TWO KINDS OF INCOMPLETE CONSTRUCTIONS
mar would insist that both words must be included to make the sentence complete.
We can say that all the foregoing are lighter errors that violate the quality of completeness. To the graver error that violatescompleteness we shall now turn.
Read the following sentence and tell me how well it sits with you. “There is change taking place here, there and everywhere you go in Swaziland these days but one can’t quite get to put a finger on who or how it is being managed, if at all.” This is the first sentence of a personal comment with the title, HOW ARE WE MANAGING ALL THESE CHANGES? – Times of Swaziland, October 9, 2017.
If you ask me, I will tell you that the sentence does not sit properly with me. And if you ask me why, I will point to the part of the sentence which reads: “put a finger on who or how it is being managed.”
The problem with that construction revolves around the pronoun, “who.”
Actually, there are two problems with the word. The first problem is not related to our main business here, today, that is, completeness; but it has to do with general grammatical correctness. The pronoun, “who,” is in the nominative or subjective case. This is wrong, per se, in the context we find it in that sentence. Correctly written, it should be in the objective case, “whom,” as in, “put a finger on whom.”
However, here and now, let me repeat, that is not the pertinent problem with the pronoun, “who.” For us to see the problem, properly, we need to look at the pronoun in the context of the construction, “who or how it is being managed.”
Quickly, this is what you can do to see the incompleteness in question. Compare the two elements that have been joined by the coordinating conjunction, “or,” that is, “who” and “how it is being managed.” When you do this, you will see from their size and composition that something is missing from the first element.
To cut a long story short, let us supply what is missing, that is, the thing that is causing the incompleteness. Here it is in capital letters: “who IS MANAGING IT (the change) and how it is being managed.” Now, we can revise the sentence, thus: “There is change taking place here, there and everywhere you go in Swaziland these days, but one can’t quite get to put a finger on who is managing the change or how it is being managed, if at all.”
As you can see, the incompleteness we have rectified here is much bigger than that of just a word that is missing from the other part of a correlative conjunction, such as, “not only…but also.” This is an error that involves lack of proper development of a substantial part of a sentence, a clause. It is an error known as inchoate construction.
The word “inchoate” means, “just beginning to form and therefore not clear or developed.” Inchoate construction is an error more complex to discern or detect, and more difficult to correct. That, of course, is why it is a graver error than incomplete correlative conjunction, which is a trifle by comparison.
If you are a stickler for completeness, you will know that this sentence is manifestly inchoate: “Prophet Samuel Hadebe says there is no divided religion than that of Christianity.” This is the lead of a news story in the Times of Swaziland, March 29, 2016, with the headline, “No religion divided than Christianity.” You can say, of course, that the headline is equally inchoate.
As we do once in a while, let us reverse our regular order of business on MTE by revising the sentence, first, and then explaining the error which we have tried to correct. That sentence may be revised, thus: “Prophet Samuel Hadebe says there is no RELIGION that is MORE DIVIDED than Christianity (is).”
The conjunction, “than,” is used to introduce the second part of a comparison. This means that it used to connect elements that have adjectives which are in the comparative case, for example, “He is younger than I am,” “She is more intelligent than I am,” etc.
In the sentence under review, the first part of the construction has an adjective that is in the positive case, “divided,” not in the comparative case, “more divided.” This defect makes the sentence lack syntactic clarity because it is not fully developed. Besides, the adjective, “divided,” is not properly placed in the sentence. It should come before the conjunctive phrase, “more than,” not before the element that it is comparing with another, in this case, “religion.”
“The secret of creating value for self and others” is the title of an article in the Sunday Observer of March 8, 2015. Its opening sentence has a problem of incompleteness that is not as easy to isolate as the one in the previous sentence which we have just corrected. It reads, thus: “We wake up each morning to do what we do in order to solve our and other people’s problems, and that is the fundamental rationale behind the working class.”
Look closely at this construction: “solve our and other people’s problems.”
If you cannot see it, I am sure you can feel it! You can feel that something needs to be added immediately to the phrase, “solve our” to make it complete. That’s true: It should be, “solve our problems.” And that whole construction may be rewritten, thus: “solve our problems and those of other people.”
The second part of the sentence has yet another kind of incompleteness, one that is less obvious and more subtle than the one we have just mended. Let us highlight the element that we have used to complete the construction in the revised sentence in order for you to see the error clearly: “We wake up each morning to do what we do in order to solve our problems and those of other people, and that is the fundamental rationale behind the ETHOS OF the working class.”
Talking about “the fundamental rationale of the working class” leaves something out, and that “something” is what we have tried to supply with “ethos.” The sentence may not be perfect, now, but it cannot be said to suffer from the deficiency of incompleteness, because it is no longer inchoate.
Our last take on incomplete constructions is what may be described as a combo: a combination of the two errors under our spotlight, today, to wit, the incomplete correlative conjunction and the inchoate construction.
It comes from a news story with the headline, “I am not a subject but a citizen of Swaziland – Mario,” Times of Swaziland, February 20, 2017. The third paragraph of the story reads, thus: “Mare was in Swaziland last August during the Umhlanga ceremony and not only did he interview Masuku, but His Majesty King Mswati III and locals.”
Revised version with corrections in CAPITAL l ett ers: “Mare was in Swaziland last August during the Umhlanga ceremony, and not only did he interview Masuku, but HE ALSO INTERVIEWED His Majesty King Mswati III and locals.”