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Author Topic: Dealing with annoying English grammar errors (14th in a series of 20)  (Read 81 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: December 22, 2017, 08:42:37 AM »


This is the 14th in a series of 20 essays on what I consider as the most annoying English grammar errors. It is running consecutively here in the Forum from November 7, 2017 every Tuesday and Friday until January 5, 2018.


7 – The misuse of participles (1)

The seventh type of grammar error that I find most annoying is the misuse of participles. It’s a very common error that comes in at least four kinds: (1) using the wrong form of participle in a verb phrase, (2) using the past tense instead of the past participle in a verb phrase, (3) using the past participle instead of the past tense as the predicate of a clause, and (4) making the participle dangle in a sentence.


Let’s first take up the use of the wrong form of participle in a verb phrase, as in the following two sentences (all italicizations mine):

(1) (Name of speaker withheld) said the adopt-a-school program will be relaunch where the private sector can help support public education.” (From a news item in a daily newspaper)

(2) “Credits loaded on this card cannot be exchange for cash.” (Statement on the obverse side of the prepaid plastic card of a Manila-based Internet service provider)

Those who are knowledgeable in English grammar will immediately know, of course, that in the two sentences above, the verbs “relaunch” and “exchange” should be in the past participle form “relaunched” and “exchanged” instead, such that the two sentences would read as follows: “(Name of speaker withheld) said the adopt-a-school program will be relaunched where the private sector can help support public education.” “Credits loaded on this card cannot be exchanged for cash.”


For us to have the confidence to routinely use the past participle in such sentence constructions, however, it is critically important to recognize the following:

—That the verb phrase in the first sentence is in the passive form of the future tense, which takes either of these two forms: “will + be + past participle” or “is/are going to be + past participle.” Hence, “will be relaunch” is a grammatically incorrect form that should be studiously avoided and should be routinely changed to either “will be relaunched” or “is going to be relaunched” instead. (Strictly speaking, though, since the statement in Sentence 1 has a past-tense attribution, “said,” the form “would be relaunched” is more appropriate, and the form “is going to be relaunched” won’t be an option at all. This, however, is a fine point that we will discuss later.)

—That the verb phrase in the second sentence is in the passive form of the modal “can” or “cannot,” which follows the following pattern: “modal + be + past participle.” Hence, “cannot be exchange” is a grammatically incorrect form that should likewise be studiously avoided and should be routinely changed to “cannot be exchanged” instead.

Of course, any discussion about the misuse of participles won’t mean much unless we have a firm grasp of what participles are and how they function in English sentences. Thus, before proceeding to take up their other annoying misuses, I propose that we make a quick review of the participles at this point.

Remember now that the participle, along with the infinitive and the gerund, is one of the three verbals, which are verb forms that function as other parts of speech. The participle can only work as an adjective, in contrast to the infinitive and gerund, both of which can work as a noun, adjective, or adverb.
 
The basic form of the participle is a verb that ends either in “-ing” or “-ed.” A participle that ends in “-ing” is a present participle, while a participle that typically ends in “-ed” is a past participle.
 
The present participle expresses present action in relation to the time expressed by the operative verb of a sentence, as in the sentence “The philosopher pondered the mystifying question,” where the present participle “mystifying” functions as an adjective modifying the noun “question.” On the other hand, the past participle expresses completed action in relation to the time expressed by the operative verb, as in the sentence “The owners visited the completed condominium,” where the past participle “completed” functions as an adjective modifying the noun “condominium.”


It is important to also keep in mind that in English, the past participle is used in forming the perfect tenses in the active voice and in forming all tenses in the passive voice.

(Next: The misuse of participles – 2)      December 26, 2017

This essay, 14th in a series of 20, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the October 27, 2007 issue of The Manila Times. It subsequently formed part of the book The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors, ©2008 by the author, © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2017, 01:30:45 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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