Giving passengers help!

January 12, 2020
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SAMPLE 1: “Always with the latest mobile phones, he was constantly phoning and texting even whilst he was at home to check the staff and if possible, give passengers help and advice.”(She burnt hubby’s clothes and brought him back to his senses, Sunday Vanguard, 29 December, 2019)

We pay attention to the word given which occurs in the following context: “given passengers help and advice.” Are we sure this form is the grammatically appropriate one in the context? There are two other words in the sentence whose form can guide us to an accurate answer to this question. These are phoning and texting. To be in harmony with the form of these two words, the form given has to be in its –ing form as well. In fact, the grammar of the context does require that the word (given) has to be in its –ing form (giving).

The next issue we address is: What is the difference between given and giving?Given the fact that we have given attention repeatedly to the difference between giving and given, we do not expect reporters to have issues with the forms. At any rate, we feel under obligation to rehash the points we have made in this regard.

Now read the following sentences: 1) Given the recent abduction of the Chibok girls, it was wrong of the president to have conducted a political rally so close to the homes of the grieving parents of the girls. 2) Given the audacity with which the armed robbers attacked the bank in broad daylight, it was obvious they acted under the influence of drugs. 3) Given the vulnerability of the children’s minds, such pictures should be shown only after they have gone to bed. 4) Given the torrential rains that characterize the middle of the year, the ceremony should be held much later in the year. 5) Given Sanusi’s public pronouncements on the missing twenty billion dollars, he should be invited by the relevant security agencies to shed more light on the matter. 6) Given the rising incidence of poverty in the land, the so-called subsidy on petroleum products should not be removed. 7) Given the scandalous level of insecurity in the country in spite of the huge budgetary allocations that go into defence and police affairs, the heads of the security agencies should be made to explain to members of the public what their major challenges are. 8) Given the sliding value of the naira and the tumbling price of crude oil in the world market, the Nigerian citizens have been told to brace themselves for austerity measures. 9) Given the sensitive nature of religion and the Nigerian society, politicians have been advised to avoid bringing religious issues into their political campaigns. 10) Given the rising incidence of violence against women, concerned citizens have recommended stiffer penalties for the offence.

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Are we suggesting that the form giving has no chance of occurring in a position similar to that in which given occurs in each of those sentences? Not at all. What we have said is that it has not been appropriately used by the reporter in the sentence under consideration. There is a place for given and there is a place for giving.

What, then, does giving mean when it occurs in such a context? Take the following expression: “Giving details…” This expression, as an opening part of a sentence, means: “When he/she was/is giving details…” or “As he/she was/is giving details…”  or “While he/she was/is giving details…” It is important that at the end of that phrase/ expression, the first piece of information that must be given is the identity of the person that is giving details. Any other piece of information will be misleading.

Now let’s build that phrase into a sentence: “Giving details of his involvement in the crime, the suspect claimed some policemen were assisting the gang to procure guns.” Please note that the phrase begins with the word giving (which is in fact the keyword) and ends with the word crime. Immediately after the word crime, the identity of the person giving the details is provided. The identity is: the suspect. This is another way of putting it: “When the suspect was giving details…”  Actually the word giving in the hypothetical sentence is a participle (an –ing participle) and the phrase in which it occurs is called a participial phrase/expression. If a word or phrase other than that which identifies the person giving details is offered after the participial phrase, we would have a case of dangling/unrelated/hanging participle.

We may now revisit the hypothetical sentence and allow a word or phrase other than that which identifies the person giving details to come immediately after the participial phrase: “Giving details of his involvement in the crime, the court adjourned till the end of December.” This is an example of hanging participle. Who was giving details of his involvement in the crime? The court?Not at all. For that reason, it is a faulty construction.

Actually, any other present participle can illustrate the use of participial phrases/expressions. Read the following sentences: 1) Speaking on the occasion of the inauguration of the panel, the president urged Nigerians to submit memoranda that would assist the panel to do its work. (Note: Who was speaking? The president) 2) Presenting his controversial book yesterday in Abuja, the former president made denigrating comments about some prominent Nigerians. (Note: Who was presenting his book? The former president) 3) Describing the allegation as false, the Governor presented what he called the correct position. (Note: Who was describing the allegation as false? The Governor) 4) Declaring his intention to join the opposition party, the former Minister complained about lack of internal democracy in his party. (Note: Who was declaring his intention to join the opposition party? The former Minister) 5) Focusingon the social, economic and political sectors of Nigeria, the foreignjournalist criticized the leaders for lack of vision and commitment. (Note: Who was focusing on the social, economic and political sectors of Nigeria? The foreign journalist) 6) Delivering a keynote address at a conference organized by activist journalists, the scholar said that inadequate attention being paid to the acquisition of knowledge was the major problem retarding the growth and development of the country. (Note: Who was delivering a keynote address? The scholar) 7) Insinuating that the chairman was a member of a secret society, a member suggested that he (the chairman) should be probed. (Note: Who was insinuating that the chairman was a member of a secret society? A member) 8) Saying that his client was innocent,the lawyer urged the court to discharge and acquit him. (Note: Who was saying that his client was innocent? The lawyer) 9) Driving at a dangerously high speed, James applied the brakes suddenly when he sighted the cattle. (Note: Who was driving at a dangerously high speed? James) 10) Moving in the direction of the river, the tourists took a tortuously long route to the village. (Note: Who were moving in the direction of the river? The tourists.)

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