Verb Mistakes #10: Dropping the Past Participle Ending

By Maeve Maddox

These errors are not particularly noticeable in spoken colloquial English, but they jump out in formal written English. Some of these forms have become quite common in writing.

1.
INCORRECT: My son says he wants to marry an old-fashion girl.
CORRECT : My son says he wants to marry an old-fashioned girl.

“To fashion” is “to make.” Fashioned means made. Old-fashioned means “made in the old way.” An old-fashioned bathtub has claw feet. An old-fashioned girl has the values, attitudes, or tastes of an earlier time.

2.
INCORRECT: The builder was suppose to finish construction on the thirty-first of the month.
CORRECT : The builder was supposed to finish construction on the thirty-first of the month.

“Supposed to” is an adjectival phrase meaning, “required to” or “expected to.”

3.
INCORRECT: His father use to volunteer for the Salvation Army in Cincinnati.
CORRECT : His father used to volunteer for the Salvation Army in Cincinnati.

The regular verb use has the past tense used. The form use can appear in the past tense with a negative helper: Our family didn’t use to contribute to political campaigns. In this example, use is a base form and the past tense is indicated by the negative didn’t. When the statement is not negative, the past form is used: Our family used to contribute to political campaigns.

4.
INCORRECT: The policy in this store is “first come, first serve.”
CORRECT : The policy in this store is “first come, first served.”

The expression “first come, first served” is elliptical: something is missing. The subject is unexpressed: [The person who arrives first] will be served first.

5.
INCORRECT: The phrase is undeniably disturbing because it assumes that altruism is ingrain in some DNA coding.
CORRECT : The phrase is undeniably disturbing because it assumes that altruism is ingrained in some DNA coding.

In figurative use, ingrained means, “deeply rooted, inveterate, forming a part of the essence or inmost being.” The word comes from a dyeing process. To engrain or ingrain was to dye a fabric in such a way that the colors could not wash out. From this verb developed the figurative meaning of planting habits, convictions, prejudices, etc. ineradicably in a person’s mind or being.

Ingrain was sometimes used without the -ed as an adjective, chiefly in reference to the dyeing process, but in modern usage, the adjective form is ingrained: “Altruism remains in us as an ingrained habit, a happy relic of simpler times.”

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2 Responses to “Verb Mistakes #10: Dropping the Past Participle Ending”

  • Karen

    I loved this Daily Writing Tip, #4 being my pet-peeve in this category. Please add “iced” tea to the list.
    Thanks!

  • Nancy R.

    Writers who drop the past participle ending probably don’t read much. They write what they hear.
    I think “iced tea,” but see signs for “ice tea.” I notice that “waxed paper” has become “wax paper” on the packaging.
    Is there any hope here?

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