Just in time for today’s Grammar Day, Donald Trump fired off the following tweet:
How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phone during the very sacred election process.
In order to help President Trump out a wee bit, I’ve decided to post the relevant extract from my recently published Grammar and Punctuation for Key Stages 3 & 4 with Handy Usage Notes. The extract deals with the doubling of consonants at the end of verbs (such as ‘tap’). But the President also used the wrong tense and, if his pronouncement was meant to be a question, failed to deploy the question mark, of which more further on.
6.10 Spelling verb inflections
6.10.1 The doubling of consonants
Before endings -ing and -ed are added to base forms ending with a single consonant letter (except x), those bases double the consonant letter if the preceding vowel is stressed and spelt with a single letter. This is exemplified below.
- Bar ends with a single r preceded by a stressed a spelt with a single letter. Thus, bar – barring – barred. Similarly, permit ends with a single t preceded by a stressed iI spelt with a single letter. Thus, permit – permitting – permitted.
By contrast, when the vowel is either unstressed or written with two letters, there is no doubling of the final consonant.
- Enter also ends with a single r preceded by e spelt with a single letter, but this vowel e is unstressed. This is why the doubling of the final r does not occur: enter – entering – entered. Similarly, although moan ends with a single n preceded by a stressed sound oa, this sound is represented not by one but by two letters: oa (sequences of two vowel letters representing a single sound, such as oa, ai or ea, are called diphthongs). Again then, the doubling of the final n does not occur: moan – moaning – moaned.
Exceptions to the consonant-doubling rule
The rule is broken with bases ending in g and c: those consonants are doubled despite being preceded by single unstressed vowels: zigzag – zigzagging – zigzagged; traffic – trafficking – trafficked.
Unlike American English, British English also breaks the rule in bases ending in l, m and, in a few verbs, p coming after single unstressed vowels: signal – signalling – signalled; trial – trialling – trialled; travel – travelling – travelled; telegram – telegramming – telegrammed; worship – worshipping – worshipped. However, most verbs ending in –p have regular spellings: develop – developing – developed; gossip – gossiping – gossiped.
END OF EXTRACT FROM MY TEXTBOOK
As for the wrong tense, the Present Perfect (here, has gone) may not be used to refer to events which took place at a defined time in the past (such as last year’s American presidential election), this being the job of the past tense – the Simple Past, in this case. And while the structure of this part of the presidential tweet is typical of a question, no question mark is used. It is possible, however, that this pronouncement was meant to be exclamatory, but the writer’s command of English tripped him up. If a question was indeed intended, what President Trump should have written is this (stylistic and content-related considerations aside):