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Did not clinch, win

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verb dumping Sunday clinchSAMPLE 1: “Buhari didn’t clinch the APC ticket or won the general election in 2015 by the workings of a northern consensus that Nigeria needs urgently.”(2019: Search for Northern Consensus Candidate Deadlocked, The Nation, 25 March, 2018)

We examine the relationship between the lexical/grammatical elements “didn’t clinch” and “won” both of which occur in the following structure: “Buhari didn’t clinch APC ticket or won the general election…” Please note that the word clinch is in its infinitive form. Why? Because it is preceded by the do-form (did). We would say: did not sing; did not write; did not fight, etc. In each of these examples the form did is followed by the present/infinitive form: sing, write, fight, etc.

Furthermore, please notice that the verb won is in its past form (unlike clinch). Here lies the problem. The fact that the conjunction (or) separates clinch and won is an indication that the two verb-forms should be equally affected by the preceding did.

When do we use do,does and did? We cannot do better than return to some illustrative sentences used a few months ago in this place.

Let’s note some grammatical constructions as a way of appreciating and understanding the way these forms are used: 1) He neither encouraged nor discouraged me. 2) The principal neither blamed nor condemned her. 3) The idea neither attracted nor repelled me. 4) He neither failed badly nor passed remarkably. 5) He neither feared God nor respected man. 6) They neither seek nor give information. 7) She neither sings nor plays an instrument. 8) The level of water neither rises nor drops during the dry season. 9) He neither obeys instructions nor respects superior authority. 10) He neither teaches well nor counsels effectively.

Please note that there are two verbs in each of those sentences and that the two verbs have identical grammatical forms. Where the first is in the past simple form, the other is in that form as well. Where the first is in the present simple form, the other is in that form as well. Where the first is inflected for the third person singular, the other takes that form as well.

Now compare those sentences with the following in which the word do is used for the purpose of creating a negative meaning:  1) He did not encourage or discourage me. 2) The principal did not blame or condemn her. 3) The idea did not attract or repel me. 4) He did not fail badly or pass remarkably. 5) He did not fear God or respect man. 6) They do not seek or give information. 7) She does not sing or play an instrument. 8) The level of water does not rise or drop during the dry season. 9) He does not obey instructions or respect superior authority. 10) He does not teach well or counsel effectively.

As in the former set of sentences, each of the sentences in the latter contains two main verbs. But in addition, there is the supporting do. In the previous set, the two verbs are either in the past or present form. Furthermore, in the former set, the two verbs in sentences (7)-(10) carry s or es indicating that the subject is in its third person singular form: sings and plays (7); rises and drops (8); obeys and respects (9); teaches and counsels (10).

In the latter, it is the supporting verb do that carries both the tense and the es indicating the third person singular subject. Thus in sentences (1)-(6) in which the tense is past, the verb do becomes did. What happens to the two main verbs? They are retained in their basic, uninflected forms or infinitive forms: encourage and discourage (1); blame and condemn (2); attract and repel (3); fail and pass (4); fear and respect (5); seek and give (6).

Unlike in the former set in which the main verbs carry s or es or ies marking the third person singular number, in the latter sentences, it is the supporting verb do that marks that number: does. What then happens to the two main verbs? They are retained in their basic, uninflected forms or infinitive forms: sing and play (7); rise and drop (8); obey and respect (9); teach and counsel (10).

The general rule is this: Whenever the supporting do is brought into a sentence for the purpose of negation, it is that verb (do) that carries the tense and concord/number markers. In consequence, the main verb or verbs do not experience change in form.

Other examples are: 1a) He knew the truth. 1b) He did not know the truth. 2a) She spoke her mind. 2b) She did not speak her mind. 3a) I accepted the offer. 3b) I did not accept the offer. 4a) He knows the truth. 4b) He does not know the truth. 5a) She speaks her mind. 5b) She does not speak her mind. 6a) She sings well. 6b) She does not sing well. 7a) The man likes his wife. 7b) The man does not like his wife. 8a) She pretends a lot. 8b) She does not pretend at all. 9a) He loves mathematics. 9b) He does not love mathematics at all. 10a) The man dresses well. 10a) The man does not dress well.

At any rate, the form won should be changed to its infinitive form: win.

Sample 2: “Apart from the likes of former Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and ex-Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, no politician of note has openly identified with the CNM since it’s unveiling in Abuja on Wednesday.”(Mark, Lamido, Makarfi, Kwankwaso Weigh Optios over Obasanjo’s Coalition,The Nation, 4 February, 2018)

We are interested in the form it’s which occurs in the structure, “since it’s unveiling in Abuja.”

The writer fails to realize that there is a difference between the forms it’s and its. The former (the one with the apostrophe and s) is the contracted form of “it is” and “it has”.

The following sentences illustrate the usage of it’s: 1) It’s raining.= It is raining. 2) It’s likely to rain.=It is likely to rain. 3) It’s rather surprising.= It is rather surprising. 4) It’s unfortunate that teachers are poorly paid in this country.= It is unfortunate that teachers are poorly paid in Nigeria. 5) It’s risky to travel at night= It is risky to travel at night . 6) It’s being evaluated.= It is being evaluated. 7) It’s been evaluated.= It has been evaluated. 8) It’s been established scientifically that women are not inferior to men.= It has been established scientifically that women are not inferior to men. 9) It’s been a long time.= It has been a long time. 10) It’s been a tedious and unrewarding exercise.= It has been a tedious and unrewarding exercise.

The word its, on the other hand, is the possessive form/adjective of the pronoun it. The following sentences illustrate its usage: 1) The resting snake finally drew its long tail into the hole. 2) The company and its subsidiaries employ hundreds of workers. 3) The car is beautiful outside but its interior is not as beautiful. 4) Every union should be willing to protect and defend its members in the time of crisis. 5) The house is huge but its occupants are few. 6) The school is organizing a re-union with its former students. 7) Every healthy institution should be able to fund its activities with its internally generated revenue. 8) The intelligence agency maintains its presence all over the world. 9) The lion eats only the bowels of its prey. 10) Every organization has its own strengths and challenges.

The two forms occur in each of the following sentences: 1) The dog wags its tail any time it’s (it is) excited. 2) It’s (it has) been the practice over the years that the society holds its Annual General Meeting in December. 3) Whenever it’s (it is) raining, the hen keeps its chicks under its wings. 4) Although it’s (it is) expensive, its durability makes it attractive to prospective buyers. 5) When it’s (it is) moving, its tyres become more pliable.

At any rate, the form its should replace it’s in the context under review.

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