Grammar Quiz #12: Verb Errors

By Mark Nichol

Rewrite the following sentences so has to remove all verb errors.

1. If I would have known you were going, I would have gone too.

2. The college freshman had drank six beers before passing out.

3. The driver didn’t see the dog laying in the road.

4. When I was in Hollywood, I seen three celebrities walking on Sunset Boulevard.

5. With only a slingshot, David slew the Philistine.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: If I would have known you were going, I would have gone too.
Correct : If I had known you were going, I would have gone too.

When an “if” clause is used to express something that did not happen, but which, if it had happened would have produced another result, the verb in the “if clause will be “had,” not “would.”

2.
Original: The college freshman had drank six beers before passing out.
Correct : The college freshman had drunk six beers before passing out.
Alterna.: The college freshman drank six beers before passing out.

The irregular verb “to drink” has the forms drink, drank, drunk. The form used with “have” and “had” is “drunk.” The sentence could also be corrected by changing the tense of the verb (second version).

3.
Original: The driver didn’t see the dog laying in the road.
Correct : The driver didn’t see the dog lying in the road.

As the dog was prostrate or reclining in the road, the intransitive verb “lying” is called for.

4.
Original: When I was in Hollywood, I seen three celebrities walking on Sunset Boulevard.
Correct : When I was in Hollywood, I saw three celebrities walking on Sunset Boulevard.

The irregular verb “to see” has the forms see, saw, (have) seen. The simple past is saw.

5.
Original: With only a slingshot, David slew the Philistine.
Correct : With only a slingshot, David slew the Philistine.

The verb “to slay” is an irregular verb with the forms slay, slew, (have) slain, but it is slipping into the category of regular verbs that form their past tense with the ending –ed. In his television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon chose to have his characters use the past form “slayed.” The choice between the past forms “slew” and “slayed,” and the perfect forms “have slain” and “have slayed” rests with the writer.

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4 Responses to “Grammar Quiz #12: Verb Errors”

  • Erik

    The first sentence in this post has an error.
    “Rewrite the following sentence so has to remove all verb errors.” The word “has” should be “as.”

  • venqax

    Sorry, can’t agree that the “choice” in #5 exists, let alone rests with the writer. This kind of “slippage”, as you euphemistically put it, is precisely what educated and careful writers should be guarding against. The past tense of slay is slew, the perfect is slain. No “choice” about it. These types of changes were understandable when 98% of the population was illiterate. There is no excuse for it now.

  • T. Wang

    This is a pretty lame quiz compared to what is usually offered here…just sayin’

  • T. Wang

    “so has to” should be “so as to,” but it would be better to just take out “so has” and say: Rewrite the following sentences to remove all verb errors. Thus endeth the lesson…

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