Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Language Irritation

I just want to complain about a strange construction I have been finding in works published in the English language. For a long time I have heard it in the spoken language but have not, until recently, discovered it in a newspaper as well as a novel from a very respected publisher. Here it is:

One of the functions of the infinitive mood of a verb is as a noun. The infinitive is expressed with the preposition "to," as in "to find," "to make," "to have." Why, when an infinitive is a noun serving as object to a verb, should it be changed to a correlating verb connected by the coordinating conjunction "and"? Do you understand? Allow me to try to explain.

That construction is correct, but so many will say "try and explain." Even tense doesn't matter. Instead of saying " She came to see me yesterday" the tenseless infinitive takes on the relative preterite as "She came and saw me yesterday."

The examples could go on and on. The recent construction probably grew out of speakers' laziness; it is so much easier to say "and" instead of "to" especially when it can be slurred to " 'n' ."

So. Should we live with it or try and do something about it?


annaken said...

Good Morning Jefferson,

I have noted myself that people are not as careful with the English language as they once were.

When I went to school many years ago by now, we had to get it right and that was all there was to it!

It seems that it is not so important anymore. Looks at the young people when they e-mail each other. Any resemblance to English is surely an accident!!!!!

Virginia Simpson Geffros said...

The English language is surely evolving, perhaps not always for the better. However, language has always evolved. Compare for example, modern English with Shakespearean English, or the English of the King James Bible, or the English spoken by the Puritans who settled the shores of North America (think thee and thou).

As annaken alluded to: people of our generation were drilled and tested ad infinitum in spelling and the correct use of grammar; hence my own fanaticism on the subject (just ask my husband how I react to the poor usage of grammar in television commercials).

I attended college in the 80s as a mature student. English was a required subject. I was appalled at the ignorance of both grammar and spelling of the high school graduates in my class . Are these sujects no longer taught in elementary and high school? Has the English language become irrelevant?