Sample 1: “…she told them that she is a military personnel with the hope that they would allow them to pass…” (Sister of Army lady that was slain reveals…Opera News, 24 May, 2022)
The word that interests us is personnel which occurs in the following context: “she is a militarypersonnel.” It is remarkable that a single person (a military officer) is referred to as personnel. The point has been made repeatedly in this place that a single person does not and cannot constitute personnel. Personnel, let us note, are a body or group of workers in an organisation. To repeat, it is a misnomer to refer to a single person as personnel. This word sometimes presents problems for some users. It will be necessary, therefore, to pay some attention to it.
As a collective noun, the word personnel can neither be pluralised nor modified with the word a or one. Usage examples: 1) The memo is meant for the attention of all technical personnel. 2) The vehicles are to convey only medical personnel. 3) The organisation has a tradition of training and re-training its personnel. 4) All qualified personnel are to register in the Personnel Department. 5) Only senior personnel are entitled to annual leave with pay. 6) Military personnel are kept in a separate section of the estate. Please, note that the noun personnel cannot become plural by the addition of a final –s.
The principle guiding the usage of personnel is not markedly different from that of staff. Like personnel, the word staff is a collective noun which is not to be used in reference to a single person. It refers to the entire workforce in an organisation. Readers may find the following sentences useful in their effort to master the usage of the word staff: 1) The staff is the single most important force in any establishment. 2) The staff were drawn from various companies in the metropolis. 3) Our staff is an even mix of both male and female workers. 4) All staff are expected to submit their files before the end of the day. 5) All members of staff are trained from time to time. 6) The company has a highly skilled staff. 7) The staff strength has increased by ten. 8) Half of the staff were laid off.
However, when the reference is to the workers in several establishments, then it is proper to add –s to staff. Now consider the following sentences: 1) There is a forum where all the staffs of the various companies in the conglomerate meet. 2) Should the staffs of the companies belonging to the government and those belonging to private entrepreneurs be placed under the same salary scheme? 3) Representatives of staffs from private and public companies are meeting next month. 4) This consulting firm trains staffs of both government and private companies. 5) The staffs of the companies in the rubber industry will be interacting very soon.
The word staffs in each of those sentences refers to bodies or groups of workers in two or more establishments.
Sample 2: “He expressed believe that Nigerians were however too wise and discerning to see through this shenanigan.” (Tinubu campaign organization clears the air…Opera News, 21 July, 2022)
I draw readers’ attention to the form believe which occurs in the following context: “He expressedbelieve that…” You can only express a noun and not a verb. Obviously, the form required in the context is a noun, belief; and not a verb, believe. To understand the difference between the two forms we need to demonstrate how each of them is used in our own sentences. We start with the noun form (belief): (1) Our belief in the existence of the almighty God is reinforced by what we observe in the natural phenomena. (2) I have this belief that talent must be support with hard work if it is to be appreciated by people. (3) Religious beliefs do not necessarily conflict with scientific principles. (4) The insensitivity and cruelty of our leaders are beyond belief. (5) Despite the belief to the contrary, no race is superior to the other. (6) Some people go to the university in the mistaken belief that higher education automatically confers greatness. (7) My belief in the power of the press is unaffected by the messy roles played by some newspapers in the weakening of our democracy. (8) I fail to understand how a man who professes such a strong belief in democracy should identify with those who are undermining it. (9) Many times, popular beliefs are founded on fiction rather than reality. (10) Many rural dwellers have no genuine belief in the modern financial system.
Now the verb: (1) Those who believe in the existence of God are no less intelligent than those who don’t. (2) Although the marriage seems to be happy now, I believe the woman has made a wrong choice. (3) When you tell and listen to lies a lot, you soon begin to believe lies. (4) If you believe and practise the word of God, your life will be the better for it. (5) There is nothing in his words or conduct that would make anybody believe the boy. (6) It is difficult to believe that a business that started barely five years ago would have branches all over Africa and Europe. (7) The contemporary young men don’t believe that marriage is anything to be taken seriously. (8) Members of the white race believe that they are intellectually superior to Africans. (9) If you believe that tall story, then you can believe anything. (10) Even if you believe that doctrine, please don’t teach it to your church members.
We now examine and illustrate the usage differences between relief (noun) and relieve (verb). First relief: (1) For hours we had lived in mortal fear, but relief came our way when the soldiers appeared with their guns at the ready. (2) Money can bring relief and comfort, especially after a long period of poverty, but peace comes only from the knowledge of God. (3) Having exhausted all our food items, we least expected relief when it came: abundant supply of raw food brought by my mother. (4) We breathed a sigh of relief when we heard that our company had won the contract. (5) There couldn’t have been a bigger relief than the arrival of a baby a few days after the bereavement. (6) It is unfortunate that up till now the victims of the flood disaster have not received the relief promised by the government agency. (7) The newly manufactured drugs are known to be effective for pain relief. (8) Several hours after taking the drugs, he did not experience any relief. (9) A short period of relief was followed by a bout of sharp, unmitigated pain. (10) The main aim of modern medicine, some have argued, is to provide relief from pain.
Now the verb-form, relieve: (1) The sudden appearance of the boy who had disappeared for close to a month relieved my anxiety. (2) There are herbal products that relieve pain faster than modern drugs. (3) One of the important benefits of sporting activities is that they help to relieve tension and boredom. (4) The payment has relieved me of a heavy financial burden. (5) The overhead bridges were designed to relieve traffic congestion in the Lagos metropolis. (6) The offer is intended to relieve the poor and the needy. (7) I was relieved to learn that some of the members of our club who were being detained by the police had been released.
(8) Apart from giving us the energy required for daily living, food helps to relieve the pain caused by hunger. (9) Instead of relieving my emotional pain, what you have said has increased my trauma. (10) These days, young men see marriage as a burden of which they will be glad to be relieved.
The difference between the forms safe and save is similar to that between relief and relieve. The verb form is save, and the readers would notice immediately that the only difference in terms of spelling between the adjective (safe) and the verb (save) is represented by the difference between the letters f and v. The difference, minor as it might seem from the orthographic point of view, should command all seriousness at the level of grammar. It helps to always remember that significant syntactic and semantic differences may be signalled by seemingly trivial orthographic variations. This observation is applicable to all the pairs of words considered today.
As we have noted, the adjective form is safe and the verb form is save, and the usage of each is illustrated as follows, beginning with safe: (1) It is better to keep a safe distance from that beast, for it can charge suddenly. (2) The WHO has been emphasizing safe sex as a way of keeping the population down.
(3) It is not safe to stay in the villages adjoining the cantonment while the shootings are going on. (4) The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has emphasized the need for its members to work in safe environments. (5) Before anything else, let us thank God for the safe arrival of the members of our family. (6) The leader of the team has warned that it is not safe to roam the street at night. (7) It is not safe to swim when the tide is high. (8) Alone in darkness and in a house as big as this, I don’t feel safe at all. (9) Is it safe to drive through that road at this time of the day? (10) Is my box safe by the road side?
Next, we illustrate the usage of the verb save: (1) Who can save the country from a party whose leaders do not believe in the welfare of the people? (2) The civil society groups have vowed to save our young democracy. (3) If the money had been made available much earlier, I would have been saved the embarrassment that I experienced three days ago. (4) I try to save some money, however small, every month. (5) The timely intervention of France and NATO saved thousands of lives in Ivory Coast. (6) With the identification and withdrawal of the killer drugs from circulation, millions of lives have been saved. (7) Measures are being taken by experts to save our forests from further damage. (8) I will take you in my car to save you the trouble of trekking ten miles. (9) In the next six months, I should have saved enough money to buy a new car. (10) I want to save my energy for the more demanding task.Now read the following constructions in which the noun proof is put in sentences: 1) The grandeur of nature is sufficient proof that God exists. 2) If your conscience is the only proof of your innocence, then you don’t have any proof. 3) Scientists have long provided proof that the earth is spherical. 4) The prosecuting police officer has been unable to provide any proof that the man committed the crime. 5) Providing proof can be extremely embarrassing to victims of rape. 6) Lawyers, judges and policemen are interested in having proof as to who committed what crime. 7) My rather heavy accent is a proof of my Yoruba origin. 8) There is no proof that the sciences are more ‘difficult’ than the arts. 9) He was confronted with proof of his involvement in the crime. 10) Without providing any proof, nobody would accept your claims. 11) The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 12) The court has asked him to present the proof of his ownership of the property.13) The lady is a living proof that no condition is hopeless. 14) The DNA test provides the proof that he is the father of the child. 15) The police refused to accept the so-called proof that he was not at the scene of the crime. 16) Do psychiatrists regard intelligent conversation as proof of perfect sanity? 17) Is there any proof that men and monkeys went through the same evolutionary processes up to a point? 18) Human behaviour all over the world offers the proof that man is naturally depraved.
You can now read the following sentences containing the verb form: 1) You must be prepared to prove your case in a court of law. 2) Can you prove that love is blind? 3) Scientists have long proved that the earth is spherical. 4) The job proved to be a difficult one. 5) The prosecutor was not able to prove the case against the suspect. 6) Let us hope the new drug will prove effective. 7) Your absence does not prove that you were not involved in the crime. 8) It is up to you to prove the authenticity of the document. 9) His mental alertness proves that he is not as old as his appearance suggests. 10) All evidence points to the fact that he is a foreigner; he has to prove that he is a Nigerian. 11) As black men, do we need to prove that we are as intelligent as white men? 12) The recent developments have proved all of them wrong. 13) Up till now the lawyer has not been able to prove his client’s innocence beyond reasonable doubt. 14) Experience has proved that if we do not protest we cannot secure our rights. 15) No one can prove, using historical facts, that one monarch is superior to the other. 16) I believe intuitively that this is the correct position even though I cannot prove it using hard facts. 17) He was laboring to prove a trivial point. 18) The Nigerian experience has proved that a nation can survive a major civil war without losing its corporate existence.
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