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How grammar treats the rich and the poor

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Akeem Lasisi,

[email protected]; 08163939335

Among other types, we have discussed collective nouns in this class. Remember, collective nouns are those that refer to groups of people, animals and other objects. They include team, army, crowd, family and gang. One feature unique to them is that they can be used either in the singular or plural form, meaning that they can take either singular or plural verbs, depending on the contexts.

When the context depicts that the people or things that make up a collective noun are acting in unison, you go for the singular verb. But when they are portrayed as acting individually, you use the plural verb:

    Our team is very strong. It can beat any club now. (Correct, used in the singular form.)

    Our team are quarelling among themselves. Any club can beat them now. (Correct, plural.)

    The crowd at the stadium is huge. It is giving our players a lot of support. (Correct, singular.)

    The crowd are singing discordant tunes. They may soon begin to fight.  (Correct, plural)

Such is the strength of collective nouns, as we sought to establish when we treated them last year. However, there is a sub-class of collective nouns that take only plural verbs. You are not to treat them in the singular form. When you do so, something is bound to go wrong. Mostly, they come in the form of adjectives, with the preceding them.

The rich, the poor

In the real life situation, the gap between the rich and the poor is very wide.  To bridge it could be like having to trek from Lagos to Maiduguri, although some people gallantly did so during the last elections to demonstrate the support they have for their political idols. We cannot dwell much on this because this is an English class and not a political arena. What is even the most important is the fact that in the world of grammar, the rich and the poor get equal treatment.

They are examples of collective nouns where you have words that are ordinarily adjectives performing the function of a noun or noun phrase. As noted already, however, they only attract plural verbs – without any option of the singular as other classes of collective nouns do:

    The rich don’t want their children to marry from poor homes. (Correct)

    The poor are always praying to God. (Correct)

In both cases, it would be wrong to use singular verbs:

    The rich doesn’t want their children to marry from poor homes. (Wrong)

    The poor is always praying to God. (Wrong)

The only situation in which the last two clauses can be considered right is where the rich and the poor are not being used as collective nouns. Perhaps there is a deliberate omission of the nouns they are qualifying, based on the grammatical concept called ellipsis:

The educated man doesn’t want his children to            marry from poor homes.

The rich man doesn’t want his children to marry from poor homes.

The rich (man omitted) doesn’t want his children to marry from poor homes.

Other nouns/ noun phrases to be treated as the rich and the poor include the aged and the needy.

The youth or youths?

The question here usually arises when people need to handle the youth, youth and the youths. The fact is that while youth and youths are normally singular and plural, the youth is a collective noun combining all the youths in a particular society. Your choice of verbs with them should reflect this understanding:

    The youth of this country are in a dilemma. (Correct)

The youth of this country is in a dilemma. (Wrong)

The youth need to work harder. (Correct)

The youth needs to work harder. (Wrong, when used in a collective sense.)

    Youths are usually prone to anger. (Correct)

    A youth is usually prone to anger.  (Correct)

    The youths I met there did not greet me. (Correct)

    The youth I met there is fair in complexion. (Correct)

I hope you understand how the use of youth/youths in the last set of clauses is different from that of the youth above.

The Igbo or the Igbos?

Many people do not care to differentiate between the Igbo and the Igbos. They use them indiscriminately as if both are standard or right. It is the same way they handle The Yoruba and The Yorubas, the Fulani and the Fulanis, the Ijaw and the Ijaws etc. Consider the following sentences:

    The Igbo are a very large group in Nigeria. (Correct)

    The Igbos are a very large group in Nigeria. (Wrong)

    The Hausa are a major group in Nigeria. (Correct)

    The Hausas are a major group in Nigeria. (Wrong)

    The Urhobo are found in the Niger Delta area of the country. (Correct)

    The Urhobos are found in the Niger Delta part of the country. (Wrong)

In each pair, the second clause, where an s is added to the name of each ethnic group, is not a standard usage.  The expressions need not carry the plural marker because they are used in the contexts as collective nouns.  So, you should adopt

The Igbo are a very large group, The Yoruba occupy a large area etc.

But there are other constructions in which the s-suffix will be relevant and acceptable:

    The Igbo are a large ethnic group in Nigeria. (Correct)

    Igbos are a large ethnic group in Nigeria. (Correct)

    The Hausa are a major group in Nigeria. (Correct)

    Hausas are a major group in Nigeria. (Correct)

Answers to last week’s assignment

  1. My landlord is too troublesome. I need … bady.
  2. a) a acommodation (b) an accomodation

    (c)  another accommodation (d) an accommondation

  1. Yesterday, he told me the chief … come later this month.

    (a) can (b) would (c) will (d) are coming

  1. Is it true that the President has … working from home?

    (a) been (b) being (c) was (d) is

Those who got all the answers right

Augustus Akan, Owe Moses, Abeokuta; Serah James, Sam Ade, Clara Oluyoyin Ajai, James Oni, Tayo Hunpe, Yinka Alli-Owe, Toyin Oyewoga, Oludare Olufade, Owo, Ondo State; Ogaga John, Ademola Adedokun, Chukwudi Iheanacho, Okpotu Igho, Katsina State; Bayo Adekoya, Dada Jomi, Gift Uturu, Ikenne, Tope Ajayi, Oladimeji Sunday, Lagos; Eko sanmi J. P., Ibadan; Ajayi Oluwaranti, Akure; Kfar Adewale, Ibadan; Aremu Afolabi, Akure; Adesanya Ifeoluwa, Kolawole Obadina, Port Harcourt; Sanny Opeyemi, Ilorin, A. B.Adejumo, Iseyin, Oyo State; Abiodun Oladipo, Olanrewaju Olaitan, Oyo; Adedoyin Adeoye, Kokumo Olutoyin, Oluwole Ekanmeje, Kwara State; Nicholas Ohen, Peter Inyang, Uyo; Oyewo Gaslow,  Iwalewa Favour, Ahmad Hamdat, Nurudeen Bolarinwa, Ndarake Udo, Uwaleke Juliet, Adunola Abe, David Efeairyena, Warri; D. C. Odoemena, Kolawole Kareem, Lagos; Effiong Archibong, James Blessing, Bayelsa; Chris Thompson, Halimat Awonuga, Akodu Mudashiru, Adeyemi Olaniyi, Osaro Igharosa, Akinyemi Taiwo, Ademolu Adeniyi, Lagos; Issa Qossim, Ibadan; Olaofe Ololade, Ado-Ekiti; Tony Unugu, Lagos; Oyelade Adekemi, Olawale Ayodeji, Ikorodun; Yekeen Mutiu, Fayigbe Bisuyi, Daramola Oloruha, Gani Oladipo, Wole Ogunsade, Imesi-Ile; Bodunrin Mayowa-John; Adebayo Mariam and Bashiru Alarape, Lagos.

Others who also did well

Bunmi Adako, Foluke Ogunsanya, Olarinde Lateef, Chisara Jonah, Taiwo Ekunode, Akinola Arowojolu, Benita James, Fasooto Ademola, Saidu Fatai, Oladipo Isaac,  Adebayo Julius, Agatha James, Adedapo Adedotun, Emmanuel Oni, Robert Scetptre, Moshood Afolabi, Adebanke Adedoyin, Alifia Sunday, Folake Omirin, Daniel Abiodun, John Udeh, Ogbonna Nwachukwu, Adebisi Adeniran, Titi Ilori, Okodugha Matthew, Solomon Odonim, Olabisi Ojutalayo, Uwadiae Uwalia, Kate Bako, Solate Hakeemah, Adegoke Olugbenga, Arokoyo Sylvester,  Adeleke Olatunde, Ngwu Uchenna, Johnny Mouka, Monsuru Azeez, Japhlet B. V., Muyiwa Rotimi, Yemisi Oluyole, Daniel Abiodun, Gabriel Sunday, Padonu Esther, Ademola Ayilah, Agbeja Rhoda, Suleiman Baleeqs, Ironkwe Alozie, Fosterodhi Oluwatobi, Adeleke Taiwo, Isiaka Iyanda, Timothy Olufayo, Ibukunoluwa Johnson, Akanni Taiwo, Afolayan Tinuola, Henriatta Talabi, Titus Musa, Ejemasa Lucky, AAbduwakil Ashafa, John Fagite, Esther Williams, Adunjo Samuel, Adeleke Joju, Adeola Akingbade, Hussainat Dawuda, Ken Lawson, Bukola Daniel, Taye Sanni, Ajewole Fadekemi, Sewoniku Abraham, Oluke Adepeju, Ihekwoaba Ndidi, Deyinka Desanya, Pelumi Lawrence, Raji Alaba, Raji Samuel, Adesanya Ifeoluwa and Adebanjo Ayobami

Homework

  1. The man says he doesn’t have anything against the …

   (a) Igbo (b) Igbos people  (c) Igbos’  people (d) Igbo’s

  1. I want to write an essay on the chieftaincy system among …

(a) Ijaws’ (b) Ijaw’s (c) the Ijaw (d) the Ijaws

  1. The man has … relieved of his job.

(a) been (b) would be (c) being (d) will be

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