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How to use ‘remain’ and ‘stay’ correctly

By Alexander Chagema | February 10th 2020 at 08:00:00 GMT +0300

For a long time, BBI has been a catchword in Kenya. It is the acronym for Building Bridges Initiative, a political ideology crafted in March 2018 by a besieged President Uhuru Kenyatta and a fired-up opposition leader Raila Odinga who installed himself as the ‘People’s President’ at Uhuru Park on January 30, 2018.

However, reason prevailed and the two buried the hatchet on March 9, 2018, when they agreed to work together for the good of the country. But while BBI united the country, it drove a wedge in the ruling Jubilee Party, splitting it into two; the Kieleweke and Tangatanga factions.

Hitherto opposition MPs have gelled with Kieleweke. The rest is history, and acrimony is palpable. The two camps have been preaching different gospels across the country.

Kenyans unhappy with this state of affairs have cautioned; “Politicians must not be let to hijack BBI”, “Remain united as a people” and “this grandstanding will end to chaos”. Our discussion today revolves around the words ‘let’ ‘remain’ and ‘to’. The sentence “Politicians must not be let to hijack BBI” is bland, mainly because it is written in the passive as opposed to active voice.

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Active and passive voices are grammatical categories relating to the use of verbs. The difference between the active and passive voices is that in the active voice, the subject does the action while in the passive voice; the subject receives the action of the verb.

Public initiative

The quoted sentence demonstrates this well. In order to put the sentence in the active voice, it should be rephrased to read “Do not let politicians hijack BBI”. However, if we are to retain the passive voice, the word ‘let’ becomes inappropriate (bad form) and should be substituted with ‘left’, thus; “Politicians must not be left to hijack BBI”.

The phrase, ‘must not be left’ is used to urge the public ‘not to permit’ politicians to hijack BBI, touted as a public initiative. The imperative ‘must’ can be toned down by the use of ‘should’ which is requestive (solicits  action or information). When ‘let’ is used in the active voice, it means to ‘allow’.

The following sentences will help us internalise this; “John left the cat out” and “John let the cat out”. In the first case, John and the cat were outside while in the second case, it is not explicit. It could mean John was outside and opened the door for the cat to go outside or John and the cat were inside when John opened the door for the cat to get out.

‘Remain’ and ‘stay’ are synonyms that can be used interchangeably. To say “Stay here until I return” and “Remain here until I return” are both grammatical. But while that is the case, it does not apply in all instances.  ‘Stay’ functions both as verb and noun, ‘remain’ is basically a verb.

However, when letter ‘s’ is added to the word  ‘remain’ (remains), it becomes a noun. In this case, ‘remains’ takes on the meaning of ‘leftovers (remains from the feast), ruins (the statues’ remains) or a dead body (his remains were buried last Saturday).

Specific location

Establishing a clear distinction is a bit tricky, but the following sentences can help us get the general grasp. ‘Stay’ can be used to refer to temporary residence, for instance, “He will stay at the local hotel until the work is done”, “My stay here has been refreshing”. ‘Stay’ could also be used in reference to a fixed position, for instance “You must stay on that chair until I tell you otherwise”.

On the other hand, we use ‘remain’ to indicate continuity. For instance, after the president is done with addressing a public rally whose attendees have been sitting for hours, the master of ceremony can ask all to ‘remain’ sitting until the president leaves the venue. ‘Remain’ can also be used to show what is left, or still has to be done to make something complete.

For example, “five more kilometres remain before we reach our destination”.  ‘Remain’ can also be used to show someone has been at a specific location for a long time. For example “After we left for bed, he remained on the couch, glued to the television until the end of the movie”.

It is ungrammatical to say; “This grandstanding will end to chaos”. The word ‘to’ is directional (towards, or in the direction of) while ‘chaos’ refers to a state of confusion. ‘End’ is normally followed by ‘in’, thus; “this grandstanding will end in chaos or disarray”.

Mr Chagema is a copy editor at The [email protected]


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