Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why I worried about my students today

Almost all 81 of my students have had a collective brainfart and decided that worried cannot be a verb.

In part of the assignment they have just had, they had to identify errors in simple sentences and explain (using correct grammatical terminology) what it is that makes these usages wrong. Often there were several mistakes per sentence.

In the sentence: "Him worried about that my problems", they correctly replaced him with he and that my with that OR my, and explained why these were wrong. Then almost 100% of them also corrected worried to is worried or was worried, explaining that it is not a verb.

These are (supposedly) native speakers of English.

As far as I'm aware, there aren't prescriptive grammarians going around telling people that he worried is incorrect, and the few non-native speakers I have did not "correct" it. So what's going on?

6 Comments:

Seeking Solace said...

Hmm...I'd go with the brainfart. Or too much alcohol.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Actually my first instinct would have been to do the same thing (add the "is"). I think it's because "him worried" sounds like many forms of pidgin or little-kid-speak, so that their brains translate "worried" in that context as an adjective. If it's an adjective, then you need to add the verb, not realizing that "worry" can be a verb!

The Scientist said...

they'm worried about that you displeasing

jokerine said...

Probably they only use the "is worried" or "was worried" form in everyday conversation so the other sounds bad. Whereas the foreign students learned that this is correct grammar. I have the same thing in german, where I don't like to use simple past, but whatever that compound verb thingy is called.

Oh and now I'm all selfconcious about my english gramamr skills.

StyleyGeek said...

Hmmm, I think pilgrim/heretic might have something there. Jokerine's answer was more what I was wondering about: whether people only do use "is worried" etc in real conversation, and if so, why. Is the simple past of "worry" dying out? But I think maybe pilgrim/heretic's answer is more plausible.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Woo hoo! I win! :)