And S-VD reigns supreme!

Sunday Observer - - FEATURES -

thus: “The of­fi­cer in charge as­sis­tant rep­re­sen­ta­tive (sic) stated that like most African coun­tries, Swazi­land has a very youth­ful pop­u­la­tion, with about 34 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion be­tween 10 and 24, which ac­cord­ing to UNFPA trans­lates to over 400 000 young Swazis. Th­wala-Tembe said if proper in­vest­ment in their ed­u­ca­tion and health are made the coun­try can achieve its full po­ten­tial for eco­nomic growth.”

If you pe­ruse the sec­ond sen­tence in that para­graph, you will find one case of S-VD. The verb in that sen­tence is “are.” But what ex­actly is the sub­ject of the sen­tence? What has hap­pened here is very easy to see. The writer has taken the two el­e­ments, “their ed­u­ca­tion and health,” as the sub­ject, hence, the plu­ral verb, “are.”

But that is wrong. The sim­ple sub­ject of the sen­tence is “in­vest­ment,” which is sin­gu­lar. This is the el­e­ment that must guide the na­ture of the verb, not the com­plete sub­ject, which is, “proper in­vest­ment in their ed­u­ca­tion and health.”

Ac­cord­ingly, the sen­tence needs to be re­vised, thus: “Th­wala-Tembe said if proper in­vest­ment in their ed­u­ca­tion and health is made, the coun­try can achieve its full po­ten­tial for eco­nomic growth.”

The S-VD in the fol­low­ing sen­tence is quite glar­ing, I dare­say: “Ramaphosa’s camp be­lieve the story was planted and that the emails have been leaked and cir­cu­lated to co­in­cide with what many be­lieve would be the be­gin­ning of the nom­i­na­tions.” This is the sixth para­graph of the top story in the City Press of Septem­ber 3, 2017 with the head­line, IT’S OPEN SEA­SON FOR THE ANC’S DIRTY TRICKS. Septem­ber 17, 2017

As you can see, “Ramaphosa’s camp,” which is the sub­ject of the sen­tence, is sin­gu­lar, but the verb, “be­lieve,” is plu­ral. This is a very glar­ing case of S-VD be­cause the verb fol­lows its sub­ject im­me­di­ately. The er­ror should be righted, ac­cord­ingly: “Ramaphosa’s camp be­lieves the story was planted…”

On Au­gust 17, 2017 the lead story in The Star bore the head­line, MU­GABE’S R45M SA PAD.

To the head­line is an in­ter­roga­tory rider which reads: “Is Zim first lady se­cur­ing her fu­ture?” Here is the first sen­tence of the sec­ond para­graph of the story reads: “The news come against the back­ground of a na­tional out­rage over al­le­ga­tions she as­saulted a 20-year old Joburg model she found with her two sons at a ho­tel on Sun­day.”

Quite a num­ber of words do mas­quer­ade as plu­ral in num­ber; but they are, in­deed, sin­gu­lar. The word “news” is one of such lex­i­cal mas­quer­ades! Never be mis­led to dance to the tune of this mas­quer­ade by us­ing a plu­ral verb af­ter it.

The S-VD needs to be cor­rected by re­vis­ing the sen­tence, thus: “The news COMES against the back­ground of a na­tional out­rage over al­le­ga­tions she as­saulted a 20-year old Joburg model she found with her two sons at a ho­tel on Sun­day.”

You can find ex­actly the same er­ror in the fol­low­ing sen­tence: “Thurs­day, this week marked a painful day when the whole world stood still, won­der­ing whether the news from Paris WERE true or false.”

This is the open­ing sen­tence in an opinion piece with the ti­tle, TEARS FOR PRINCESS DIANA 20 YEARS ON, Times of Swazi­land, Septem­ber3, 2017.

The S-VD, as you can see, has been cast in cap­i­tal let­ters. “News,” to re­it­er­ate, is a lex­i­cal mas­quer­ade: It looks like a plu­ral word, but it ac­tu­ally sin­gu­lar in num­ber. Never use a plu­ral verb af­ter it.

Maybe, in­stead of talk­ing about SVD reign­ing supreme, we should talk about lex­i­cal mas­quer­ades, es­pe­cially, “news,” mis­lead­ing supremely! Check this out: “The dif­fer­ence be­tween news me­dia and other forms of me­dia is that the for­mer con­vinces us that news are not a form of en­ter­tain­ment, but some­thing far more cru­cially- im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion (sic) that we con­sume in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand our world, as op­posed to the pure, macabre en­ter­tain­ment we as­so­ciate with other forms of me­dia.”

That is an ex­cerpt from a fea­ture in the Swazi Ob­server of May 3, 2017, one ti­tled, THE ROLE OF NEWS ME­DIA.

There you can see the lex­i­cal mas­quer­ade, “news,” at its be­guil­ing best! Come on, never fall for it! “Never be led to say, “News ARE not a form of en­ter­tain­ment.” This is S-VD par ex­cel­lence! The cor­rect thing to say is: “News IS not a form of en­ter­tain­ment.”

Let me high­light the cul­pa­ble el­e­ments in the fol­low­ing sen­tence, so that you can see the S-VD, with­out much ado.

“If there ever was doubt that our na­tion is fac­ing a lead­er­ship cri­sis, EVENTS sur­round­ing the charg­ing of Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­ham HAS put paid to them.” This is the first sen­tence in a com­men­tary in The Star of Oc­to­ber 25, 2016, with the ti­tle, “Our coun­try is in a lead­er­ship cri­sis.”

You can read­ily see the two part­ners in crime: EVENTS and HAS! A plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for this er­ror, me­thinks, is the fact that the sub­ject of the sen­tence, “events,” has been sep­a­rated from the verb, “has,” by a long phrase. Be­sides, the phrase con­tains the gerund or par­ticip­ial noun, “charg­ing,” which is sin­gu­lar.

All that not­with­stand­ing, we must be able to de­ter­mine the cor­rect verb that should fol­low the sub­ject of our sen­tence. The plu­ral sub­ject, “events,” can only be fol­lowed by a plu­ral verb, “have.” Ac­cord­ingly, the sen­tence should be re­vised to cor­rect the S-VD, thus: “If there ever was doubt that our na­tion is fac­ing a lead­er­ship cri­sis, EVENTS sur­round­ing the charg­ing of Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­ham HAVE put paid to them.”

The fol­low­ing are two bul­let points from an ar­ti­cle in the Times of Swazi­land SUN­DAY, July 24, 2016, with the ti­tle, TRUTH ABOUT DEMOC­RACY. First bul­let point: “True democ­racy re­spect the fun­da­men­tal rights and the uni­ver­sal­ity thereof. Sec­ond bul­let point: “True democ­racy re­spect the doc­trine of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers.”

It is quite easy to see the er­ror. In both cases the sin­gu­lar sub­ject, “democ­racy,” has taken on the plu­ral verb, “re­spect.” Democ­racy should take on the sin­gu­lar verb, “re­spects.”

What is true of er­rors, gen­er­ally, is equally true of the er­ror of Sub­jec­tVerb Dis­agree­ment, par­tic­u­larly: We can­not elim­i­nate it.

But we can at­ten­u­ate the reign of SV-D by al­ways cross­check­ing the sub­ject in our sen­tence with its verb, with par­tic­u­lar re­gard to the na­ture of the noun that forms our sub­ject.

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