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Opinions of Friday, 17 April 2015

Columnist: Azindoo, Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq

Ungrammatical use of prepositions

Literary Discourse:

By Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo, Coordinator of Students and University Relations, University of Applied Management (UAM), Germany – Ghana Campus, McCarthy Hill, Accra and Tamale

Email: Tell: 0244755402


Ghanaian English is saturated with sentences such as: “We must all seek FOR knowledge”, the elders will discuss ABOUT the issue”, “Teacher Azindoo emphasizes ON group studies”, and Maltiti does not heed TO advice.” Hmmmmmm! I am sorry to state that all these sentences are grammatically faulty.

The sentences under review are grammatically offensive because of the misapplication of the prepositions following the verbs in them. All the verbs – SEEK, DISCUSS, EMPHASIZES, and HEED – are non-prepositional verbs. This implies that they do not require any prepositions in usage. Therefore, the correct forms of the sentences are as follows:
• We must all seek knowledge.
• The elders will discuss the issue.
• Teacher Azindoo emphasizes group studies.
• Maltiti does not heed advice.

It is important to mention that some of the verbs in question have noun forms. Examples are: DISCUSS [verb] and DISCUSSION [noun], EMPHASIZE [verb] and EMPHASIS [noun], HEED [verb] and HEED [noun]. (Please, don’t be confused by the same spelling of the verb and noun forms of HEED.) When the noun forms of these verbs are used, the appropriate prepositions become mandatory in many cases. Let us use the same sentences above as illustrations:
• Discussion: The elders will hold discussions ABOUT/ON the issue.
• Emphasis: Teacher Azindoo puts emphasis ON group studies.
• Heed: Maltiti does not pay heed TO advice or Maltiti does not take heed OF advice.

Similar verbs and their corresponding nouns are: ATTEND and ATTENDANCE (at), PRESENT and PRESENTATION (on), ANTAGONIZE and ANTAGONISM (between, toward, against), ATTACK and ATTACK (on), INVESTIGATE and INVESTIGATION (into). For better understanding, we need to use these verbs and their noun forms in illustrative sentences:
• Sajjad ATTENDED the World Debating Championship held in Malaysia last year. (Verb).
• Sajjad was in ATTENDANCE AT the World Debating Championship in Malaysia last year. (Noun).

NOTE: It is significant to note that the non-prepositional verb “attend” is semantically different from the propositional verb “attend to.” While “attend” simple means “being present at”, “attend to” implies “giving help, care, or service to.” Example in usage: Dr. Tiyumtaba ATTENDS TO patients every day.

• Kofi PRESENTED three topics to his supervisor for approval. (Verb).
• Dr. Amin Anta has made an excellent PRESENTATION ON the current energy crisis in Ghana. (Noun).

• Dr. Cantankerous ANTAGONIZES popular lecturers at Kuluulu College. (Verb).
• There is ANTAGONISM BETWEEN Dr. Cantankerous and popular lecturers at Kuluulu College. (Noun).

• Armed robbers ATTACKED police at Jisonaayili last night. (Verb).
• Armed robbers launched a fierce ATTACK ON police at Jisonaayili last night. (Noun).

• Lawyer Harun Econs has INVESTIGATED a theft case against his client very well. (Verb).
• Lawyer Harun Econs wants to carry out a serious INVESTIGATION INTO a theft case against his client. (Noun).

In conclusion, we humbly state that error analysis of this kind is NOT about knowing too much. Not at all! It is rather an attempt to share with fellow learners insights into areas (of language education) that have not been adequately explored by textbook writers. Indeed, analysis of this kind is hardly found in many Grammar Textbooks, and it is only proper that concerned language enthusiasts point out such inadequately explored areas as subjects of discourse for the benefit of all. As a Grammar Police Officer, the error analyst can be likened to an ordinary police officer, who is not necessarily holier than his or her civilian counterpart.

God is the Best Error Analyst.

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Greebaum, S. (1991). An introduction to English grammar. Harlow: Longman.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar. (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
James, C. (1998). Errors in language learning and use. London: Routledge.
Palmer, F. R. (2001). Mood and modality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sakyi-Baidoo, Y. (2003). Learning and communicating. (2nd ed.). Accra: Infinity Graphics.
Sekyi-Baidoo, Y. (2002). Semantics: an introduction. Kumasi: Will Press Ltd.
The Oxford advanced learner's dictionary. (2000). (6th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.