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How Good Is Your Grammar? – Part I

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In Liberia, generally speaking, if a person uses high-sounding vocabulary, if he is grandiloquent, not many people care whether he uses grammar correctly or not. Once he uses what our people call “big book,” he is free to insult or hurt grammar. Many of our “big-book” people speak bad English. They use bad grammar, but not many people notice it. Why? Because they hide behind the use of big and high-sounding words. Da na true, my people?

One of the areas where speakers and writers commit crime in the world of grammar has to do with the use of causative verbs. But what are causative verbs? Well, as the description denotes, they are verbs that indicate that an action has been caused by a person not carrying out the action.

The five commonly used causative verbs are make, let, have, get and help. And, believe me or not, these verbs are wrongly used by a great deal of people, including journalists and those considered well-educated. As a starter, read the following six sentences and see if you can identify the incorrect ones, as well as the correct ones. Life is brutal, isn’t it? And don’t forget that the use of grammar is part of life.

If he doesn’t tell me anything good, I will make him to leave my house.
She let him to enter the room in my absence.
I will have her to kiss me.
I will have my car wash tomorrow.
I get him buy me one scratch card every Saturday.
I help him cross the road every morning.

Did you get it right? I hope you did. Actually, only the sixth sentence is correct; the first five are incorrect. I know you will frown and pose your first question: “What?” But it’s true that only the last one is correct. I am also almost sure that your next question will be, “What makes the first five sentences wrong, and only the last one is correct?” Not so?

Well, to understand how the causative verbs are used, and to know why only the last sentence, and not the first five, is correct, it’s perfectly reasonable to look at the verbs from three different dimensions: structure, meaning and tense. However, for now, we will consider structure and meaning. Structures and Meanings of the Causative Verbs

In our study of tenses, most of us know about present tense, past tense and past participle. For the purpose of our discussion, I’ll use V1 for present tense, V2 for past tense and V3 for past participle. The general structure for each of the five common causative verbs is as follows:

Structure for “make” = make + object +V1

Example: I make him do my assignment. Meaning: If you make someone do something, it means that you force, compel or coerce the person to do it.  Consider this: I will make her marry him.

Comments on beginning example sentence #1: Now, let’s return to sentence #1 above. The sentence is grammatically incorrect because “to” is used after “make.” The correct form is: If he doesn’t tell me anything good, I will make him leave my house.

Note:  “To” can be used with “make” only in the passive form. Read this: He was made to leave the examination hall.

Structure for “let” = let + object + V1

Example: I let him do my assignment. Meaning: If you let someone do something, it means that you allow or permit the person to do it. Consider this: I will let him marry her. Comments on beginning example #2: The second sentence is incorrect because there is “to” after the causative very “let.” The correct form is: She let him enter the room in my absence.

To be continued …
Seriously, my people, aren’t these points to ponder?

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