from one polling booth to the other.
- Being rough-handled, the presiding officer refused to honour the PVC (Tit for tat; so, the presiding officer was rough-handled?)
Error: Same as previous: Unrelated/misplaced modifier ‘rough-handled’
Correction: The presiding officer refused to honour the rough-handled PVC.
12. The vice president hates corruption as much as the president. (Impossible!)
Error: Ambiguous comparison: Does the vice president hate corruption as much as he hates the president?
Correction: The vice president hates corruption as much as the president hates it (corruption).
- Do not jump into the conclusion that your party has won. (Relax!)
Error: Wrong idiom: There are certain grammatical expressions (word groups) that are used in specific ways. These are called idioms or set phrases. Their meanings are not derivable from the individual words in the group.
Correction: The right idiom is, jump to conclusion. Therefore: Do not jump to the conclusion that your party has won.
- People refused to vote in the gubernatorial election because they did not want to be escape goats. (What of escape dogs?)
Error: Wrong idiom (Refer to explanation above)
Correction: People refused to vote in the gubernatorial election because they did not want to be scapegoats. (A scapegoat is a person blamed/punished for the mistakes/crimes of others.)
- I hope he will accept the result with good fate (Fatal desire)
Error: 2 issues here: 1. Wrong preposition; with used instead of in and 2. Malapropism: fate used instead of faith (fate and faith sound almost the same way, but mean different things.)
Correction: I hope he will accept the result in good faith (honestly, sincerely, in line with pre-determined agreement or terms)
#End of Part 1
NP: What wrong grammatical expressions did you encounter during the election season? Please, share in the NewsPlus Facebook comments section.
Watch out for Part 2!
Meanwhile you may visit: http://www.newsplus.ng/?s=editorial+conference for more wrong grammatical expressions and their corrections.
See you on the other side!