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Use of contractions that function as auxiliary verbs

By Alexander Chagema | October 1st 2018

Were it not that I have seen them several times, I would have simply put the phrases: It don’t matter; It shows he don’t deserve to lead; Fellows who has never interacted with, down to brief moments of inattention on the writers’ part.

However, these are expressions we come across on an almost daily basis in the course of exchanges on various discourses. The question then arises; are the phrases above grammatically correct?

Let us remind ourselves of the correct way of using the words ‘don’t’, ‘doesn’t’, ‘has’ and ‘have’. In the first instance, rather than ‘It don’t matter’, the correct way of writing is “It doesn’t matter”. 

The word ‘don’t’ is a contraction (shortened form) of the word ‘do not’, just like ‘doesn’t’ is the contraction of ‘does not'.

The one thing the two words have in common is their function; which is, they act as auxiliary verbs.

Otherwise also known as helping verbs, auxiliary verbs add functionality to main verbs. Auxiliary verbs cannot be used independently without a main verb.

Often employed in the first and second person (singular or plural) and the third person plural (never singular), ‘don’t’ is partly used to make a negative statement.

In the first person singular, one could say “I don’t trust the police to be impartial in the case”; “Don’t tell me you are buying into that lie about the economy doing well”.

Third person

For the second person singular and for the third person (always plural); “They don’t subscribe to that line of thinking”.

“Don’t’ is also used in giving commands; Don’t cross the yellow line if you do not want trouble with the police or Don’t bother me with your incessant nagging today.”

Many are times the word ‘don’t’ is used to pose a question such as; You want to come along on the trip, don’t you? or simply; don’t you want to tag along?

The word ‘doesn’t’ is restricted to the third person singular and makes negative statements. For example; He doesn’t like to be called on Saturdays when he attends church or; It doesn’t look like it will rain today despite the weatherman’s forecast.

Apart from making negative statements, ‘doesn’t’ is also used in asking questions; Doesn’t the little girl like her new doll? Unlike the word ‘don’t’, ‘doesn’t’ cannot be used to give commands.

Just like ‘don’t’ and ‘doesn’t’, ‘has’ and ‘have’ also function as auxiliary verbs. The two words have their contractions in ‘hasn’t’, ‘I’ve’, ‘you’ve’, ‘it’s, ‘haven’t’, ‘we’ve ‘and ‘hadn’t’.

Same purpose

‘Has’ is used in the singular form when referring to a third person. It does not serve the same purpose for the second and third person singular. This is perhaps why it is easily misplaced as seen in the phrase shown above.

When using the pronouns ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’, the proper verb to attach is ‘has’. When you are making reference to an individual by his or her given name, use ‘has’.

For example; Kuria has been too quiet of late. Though ‘has’ is ideally attached to the third person singular, remember that the third person plural takes the verb ‘have’. For example; They have a head start in the whole process.

‘Have’ is categorised as an irregular verb. Because ‘have’ is used in both singular and plural forms for the first, second and third person, it is easy to understand why its usage is easily confused.

‘Have’ is used in the first and second person singular. For example, ‘I have everything I need to make my work easy; "You have my backing on this one.

The pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’ should be followed by the verb ‘have’:  ‘I have it now’; “I have finished fixing the car, you can have it now”.

It is common to see the words ‘everyone’ and ‘everybody ‘accompanied by the verb ‘have’, the assumption being that since they refer to many  in say, a group, they are plural.

That is wrong because these two words are singular pronouns to which the appropriate verb is ‘has’.

For example; Everybody has his own concerns or; Everyone has been accounted for after the hurricane hit the coast.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The Standard [email protected]


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