English Language Project Topics

A Syntactic Analysis of the Use of Auxiliary Verbs in Office Documents

A Syntactic Analysis of the Use of Auxiliary Verbs in Office Documents

A Syntactic Analysis of the Use of Auxiliary Verbs in Office Documents

Chapter One

Aim and Objectives of the Study

The major aim of the research is to do a syntactic analysis of the use of auxiliary verbs in some selected office documents from Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai. Consequently, the specific objectives of carrying out this research are to:

  1. identify which auxiliary verbs are more wrongly used by writers of office documents in Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai;
  2. highlight the contexts in which writers of office documents misuse auxiliary verbs;
  3. analyse the extent to which some office documents in Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai convey wrong information due to wrong use of auxiliary verbs.




This chapter reviews related literature under the following sub-headings: Language use and Writing skills; Office Documents, Theories of Grammar (Traditional Grammar Approach, Structural GrammarApproach, Transformational Generative Grammar Approachand Systemic Functional Grammar Approach); Main and Auxiliary Verbs and their classification, Halliday‟s type of modality. The chapter also presents theTheoretical Framework on which the study is anchored.

Language Use and Writing Skills

Language is the most common and probably the most vital system of communication. Without language for communication, there will be no platform for the cross pollination of ideas, education, entertainment and the achievement of man‟s numerous social desires. As such, scholars have made many different attempts to define and characterize the nature and function of language. Locke (1965:53) in his essay on “The significance of words” remarks that;“God having designed man for a sociable creature, made

Himnot onlywith an inclination, and under necessity, to Havefellowship with thoseof his kind, but furnished Him with language, which was to be the greatest instrument And common tie of society”

Strang (1970) agrees with Locke‟s stance on the importance of language to mankind when he observed that, “It is impossible to conceive of human societies without language, human societies, at least was composed, and would totally disintegrate.”

Allerton (1979:13) viewed language as; “A tool, an instrument or machine, which performs, essentially, a communicative function”;while Gimson (1980:4) is also of the view that “A language is a system of conventional signals (symbols) used for communication”. Allerton (1979) and Gimson (1980), all viewed language as a system of symbols designed for the purpose of communication. In addition, Robins (1979:13) feels that one the feature of

„language‟ is that it is… “Adaptable and modifiable according to the ability and state of the user, the purpose to which it is put and the situation in which it is used.”

From the above views, one can say that all natural or human languages contain within them different varieties. When we talk, for example, of the English language, we do not talk of static conglomeration of lexical features which are specific in their use as regards the social context in which they may be uttered. Lexical features tend to have different circumstances, for example, a distinction could be made according to the formality level of words in which case some words tend to be more formal than others, like “Dear John” compared with “Dear Mr. John” or “Dear Sir” that one writes as salutation in letters.

As a result of such differences in the lexical features of languages, some of these features have that distinct characteristic of occurring in restricted situationsonly, so that their occurrence indicates a particular situation in which they are most likely to be uttered in some office documents.

 Writing Skills

Writing skills are an important part of communication; good writing skills allow you to communicate your message with clarity and ease to a far larger audience than through face to face or telephone conversations. The skills involved in writing are grammar, spelling and punctuation, which are key in written communications. The readers will form an opinion of you, the author, based on both the content and presentation, and errors are likely to lead them to form a negative impression.

Ibileye and Animasaun, (2004), observe that writing constitutes perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the English Language syllabus and a difficult aspect of daily living. Writing is difficult, probable because most learners do not recognize writing for what it is worth; writing is worth quite a lot.However, practice is an essential aspect of writing, which is commonly ignored. Most people admire established writers for the beauty of their essay, while losing sight of the fact that such writers have been at the process for years. Nobody is born a writer; all writers are made through conscientious and unrelenting efforts, which result in evolving and improving their styles. Writing is an intimidating „director‟. There is the tendency, among learners, to be intimidated and in fact, overwhelmed by their first initial efforts, which could scare them off writing. No writing evolves suddenly; it is an impromptu measure. It takes time and energy to master it. Writing is divided into three stages viz:

  1. Pre-writing Stage
  2. Writing Stage and
  3. Re-writing (Ibileye and Animasaun, 2004:88)

Pre-writing Stage is the preparation stage of writing, which involves two steps; brainstorming and outlining.The writing stageinvolves making a draft in continuous prose of ideas outlined in the pre-writing stage. To start with, you have to identify a purpose or point for your paper. A point or purpose stated directly is often called a “Thesis Statement” or “Thesis Sentence.” You can do this by asking yourself, “Why am I writing this”? “What am I trying to get across to the reader? “Why would someone want to read this? “The essential element of this stage is introduction, body and conclusion. The Re-writing Stage- Is the finishing stage of writing. It is an ongoing process.






This chapter discusses the sources of data, data gathering technique, and the data analytical procedureused for this work.

Sources of Data

The data used for this study were collected from IBB University, Lapai, whichis located in the Lapai Local Government Council in Niger State. It has many departments catering for the award of degree and also provides other services to the community. Thirty samples of office documentsfrom the universityLibrary, Office of theRegistrar, student affairs and the following departments: chemistry, biology, political science, public administration, and counselling psychology provide the data for the study. These samples of the office document have something in common; they have thesame pattern of writing documents of all kinds.

The samples of office documents that were chosen for the analysis were all written bypeople who must have attained higher certificates, diploma, higher national diploma or first degree from different institutions. The selection of this category was informed by the fact that at this level of their education, they should have had adequate knowledge of the grammatical items, most especially, „the English main verbs and auxiliary verbs‟ which is the main focus of this research work.

The Thirty samples of office documents were considered adequate enough as data for the present study.




This chapter comprises the data presentation and analysis of office documents from Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai.

Presentation of Data

Thirty (30) samples of office documents provide the data used to analyse the use of auxiliary verbs in IBB University, Lapai. The documents numbered 1-30 are presented in the appendix.




This chapter presents a summary of all that have been done in the research with regard to the analysis of the use of auxiliary verbs in the non-native setting, specifically in the documents of writers of office documents of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai. This chapter also makes concludingremarks and gives recommendations based on the analysis carried and the findings of the research.


This study examined the use of English auxiliary verbs in office documents of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai. The studyobservedthe causes of the inability of the office documents writers to use the auxiliary verbs in English appropriately and noted, after interacting with some staff of few offices anddepartments of the institution, that such officers lack the knowledge of the proper use of the English auxiliary verbs and as such misuse the auxiliary verbs. This study which is an attempt to assess the writers of office documents performance in the use of the English auxiliary verbs, obtained data from the documents written in various offices. The data collected wereanalysed to find out the extent to which the writers of office documents understand the English auxiliary verbs, the general semantic meanings applicable in the expression of English auxiliary verbs and how well they understand the meaning of some auxiliary verbs when placed in different context of situations.

In order to achieve the aimof this study, the study reviewed literaturetopoint out the meaning, function, and the importance of the English auxiliary verbs. Because the English auxiliary are divided into two types, the data were put in two categories and used for the investigation.

The data collected for the study were samples of office documents used by the writers of office documents. Thirty samples of office documents from four selected schools and few offices of the institution were collected, through faculty clerical staffs and faculty officers. The analysis was of the two types of auxiliary verbs: Primary and Modal auxiliary verbs. The data analyses were carried out based on Halliday‟s and Quirk‟s et al in different tables used to examine on each item as used in the different sample documents.

The results of the analysis showed that the writers of office documents in the data used for analysis seem to be selective in the application of English auxiliary verbs (modal verbs) such that they limit their choices to only those they are familiar with. There are instances of indiscriminate use of some English auxiliary verbs like „has‟ and „have‟, will‟ and „would‟ and „can‟ and „could‟. The writers of the office documents used them as if they all have one meaning. The English auxiliary verbs „may‟, „might‟, ‟shall‟ and „should‟ were scantily used by the writers of office documents in their writing. The writers of office documents experience difficulty in the application of English auxiliary verbs in their document.This study deems it necessary that the writers of office document who are our subject still need to improve in the use of the English auxiliary verbs at all levels of education in Nigeria.


The results of the analysis presented leads to the conclusion that all types of auxiliary verbs in English are problematic to some office writers, but the modal auxiliary verbs that pose more problems to the writers of office documents than the primary auxiliary verbs. That is, they have limited knowledge on the uses and proper application of the rules guiding the auxiliary verbs usage. Therefore, it could be asserted that the inadequate exposure to language use and probably poor learning background could be the factors that contribute to the problems they have with the use of auxiliary verbs in English.

Though it is a fact that the learners of English and even English lecturers cannot be perfect like the nativespeakers, efforts should be made to strife for the Standard English since it is language used in our educational system. The study also conclude that the English lecturers would endeavour to give their best to learners, that is teach them the basics of language use in all situations, the problems the writers of office documents have with the use of English auxiliary verbs in their writings would reduce.


This study recommends that seminars, conferences and workshops should always be organized by the University for writers of office documents. Through attendance of such programmes writers of office documents could also gain more knowledge and even be exposed to those things which they do not know.

In addition, writers of office documents should be encouraged to read widely so as to increase their knowledge in English language. That is, they should engage themselves with other educative materials outside their place of work, as these will improve their spoken and written English. If these are taken care of, errors involving the use of auxiliary verbs in English as discussed above would reduce. Thus, effective communication would be realized and even greater competence in the use of English Language would be enhanced.

In order for writers of office documents to be encouraged to read widely the institution and others relevant bodies should endeavour to equip the school library, teach such officers how to use different kinds of expression, and to learn how to make meanings out of whatever they write or speak in the course their various writings.

Research’s Contribution to Knowledge

This study has contributed the following to knowledge:

  1. Use of English auxiliary verbs can be very simple, if not carefully monitored, the information intended to be passed across could be written wrongly by writers of office
  2. Over generalization of the use of English auxiliary verbs may also affects the meaning of what is intended to be passed For example the use of “and”
  3. It will facilitate the understanding of English auxiliary verbs to the writers of office documents; learners as well as teachers since they will be expose to frequent reading and use of sentences that contain extremely complex system with enough intricacy to illustrate the relationship of the auxiliary verbs most especially the modal auxiliary verbs, to each other and their place in a semantic
  4. The study will also facilitate the writers of office documents use the English auxiliary verbs understand the meaning and differences and be very comfortable not only with grammatical properties of auxiliary verbs, but their semantic properties as This is necessary in order to avoid wrong application of the numerous meanings since the semantic properties show that there is more than one category of meaning and the same auxiliary verbs (auxiliary verbs) in more than one. Therefore, the writers of office documents shall not be selective in the application of English auxiliary verbs such that limiting their choices to only those they are familiar with. There shall also be less obvious errors in some office documents.


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