Five Frequently Misused Verbs: Go, Come, Write, Give, and Eat

By Maeve Maddox

Among the most frequently used words in English, these five verbs are also the most frequently misused.

The error occurs when the simple past forms are used to form the present or past perfect, giving such examples as:

When he got there, I’d already went.
Has he came yet?
He had wrote her twenty letters.
He’s gave everything away.
The cat has ate the canary.

One could object that such usage is so obviously incorrect that it hardly merits a mention.

Consider, however, that there was a time when the construction “Me and my friends go to the movies every week” would have been considered the obvious mark of an uneducated person. These days, it’s impossible to watch a talk show without hearing it uttered by speakers who have presumably completed many years of school.

It is an axiom among economists that bad money drives out good. Nonstandard grammar–especially when spoken by celebrities–can drive out the standard variety.

For the record, therefore, here are examples of standard usage:

Today I go. Yesterday I went. I have gone there many times.
Today I come to the party. Yesterday he came to the party. He has come to all our parties.
Today I write. Yesterday I wrote. I have written every week.
Today I give. Yesterday I gave. I have given every year.
Today I eat breakfast. Yesterday I ate oat bran. I have eaten lunch.

Since the difficulty is only with the form used with “have” or “had,” one way to overcome the problem where it exists might be to practice saying the perfect form over and over until it sounds correct: have gone, have gone, have gone; have eaten, have eaten, have eaten and so on.

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7 Responses to “Five Frequently Misused Verbs: Go, Come, Write, Give, and Eat”

  • Charles

    What about Shakespeare’s “The lady dost protest too much, methinks”?

  • Maeve

    I don’t understand your question. What about Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”?

  • Roshawn

    It’s funny that I don’t know the English terminology (e.g. present tense, present perfect tense, past perfect), but I can somewhat recognize their misuse in sentences.

    Here’s my take on the above examples:

    1. When he got there, I’d already left.
    2. Has he come yet?
    3. He had written her twenty letters. (I would’ve give up after two 😉 )
    4. He’s given everything away. Or He’s giving everything away.
    5. The cat has eaten the canary.

    I hope I’m right.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • johnny

    I’m quite confused with the examples you gave regarding the standard usage of present, past and perfect tenses. Today I give. Yesterday I gave. I have given every year. What I know is that, we can’t use “every” for the perfect tenses because, perfect tenses tell about the events that happened in the past or in the future rather than a routine. Pardon me if I’m wrong. Thanks!

  • amy

    It’s okay to use “every” with perfect tenses. The present perfect can be used for an action that began in the past but has not yet ended or just ended or may happen again. For instance:
    “Have you ever been to Disneyland?”
    “Yes, I’ve been there three times since moving to California.”
    “My friend has gone there every year since she was a little girl.”
    “Have you eaten dinner yet?”
    “No, I haven’t eaten yet, but I will soon.”
    “He has written to her every year on her birthday for the last ten years.”
    (He’ll probably write again this year.)

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