In the euphoria that has, since Saturday, greeted the return of President Muhammadu Buhari to Nigeria, many people could not escape committing different types of errors in their comments.
While some of the slips can be regarded as ‘normal’ in everyday conversation, especially as people bombarded the social media with emotional outbursts, we are going to take a close look at a few of them.
This is due to the fact that the errors we are focusing on are not only commonly made, they are also linked to some of the topics we have repeatedly treated in this class.
I pray that the President get/gets well on time
One of the verb groups most difficult to handle is the one situated in the subjunctive mood. Our experience in this class has validated this assertion. They do not follow normal grammar rules. So, many people make mistakes when using the verbs in this category. And they find it difficult to adjust to corrections made concerning the group.
The aspect of the subjunctive mood that I am referring to is the one that insists we use the verb without an s where, under normal circumstances, we would have done so. This occurs in statements with He suggests that, He insists that, He recommends that, He demands that and He prays that.
She recommends that he goes tomorrow. (Wrong)
He recommends that he go tomorrow. (Correct)
They suggested that he goes there tomorrow. (Wrong)
They suggested that he go there tomorrow. (Correct)
They advised that she prays for the man. (Wrong)
They advised that she pray for the man. (Correct)
Now, let us look at two of the comments that greeted President Muhammadu Buhari’s return from London. While the first is an Instagram post by Zahra, one of the President’s children, the other is from a tweet by the Peoples Democractic Party.
From Zahra: “Welcome back home Daddy?? Cheers? (apple juice) To the strongest man I know.. Alhamdulillah. Say a prayer for those that want to eliminate him to get their way.. God is watching. ‘I pray that He guides us all onto the straight path.
And from the PDP: We thank the Almighty for saving his life and pray that He grants him better health and understanding…
For now, we will not be bothered by some of the slips in the first part of Zahra’s post. Emphasis is on the last sentence “I pray that He guides us all onto the straight path.” If it had been configured along the line of normal English structures, the clause would have been okay. But because it is in the subjunctive mood, there is a problem with prays. The s should be thrown away. The correct thing to say or write is:
I pray that He guide us all onto the straight path.
By now you should understand how the PDP too goofed, though it did what is noble by joining other Nigerians to congratulate Buhari — despite being its number one opponent. What is required in the statement taken from their post is grant, not grants, because the expression is in the ever stubborn subjunctive mood:
We thank the Almighty for saving his life and pray that He grants him better health and understanding … (Wrong)
We thank the Almighty for saving his life and pray that He grant him better health and understanding… (Correct)
What this suggests is that you should go back to the lessons in which we discussed the subjunctive mood . It is a tricky aspect of grammar; so, constant attention to it will help.
When you first call someone before addressing the person, all within a sentence, you must separate the name or title of the person with a comma. You must put a comma before you relay your message:
John I want you to go tomorrow. (Wrong)
John, I want you to go tomorrow. (Correct)
Mummy can I leave now? (Wrong)
Mummy, can I leave now? (Correct)
Now, consider this statement I picked from a post on stellademoskorkus:
Welcome Mr. President, we Nigerians love you.
and this other one from the Zahra’s post:
Welcome back home Daddy.
Because President Buhari is being directly addressed in both, a comma must separate him from the message:
Welcome Mr. President, we Nigerians love you. (Wrong)
Welcome, Mr. President. We Nigerians love you. (Correct)
Welcome back home Daddy. (Wrong)
Welcome back home, Daddy. (Correct)
Entertainer and activist, Charly Boy, who led the Resume or Resign group that rose against President Buhari’s continued treatment in the UK, also shares in the vocative fever. In a letter he wrote to Buhari after his return, he noted:
Further to this Mr. President, one of the most pernicious threats beleaguering us today is insecurity of lives and properties (property).
There is the need for a comma before Mr.:
Further to this, Mr. President, one of the most pernicious threats beleaguering us today is insecurity of lives and properties (property)…
I actually observed that many of the comments on Buhari’s return harbour several punctuation errors, thus suggesting that many people are far from being painstaking in their handling of the all-important aspect of English grammar. I want you to watch this in your writing.
Consider these responses to the post welcoming Buhari home:
And they are celebrating him as if he went for a tournament and came back with a gold medal. What a Shame! Continue enriching UK with tax payers’ money, don’t fix Nigeria hospitals.
Why the need for the capital’s in What a Shame? Irrelevant, indeed. Also, since the writer meant to show possession in taxpayers money, there ought to be an apostrophe after s — tax-payers’ money.
Consider the insult heaped on the country’s federal capital in this other response:
We thank God. The ‘powers that be’ in abuja should allow this man sit down on the chair God appointed for him and stop dragging things with Eledumare.
Why on earth should you spell Abuja with a small letter at the beginning?
Lastly, let’s see the problem of tensing in this other clause taken from the Charly Boy’s letter:
When I learned that you will be returning yesterday, I was glad because it means you eventually listened to our cries and yearnings.
Can you spot where the error is? When did he learn that the President would be returning? Has the action of returning taken place or not? Why then should the writer use will — and not would? The statement should have been:
When I learned that you would be returning yesterday, I was glad because it means you eventually listened to our cries and yearnings.