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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Misuse of “Went” and “Gone” in the Media

Have you noticed that both local and national reporters – and some anchors – have quite a bit of trouble with verb tenses?  Most particularly I have noticed a confusion with the past participle and past tense of the verb “go.”  Of course it wouldn’t be worthy of a blog post if the error is a simple slip of the tongue or other form of occasional misspeaking.  However, it happens so often  that it requires at least a single blog post to acknowledge it.

The mistake usually happens in the middle of a report, when I hear:

“He has went….” or “They have went….” (Ouch – it hurts my ears)
instead of “He has gone….” or “They have gone….” or simply "He went...." or "They went...."

The reporters in question seem to forget that “went” is the past tense of the irregular verb “go” while “gone” is the past participle form of the word that requires the speaker or writer to use “have,” “had,” or “has” before the verb.

Grammatical errors from the average person who may be answering a reporter’s questions are common and expected, but when I tune in to hear a broadcast journalist give me the news of the day, I anticipate a higher level of grammatical accuracy.  After all, a journalist’s business is language and his or her job is to communicate both ideas and information.  Bad grammar gets in the way and becomes a distraction to the listener or reader. 

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