This may become a regular feature, along with other posts concerning the mechanics of communication. I’m still mulling it over.
I’m beginning with Listen because its misuse on television news media outlets has been driving me crazy for a few years now. (Mrs. Buchanan would not approve, people!)
Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this sentence?
Take a listen.
The noun here is “you”. Since this sentence is being used to address a whole bunch of “you”, leaving it unspoken is fine. What you have left are two verbs. Proper sentence structure is usually a Subject (noun), Verb (passive or active), and often another noun (object). The object is either by itself in simple sentence structure or embedded in a prepositional phrase. Action verbs indicate the subject is doing something. To determine whether a word is a verb, both active and passive verbs always have a past, present or future tense. Active verbs are the same word, with “ed” added for past tense and sometimes “ing” for present tense. The last I knew, Listen is an active verb. It is something one does, which is usually the brain interpreting sounds collected by the ears. The following examples illustrate its use in all three tenses. “I listened to my favorite song.” “I enjoy listening to my favorite song.” “I will listen to my favorite song.”
In the offending sentence, Listen is being used as a noun (object). Every time I hear someone use it in this manner, I ask myself “Where am I taking it?” or “Who am I taking it from?” The proper way to use it would be, “Please listen to the following story.” Yes, there are twice as many words in this sentence. Wow! Six in total. Instead of drawing my attention to something a reporter or anchor wants me to notice, all they’re really doing is distracting me with the misuse of a verb; and being impolite by demanding I do something. Instead of asking me nicely to pay attention. Yes, there are some words which can be both nouns and verbs. There is even at least one in this post, but it isn’t Listen.