Literary discourse: Potholes of Error of Concord

Source:  Dr Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo
Date: 5th-february-2018 Time:  10:57:52 pm

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Introduction

Error of Concord is a numerical mismatch between a subject and its verb or a pronoun and its antecedent. This implies that an error of concord occurs when a singular subject is forced to agree with a plural verb or when a singular pronoun is forced to agree with a plural antecedent. An antecedent is the word a pronoun refers to in a construction. Error of concord is one of the most prevalent errors in English Grammar and Usage. Largely, this error type is occasioned by introducing many modifying words between the subject and its verb or the  pronoun and its antecedent.

Sample

For analysis, we present a sample of Errors of Concord from a section of the Ghanaian media:

1 ● "Bogus SPECULATIONS largely coming from the camp of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) ... HAS backfired. "  - A leading daily newspaper.

2 ● "The EXEMPTION of religious groups from taxes and levies DO not help in supplementing our Gross Domestic Product (GDP)..." - Another reputable daily newspaper.

3 ● "If there are any ISSUES that IS not clear, please, do not hesitate to contact us." - A Minister of State addressing journalists at the "Meet-The-Press" program.

4 ● "...These are VALUES that are best inculcated in young people so that they can grow with IT..." - Another renowned daily newspaper.

Analysis

In the first sentence, the subject is "speculations", which is plural. But the verb chosen for agreement is "has", which is singular. Obviously,  the subject-verb mismatch amounts to an Error of Concord. It is significant to note that between the subject and the verb are the following words: LARGELY COMING FROM THE OPPOSITION NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS. All these words have no role in concord. They are modifiers telling us more about the subject "speculations." As modifiers, they could be deleted without any injury to the sense of the sentence. For example: SPECULATIONS HAVE backfired.

The second sentence too contains the singular subject "exemption" which agrees with the plural verb "do." This is a clear case of the error of concord. Similarly, the words between the subject and the verb are only modifiers throwing more light on the subject. If they are deleted, the sentence is still meaningful. But if they are properly maintained, the meaning of the sentence is enhanced. For example, EXEMPTION DOES not help in supplementing our Gross Domestic Product  (GDP).

Preceded by the existential "there", the subject of the third sentence is the plural noun "issues." However, after being modified by "that", the subject wrongly agrees with the singular verb "is." In other words, we are told by the Minister that "ISSUES IS..." instead of "ISSUES ARE..." 😅😅😅!

The fourth sentence is fractured by a mismatch between the pronoun "it" and the antecedent "values." Clearly, "it" is singular, and "values" plural. Agreement between the two is tantamount to an error of pronoun-antecedent concord.

Correction

Below are the corrections of the Errors of Concord in the sampled sentences:

1 ● Bogus SPECULATIONS largely coming from the camp of the opposition National Democratic Congress  (NDC) ... HAVE backfired.

In this sentence, the plural subject "speculations" agrees with the plural verb "have."

2. ● The EXEMPTION of religious groups from taxes and levies DOES not help in supplementing our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In the revised sentence, the singular subject "exemption" agrees with the singular verb "does."

3 ● If there are any ISSUES that ARE not clear, please, do not hesitate to contact us.

In the corrected sentence, the plural subject "issues" agrees with the plural verb "are."

4. ● These are VALUES that are inculcated in young people so that they can grow with THEM.

In the edited sentence, the plural pronoun "them" agrees with the plural antecedent "values."

Conclusion

Conclusively, it is instructive to state that modifiers are trappings of construction in speaking and writing. But if they are not properly handled, they can lead to cracks in sentence construction.  Personal experience shows that the last modifying word in a series of words between the subject and verb or the pronoun and antecedent strongly influences concord decision. For instance, the subject could be singular, and the last word plural. But a writer or speaker could be tempted to consider, for concord, the last word. It is almost impossible to avoid these modifying words. Therefore, the antidote here is extra care to dodge the portholes of the error of concord.

-- By Dr Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo, Lecturer, University of Applied Management, Germany - Ghana Campus, McCarthy Hill, Accra 

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