There, Their; Concord Matters: Alongside

May 30, 2021
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CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

The subject of the verb is clearly this: “Mrs Ale, alongside one other person.” Since we are talking in plural terms, we may be forgiven for being immediately attracted to the phraseMrs Ale in combination with one other person—thus producing a plural entity. We won’t be wrong in suggesting that the reporter has preferred the plural form of the verb (were) because he must have believed erroneously that a combination of the two items should constitute the subject of the verb.

But that is not the appropriate way of looking at the grammar of the stretch. We need to spend some time on this phenomenon because it is related to many grammatically influential elements of concord.

The word alongside is crucial to our understanding of how concord functions in English. It functions in a way that is similar to how each of the following expressions functions: as well as; togetherwith; along with; like.

Whenever each of those expressions is used, two noun items are usually involved in the subject position: one to its left and the other to its right. It is the number (singular or plural) of the first item (that is, the one to its left) that affects the form the verb takes.

Read the following sentences:

1)Temi as well as her friend visits the site regularly.

2) Haruna as well as his partners prefers to invest in the older company.

3) Thetenants as well as their landlord are willing to support the security system.

4) The members of the team aswell as their coach are highly determined.

5) Femi aswell as her sister is quite generous.

6) Journalists aswell as teachers are close to members of the public.

The item to the left of as well as has affected the form of the verb in each sentence. In constructions like this, it is advisable for the writer to simply ignore the second item and concentrate on the first one (the one to the left of the expression.) In sentence (3), for example, we have selected the plural verb form (are) because the noun item to the left is plural (tenants). We have ignored the second noun item (landlord) which is of course singular. Similarly, in sentence (4), we have selected the plural verb-form (are) because the noun item to the left is plural (members of theteam). In making this choice, we have ignored the second noun item which is singular (coach). In the other sentences, the two items are either both plural or both singular. Where they are both singular, we have no business with the second item; we simply select the singular form of the verb. Where they are both plural, we select the plural form of the verb in consistency with the number of the first item. Whatever the case may be, the rule is this: Ignore the number of the second item and concentrate on the number of the first one.

The word like behaves exactly like as well as.

Please read the following sentences:

1) Money, like power and social status, is a corrupting influence.

2) Thepupils, like their teacher, are quite industrious.

3) Businessmen, like politicians, are sometimes ruthless.

4) The choristers, like their leader, are not as disciplined as they should be.

5) Electricity, like water and telecommunication, is crucial to modern life.

6) Books, like the personal computer, are prized possessions of scholars.

Again, it is to be noted that the number of the first noun item (the one to the left of the word like) determines the form of the verb.

For example, in sentence (1), the first noun item is singular (money) and it is that singular item that has been allowed to influence the form of the verb (is). The second item, made up of two nominal entities, power and social status, is ignored for the purpose of concord.

In sentence (2), the item to the left of like (pupils) is plural; in consequence, the plural verb-form, are, has been selected. Thus, the item to its right (teacher) which is singular has been ignored. In sentence (4) the item to the left of like is plural and therefore the verb-form selected is plural as well: are. The item to the right (their leader) being singular is ignored. On the other hand, the first item in sentence (5) is singular (electricity) and that singular form has influenced the choice of the singular verb form: is. The item to the right of like (water and telecommunication) is thus ignored.

Again, read the following sentences:

1) The landlordtogether with his two wives was at the meeting.

2) Thelawyer together with the witnesses was in court.

3) The big box together with the small ones was brought.

4) The tailor together with the two hairdressers is going to meet the First Lady.

5) The commandanttogether with his assistants is coming to see the president.

6) The new car together with the older ones is due for repair.

7) The chairman, accompanied by his secretary, is going on an inspection tour of the sister companies.

8) Members of the Executive Committee, accompanied by high ranking police officers, are billed to address the board tomorrow.

9) The traditionalruler, accompanied by his chiefs, is visiting the villages under his domain.

10) The manager, accompaniedby the administrative secretary, was present at the meeting.

11) The thug in company with other violent criminals was seen in the neighbourhood shortly before the man was killed.

12) The Inspector-General of Police incompany with ranking police officers was in the entourage of the president.

13) The Editor-in-Chief incompany with the editors is scheduled to receive the Governor at 9 am.

14)  The Governor in company with his commissioners was at the ground-breaking ceremony.

15) My dad in company with my mum is travelling to the UK tomorrow.

16) The Chairman notto mention the Secretary is highly corrupt.

17) Theprincipal, not to mention the junior teachers, is dedicated to work.

18) The cold weather, not tomention the harsh financial situation,was responsible for my early return.

19) Ignorance, not to mention diseases and poverty, is the bane of the Nigerian society.

20) Impatience and irrational anger, not to mention her slight insanity, were the reasons for the divorce.

The same principle that has been enunciated and illustrated in the previous sentences is also in operation in those twenty sentences. Study them carefully and compare them with the earlier sentences.

Please note the expression, “in company with.” Note particularly the particle with. Some Nigerians habitually replace that particle with of; that is not appropriate. The appropriate particle is with.

Now let’s go back to the structure under examination: “Mrs Ale, alongside one other personwerekidnapped on Thursday evening.” We are in the process of deciding whether the plural verb were is the appropriate one. Let us remind ourselves that the word alongside behaves exactly like one of those expressions whose principle of usage we have identified and illustrated: as well as; together with; accompanied by; like; not to mention; in companywith; etc.

Note that to the left of alongside is Mrs Ale, which is obviously singular; to its right is the phrase “one other person”. Relying on the now famous principle, we regard the item to the left of the word (alongside) as the noun whose form should influence the form of the verb. Since the itemMrs Ale is singular, the verb-form has to be singular as well. The verb is hereby changed to its singular form: was.

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