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Subject-verb agreement

In the middle “Mind Your Language” by Sharda Kaushik dated June 21, I came across some errors related to subject-verb agreement. Being a teacher, I feel it is my duty to point them out. Since this column is instructive in nature, it has the potential to impact thousands of readers.

Through the example sentence, ‘Maya along with Irfaan is here to attend the meeting’, the writer argues that “where the second noun phrase is much longer than the first one, it excludes the first one to establish a separate identity and takes in a singular verb under the proximity agreement.” The argument is wrong. It is the number of the subject, not the length, that determines the singularity or plurality of the corresponding verb. Secondly, the rule of ‘proximity agreement’ under which subject and verb are placed together as — (i) Either Ram or his sons have done it. (ii) Either his sons or Ram has done it — does not apply in this case as the singular verb ‘is’' is used for the subject ‘Maya’ and not ‘Irfaan’. Moreover, the note of caution given in the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage cannot be disregarded:

“Proximity agreement may pass in speech and other forms of unplanned discourse; in print it will be considered an error.”

Most importantly, in case of the phrase “along with” singularity or plurality of the verb depends on the number of the subject immediately preceding it. The following example will suffice to solve the subject-along with-verb conundrum: (i) Students along with their teacher are reciting a poem. (ii) The teacher along with his students is reciting a poem. Since proximity or notional agreement are vague and ambiguous, for non-native English language users nothing works better than ‘grammatical agreement’. Clarity must take precedence over confusion.

DR CS MANN, Beetan (Una)

Disparity in benefit

By increasing the retirement age of teaching faculty to 62 years, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has taken only half a step in fulfilling the University Grant Commission regulations which stipulate the age of superannuation for the teachers serving in universities and colleges at 65 years. The government has created a disparity among teachers of universities and colleges. A large number of teachers serving in colleges are unhappy as the age increase benefit has not been been given to them.

JM Behl, Jammu

Email ID, cops?

The Punjab Police control room should have an email address for the public, with the control email under the unified command of the DGP, as is done by the Punjab Electricity department. Hence, any information or complaint can be given on the email. Such information or complaint is a registered document.

This will help curb crime and also improve police functioning.

Dr Ranbir Singh Pannu, Amritsar

Removing governors

This refers to the news report “Pressure mounts but Guvs dig in their heels” (June 18). Article 155 enshrines that the governor be appointed from amongst persons of high status with eminence in public by the President of India. He is elected neither by the public nor by any constituted electoral body. He occupies an independent office since he is not under the control of or subordinate to the government. Rather, he is a nominee of the Central Government.

Article 156 says that the governor will hold office during the pleasure of the President for five years. He may be removed any time by the President on the advice of the Cabinet. The governor has no security of tenure and no fixed term of office. Simultaneously, the governor is not a mere agent of the government. He is vested with certain discretionary powers and by dint of that, he is neither required to consult the President nor the state chief minister. In addition, he is vested with executive, financial, legislative and judicial powers.

Such is the stature of governor, but on account of political interference, this gubernatorial post has been devalued. On assuming power, the successive governments dismiss governors appointed by the previous government to appease their own men. Resultantly, these new governors act as agents of the Centre. In May, 2010, a Constitutional Bench of five judges held that a governor cannot be removed unless there are compelling circumstances. Today’s situation warrants the SC to take suo motu cognisance of the issue.

Hari Chand Shanker, Ambala Cantt

Conduct smart checks

Apropos the news item “14 officers found absent during Punjab CM’s surprise check” (June 30), the method used by the CM to check public servants looks more like a publicity gimmick than an intent to mean business.

In this era of CCTV cameras, he need not go to each office personally. Offices should be equipped with electronic door locks that open with special cards issued to employees which record all operations.

The Deputy CM who makes tall claims of introducing e-governance is aware of these tools for administration. But the devices would also record his and other ministers’ movements in the Secretariat, which they themselves seem to dread. The politicians start shaking the bureaucrats when their own chairs start shaking with dwindling votes.

This reminds me of the Emergency days when Indira Gandhi coined the slogan: “Baten kum, kaam ziada.”

KS Dhami, Fremont (California

Librarians are teachers

The Tribune deserves compliments for the column “On this day….100 years ago”. The judicious selection of excerpts of news is commendable. The news “Private Candidates and University Examinations” (July 2) mentions in the explanatory note that the “term bona fide teacher is held to include the librarians of affiliated colleges and the university library.” At present, librarians of private colleges are designated as teachers while those of government colleges and universities are put in the category of non-teaching staff. Will the university authorities take note of the anomaly?

Dr VK Anand, Patiala

Letters to the Editor, typed in double space, should not exceed the 200-word limit. These should be cogently written and can be sent by e-mail to: Letters@tribuneindia.com



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