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Nouns Can Become Verbs

E-Newsletter reader Clifford A. recently wrote:

My wife says she texted our daughter.

I say, I sent her a text message.

Is texted an accepted usage?

English allows many nouns to become verbs. We can table a motion, salt our food, and water our plants. Particularly in the realm of developing technology, new usages are common, and even nouns that never used to be verbs have taken on new roles. Text as a verb is accepted usage.

More Examples:

Children, please don’t horse around.

Have you ever googled your name to see what came up?

The race car snaked around the curves.

Xerox three copies of that letter before the meeting at noon.

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Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, at 10:11 am


Are You Among the Many Who Do This?

Can you guess which word I see misspelled most often? Did you guess misspelled? You’re getting warm. Actually, it’s grammar. From my experience, I think it’s safe to estimate that 20 percent of the English-speaking world spells it with an -er ending.

Before anyone points an accusing finger at anyone else, we might want to explore the word’s origin (etymology). Could it have been spelled grammer at one time? If you look up grammar in the dictionary, you will indeed find that before Modern English times (1500 AD-present), the word was gramery. So the instinct to use -er has historical roots.

Like many words that are difficult to spell phonetically, you can use a trick (mnemonic) to remember the correct spelling of grammar: You do not want to mar your grammar. It may be a bit hokey, but we often remember tricks better when they make us roll our eyes.

The point is that we need to realize that the spelling of words is just as evolutionary as grammar itself. If you were to read Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales (c.1385), this is what you would see:

And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in writing of oure tonge,
So prey I God that non miswrite thee,
Ne thee mysmetre for defaute of tonge;

It’s hard to believe that these spellings (Englissh!) were all correct at one time. Today, we need Chaucer’s work translated.

So are we all “off the hook” with spelling? Maybe so, but at least SpellCheck, although it misses a lot of mistakes, will catch grammer.

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Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9:08 pm


Irregular Verbs

A verb is called a regular verb if its past tense and past participle are formed by adding -ed (waited, insisted) or sometimes just -d (breathed, replaced). Verbs in English are irregular if they don’t have a conventional -ed ending in the past tense.

Example: Go (present tense), went (past tense), gone (past participle)

Note: Do not use helping verbs such as has or have with the past tense form of an irregular verb. Use helping verbs only with an irregular verb’s past participle.

Example: I went to the store. I have gone to the store. NOT I have went to the store.

Present tense (used alone or with helping verbs such as will, did, etc.)
go
swim
run

Past tense
went
swam
ran

Past participle (used with helping verbs such as have, has, will have, etc.)
gone
swum
run

Present participle (-ing ending formed with to be verbs such as is, have been, will be, could have been, etc.)
going
swimming
running

Examples with go:

I go to my aunt’s house in the afternoon.
I will go to my aunt’s house.
I went to my aunt’s house yesterday.
I have gone to my aunt’s house every afternoon this week.
I am going to my aunt’s house this afternoon.

Examples with swim:

I swim at my aunt’s house in the afternoon.
I will swim at my aunt’s house.
I swam at my aunt’s house yesterday.
I have swum at my aunt’s house every afternoon this week.
I will be swimming at my aunt’s house this afternoon.

Examples with run:

I run around the track daily.
I will run around the track every day this week.
I ran around the track yesterday.
I have run around the track every day this week.
I am running around the track every day this week.

 

Pop Quiz

1. I will run/ran for office next year.
2. I have run/ran for office twice.
3. I have went/gone to the dentist but my tooth still hurts.
4. I have swam/swum the butterfly stroke in competition.
5. He ringed/rang the bell before entering.
6. He has rang/rung the bell twice but no one has answered.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. I will run for office next year.
2. I have run for office twice.
3. I have gone to the dentist but my tooth still hurts.
4. I have swum the butterfly stroke in competition.
5. He rang the bell before entering.
6. He has rung the bell twice but no one has answered.

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Posted on Friday, July 18, 2008, at 6:25 pm


When to Add s to a Verb

If you feel confident about forming plurals in English by adding an s or es at the end of the word, I’m about to make you feel a little wobbly. Although most noun plurals are formed this way, only verbs with a third-person singular noun or pronoun (he, she, boat, courage) as a subject ever have an added s on the end. With plural nouns (but also the singular pronouns I and you) there is never an added s at the end of a verb.

For example, which verb is plural, talk or talks? Because you would say, “He talks,” and he is a third-person singular pronoun, talks is a singular verb. You would say, “The people talk,” and people is a plural noun, so talk is a plural verb.

Example:
The position listed on the university Web site caught my attention because my education, experience, and training closely parallel/parallels your needs.

Answer: This sentence has two sets of subjects and verbs. The first subject/verb combination is position/caught. The second set of subjects is education, experience, and training, which is plural. We would say, “They parallel” so we must write or say, “…my education, experience, and training closely parallel your needs.”

Example:
If he or she needs/need me, I will be in the other room.

Answer:
In this sentence, he and she are the subjects; however, they are connected by or so we use the singular verb needs.

Pop Quiz

1. When he and Jenny walks/walk to work, they hold hands.
2. They leaves/leave at the end of the year for a month-long vacation.
3. Her dog, cat, and chicken gets/get along well together.
4. When he gets/get angry, his face turns red.
5. She goes/go away every August.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. When he and Jenny walk to work, they hold hands.
2. They leave at the end of the year for a month-long vacation.
3. Her dog, cat, and chicken get along well together.
4. When he gets angry, his face turns red.
5. She goes away every August.


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Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2007, at 8:44 pm


What Does vs. What Do

Should we say, “What does Gloria and I have in common?” or “What do Gloria and I have in common?”

If you turn the question around to place the subjects first, you would say, “Gloria and I does/do have what in common.”

Gloria and I are the subjects so we need a plural verb. Which verb is plural? We would say she does but we would say they do. So do is the plural verb. Therefore, the answer is, “What do Gloria and I have in common?”

Try this example: “What does/do the children look like in their costumes?”

If you turn the question around to place the subjects first, you would say, “The children does/do look like what in their costumes.”

Because children is a plural subject, we again need the plural verb do.

Try this example: “What does/do the coach expect from the team?

Turning the question around, we realize that our subject is coach, which is singular. Therefore, we would say, “What does the coach expect from the team?”

 

Pop Quiz

1. What does/do she look like without makeup?
2. What does/do you and your husband think of the movie?
3. What does/do the team uniform look like?
4. What does/do the team members think of the new coach?

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. What does she look like without makeup?
2. What do you and your husband think of the movie?
3. What does the team uniform look like?
4. What do the team members think of the new coach?

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Posted on Friday, March 2, 2007, at 3:10 pm