‘Fail­ing’ and ‘fail­ure’

YOUR QUES­TIONS AN­SWERED by FADZI­LAH AMIN

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

COULD you please ad­vise me on this sen­tence, which comes from an English daily: “ Fail­ure to do so, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Hasni Za­rina Mohamed Khan, may re­sult in the cards not func­tion­ing at the fast lanes.”

Why don’t we use fail­ingto­doso in­stead of fail­ureto­doso?

Could you please give a few ex­am­ples which use these two words. – Chang “ Fail­ure” in your quo­ta­tion is a noun, mean­ing the act of “not do­ing some­thing one should do”. It is the word more of­ten used in of­fi­cial notices and re­minders, than the word “fail­ing”, which is the –ing form of the verb “fail” and can be used as a gerund to also mean “not do­ing what one should do”. The noun, how­ever, has a more ur­gent and force­ful ring to it than the gerund. Here are some ex­am­ples of us­age, from the In­ter­net:

... please al­ways in­clude ... your full name, date of birth and the course to which you have ap­plied in all cor­re­spon­dence. Fail­ure to do so may re­sult in a de­ci­sion on your ap­pli­ca­tion be­ing de­layed. (from the web­site of the Uni­ver­sity of War­wick, UK)

This high­lights the need for busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als to pri­ori­tise re­new­ing their reg­is­tra­tions. Fail­ure to do so can re­sult in your on­line brand iden­tity be­ing snapped up by some­one else. (from net­mag.co.uk)

Med­i­cal char­ity Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (MSF) ac­cused UN peace­keep­ers in Congo on Wed­nes­day of fail­ing to pro­tect civil­ians by not re­act­ing to attacks by Ugan­dan rebels that have killed hun­dreds. (from an on­line Reuters re­port)

Many pa­tients don’t take their medicines as pre­scribed, even when fail­ing to do so could pro­long dis­eases or have life-threat­en­ing con­se­quences. (from the on­line pub­li­ca­tion, Re­search, Oc­to­ber 2005) THE fol­low­ing state­ments come from the news­pa­pers.

1. “MIUP pres­i­dent Datuk S. Nal­lakarup­pan said it was the de­sire of any po­lit­i­cal party that sup­ports Barisan’s as­pi­ra­tion to be of­fi­cially ac­cepted into the coali­tion.”

Is the tense of the verb in bold cor­rectly used here? If it is cor­rect, please ex­plain the rea­son? And if not, what should the cor­rect tense be?

2. When asked for his birth­day wish, Karpal said: “That Pakatan Rakyat takes over power at the Fed­eral level.”

Should the verb be “ take” in­stead of “takes”? – Felicia 1. No, be­cause the re­port­ing verb in the sen­tence, i.e. “ said” is in the past tense, and the verb in the main re­ported clause , i.e. “ was” is also in the past tense. The verb in the rel­a­tive clause of the re­ported clause (i.e. “that sup­ports Barisan’s as­pi­ra­tion ...”) should there­fore also be in the past tense, i.e. “ sup­ported”.

It is pos­si­ble to use a present tense re­ported clause with a past tense re­port­ing verb if the sit­u­a­tion that is be­ing re­ported has not changed. But since Datuk S. Nal­lakarup­pan was ex­press­ing an opin­ion rather than de­scrib­ing a sit­u­a­tion, it is bet­ter to use the past tense.

2. Yes, the verb in bold should be “take”, NOT “takes”, be­cause a wish expressed in a clause be­gin­ning with “that” should use a verb in the sub­junc­tive mood. In this case, the sub­junc­tive has the same form as the base form of the verb. IS “per­cent­age” a sin­gu­lar or plu­ral noun? What are the an­swers to the fol­low­ing ques­tions?

1. What per­cent­age of peo­ple in the world (is, are) il­lit­er­ate?

2. What per­cent­age of the earth’s sur­face (is, are) cov­ered by wa­ter? – AvidMOEReader “Per­cent­age” is a sin­gu­lar noun and its plu­ral form is “per­cent­ages”. It can, how­ever, be used with a sin­gu­lar or a plu­ral noun, depend­ing on the con­text of the words around it.

I as­sume you don’t want me to an­swer the ques­tions asked in 1 & 2, but to choose be­tween the sin­gu­lar “is” and plu­ral “are” in brack­ets in each ques­tion. I would choose the plu­ral verb “are” for Ques­tion 1 and the sin­gu­lar verb “is” for Ques­tion 2, so that they will read:

1) What per­cent­age of the peo­ple in the world are il­lit­er­ate?

2) What per­cent­age of the earth’s sur­faceis cov­ered by wa­ter?

The verb agrees with the noun that fol­lows “What per­cent­age of ...” in ques­tions that be­gin with those words. Thus the noun “peo­ple” in 1) takes the plu­ral verb “are”; and the noun “sur­face” in 2) takes the sin­gu­lar verb “is”.

You might be in­ter­ested to look at some sen­tences of sim­i­lar struc­ture from a pdf file ti­tled Frac­tions and Per­cent­ages, made avail­able on the In­ter­net by The Cen­tre for In­no­va­tion in Math­e­mat­ics Teach­ing, Bri­tain:

“55% of the stu­dents in a school are fe­male. What per­cent­age of stu­dents are male?”

“An al­loy con­sists of 2.5kg of zinc and 4kg of tin. What per­cent­age of the al­loy is made of tin? (www.cimt.ply­mouth.ac.uk/projects/ mepres/all­gcse/pr11-sa.pdf) THESE sen­tences ap­peared in The Star some time ago:

1. Green ini­tia­tives acri­te­ria for ho­tel star­rat­ing

2. He said more new ho­tels were also tak­ing an in­creased in­ter­est in green ini­tia­tives as it was acri­te­ria for star-rat­ings.

Shouldn’t “cri­te­rion” be used in­stead? – NeedEn­light­en­ment The word used should be “cri­te­rion” in both sen­tences. Us­ing “cri­te­ria” as a sin­gu­lar noun is a com­mon mis­take ac­cord­ing to the Con­cise Ox­ford English Dic­tio­nary (2009). In Malaysia, it may be partly due to BM us­ing “kri­te­ria” to mean both “cri­te­rion” and “cri­te­ria”.

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