GRAMMAR WORLD: THE ALMIGHTY FORMULA

By Moshood Alabi, PhD Candiddate, Lagos State University

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I have decided to rest my case, for now, on PLURALIZATION . Let us do something else.
Despite that there was and there is nothing almighty in that formula in quadratic equation in Mathematics, the name almighty can scare students from attempting any question relating to it.

I almost ran away from it too when I was still dining with that subject. Also, there are also some troublesome and illogical rules of the English grammar that the teachers say, but usually violate before they leave the classroom.

This is because the rules are not practicable. The era of prescribing the language is gone. This is the era of giving the users the freedom of using the language the way they feel like as long as they do not violate the basic principles of the language.

I was taught the rules in my undergraduate days, but it sounded like the usual phrase in the popular surrogate advert in Nigeria: Smokers are liable to die Young. If that phrase is impactful, how come the number of smokers increases unimaginably? .

The Rules
Let me examine two rules this moment. It is the traditional rule — “DO NOT END A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION”.
The rule was well pronounced and is still being pronounced by some teachers.
The basis for this rule is the Latin grammar ,in which a preposition always precedes its nouns or pronouns and cannot come after it.
The English language, however, is not Latin Grammar. In English, a preposition can come after its noun or pronoun.
The definition of a preposition in most dictionaries is quite misleading. They give prepositions only an attributive feature. They define a preposition as a word that comes before a noun, a pronoun and a gerund.
This stated rule condemns a construction like this:
  • What are you referring to? They expect you to write:
  • To what are you referring? How practicable is this rule?
You and I know that moving the preposition to come before a noun or a pronoun may be impossible and its possibility can affect the semantic implication of the expression.
Compare these:
  • What are you paying for?
  • For what are you paying? Can you interpret them the same way?
Here is the submission of most experts: A preposition should be placed where it sounds appropriate.
The second rule I want to examine also has a Latin origin. It is the rule of SPLIT INFINITE.
DO NOT SPLIT AN INFINITIVE
It is in Latin that the infinitive is viewed as one word and can never be separated. This rule considers these expressions incorrect:
  • I want you to always read your book.✖

The assumption of this rule is that TO READ is one word and must not be split. Well,the rule has no basis in the English language. Splitting the infinitive is not considered an error because it has a Latin origin.

The expression,to them, should be written as:
  • I want you to read your book always.
There is nothing wrong with the previous construction.
In conclusion, do not limit yourself in your use of English by caging yourself with so many rules of the language especially with the baseless ones because this will have an adverse effect on your fluency. No formula is almighty in the language, but some teachers have made it look like a particular one exists.
References
Finnegan E.(2008) Language: Its Structure and Use .USA: Thomson Wadsworth
Crystal .D. (2010) The Encyclopedia of Language. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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