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Suppose and concord

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concord, delaying, ranging, indefinite strike

SAMPLE 1: “We saw some underage girls who are suppose to be in the school and one guy appeared some somewhere and threatened to beat us…”(NGO Gives Hope to Vulnerable Children, The Nation, 6 January, 2019)

Let us note the word suppose which occurs in the following context: “who are suppose to be.” It is important to observe that the word (suppose) is preceded by the word are, a form of be. Equally important is the fact that the word suppose does not have a final –d. This is a grave grammatical error. The word ought to have a final –d: supposed.

I felt like shooting somebody when Obasanjo retired me —Oyinlola

This error affords us the opportunity to revise the use of the word suppose. There are several different senses in which the word suppose is used. The two whose grammatical characteristics concern us are presented as follows. First, there is the sense of the word which means assume, guess. In this sense, the verb is used in the active voice. Please read the following sentences: 1a) I supposed that the boy had no parents. 1b) Did you suppose that the boy had no parents? 1c) I did not suppose that the boy had no parents. 2a) The white men wrongly supposed we had no culture. 2b) Did the white men supposed that we had no culture? 2c) The white men did not suppose we had no culture. Rather, they thought our culture was barbaric. 3a) Many people suppose that lawyers are liars. 3b) Do many people suppose that lawyers are liars? 3c) Many people do not suppose that layers are liars. 4a) Our people suppose that God is like men. 4b)Do our people suppose that God is like men? 4c) Our people do not suppose that God is like men. 5a) They saw some men whom they supposed were thieves. 5b) Did they suppose the men were thieves? 5c) They did not suppose the men were thieves. 6a) Some Christians suppose financial prosperity is the hallmark of faith. 6b) Do some Christians suppose financial prosperity is the hallmark of faith? 6c) Christians do not suppose financial prosperity is the hallmark of faith.

Readers should please note that in none of the sentences above is the word suppose preceded by a form of be such as: is, am, are, was, were. The negative and question forms among them have been formed by the introduction of the word do.

The other sense in which the word suppose is used requiring attention is the one which means: expected to; meant to. Now read the following sentences: 1a) Teachers are supposed to be patient in all their interactions with pupils. 1b) Are teachers supposed to be patient in all their interactions with pupils? 1c) Teachers are not supposed to be impatient in all their interactions with pupils. 2a) Children are supposed to be polite to elders. 2b) Are children supposed to be rude to elders? 2c) Children are not supposed to be rude to elders. 3a) Policemen are supposed to protect the citizens. 3b) Are policemen supposed to protect the citizens? 3c) Policemen are not supposed to harass the citizens. 4a) Parents are supposed to guide their children. 4b) Are parents supposed to guide their children? 4c) Parents are not supposed to mislead their children. 5a) Employees are supposed to come to the office punctually and regularly. 5b) Are employees supposed to come to the office punctually and regularly? 5c) Employees are not supposed to be absent from work or come to work late. 6a) Strangers are supposed to be guided by those familiar with the terrain. 6b) Are strangers supposed to be guided by those familiar with the terrain? 6c) Strangers are not supposed to be misled by those familiar with the terrain. 7a) She was supposed to have discussed the matter with her husband. 7b) Was she supposed to have discussed the matter with her husband? 7c) She was not supposed to have hidden the matter from her husband. 8a) Books are supposed to be read and digested. 8b) Are books supposed to be read and digested? 8c) Books are not supposed to be read haphazardly.

Please note that in every sentence above the word suppose is preceded by a relevant form of be: is supposed, was supposed, were supposed, are supposed. Note, in addition, that the word supposed invariably has final –ed. This rule does not change.

In the light of this fact, note the following: Defective: * “You suppose to confide in your father.” Better: “You are supposed to confide in your father.” Defective: *“As “Christians we suppose to love our neighbours as ourselves.” Better: “As Christians we are supposed to love our neighbours as ourselves.” Defective: * “Wives suppose to love their husbands.” Better: “Wives are supposed to love their husbands.” Defective: “Employees suppose not to be absent from work.” Better: “Employees are not supposed to be absent from work.”

Sample 2: “The clothes you wear is an outward expression of who you are.”(Evening Style Revamped, The Vanguard, 20 January, 2019)

I draw readers’ attention to the singular verb-form (is) which occurs immediately after the verb wear. We should find out the preceding noun/noun phrase that dictates that the verb should be in its singular form. The only noun that is significant for the purpose of concord is clothes. Given that that noun is in its plural form, the verb has to be in its plural form as well. The plural form of the verb is are. Please don’t allow yourself to be misled by the singular form (an) coming immediately after the verb slot. It does not and should not affect the form of the verbs.

Other examples of such a construction are: 1)Wild animals are a major feature of this environment. 2) Children are a blessing from the Lord. 3) Women are a major force in any environment. 4) Books are an important instrument of research. 5) The countries you have visited are a fair indication of the level of your exposure. 6) Laws are a means of stabilizing any nation.

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