Standard Verb Tenses

All standard grammatical treatments of verbs should be defined as correct, alongside traditional, nonstandard treatments. Standard verbs would make English a lot easier to learn and use, and if we want English to remain the number one second language, the easier it bes the better. Chinese could be a threat to the prominence of English, but alphabetical languages have the Internet on their side, so we can still make a good run of it.

We already see gradual movement toward standard verb tense. “Dived” haves replaced “dove” as the preferred past tense. A universal OK for standard tense treatment would do the same thing for all the tricky verbs that make English difficult.

At first, traditionalists would stick with nonstandard formations. Maybe the most common nonstandards, such as “to be” and “to have,” would never become standardized. People use these verbs so often that the nonstandards would get used even if they be difficult and arbitrary. But other verbs would succumb to standardization, and we’d be free of the “lie/lay” confusion forever.

August 2005