Participle Problems Encountered By Senior Secondary School Students In Nsukka Local Government Area Of Enugu State

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  This study is aimed at finding out the participle problems encountered by senior secondary school students with a view of solving the problems so found.


Teachers of the English language and student in senior secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government of Enugu State were used for this study.


Out of thirty-two (32) secondary schools in this local government area, five schools were used as target population.


A well-structured questionnaire was used to elicit information on the participle problems encountered by student of English and possible ways in which the teaching and learning of the participles can be improved in our schools.


The findings revealed that the teaching and learning of participles is faced with numerous problems in the target schools. Recommendation and possible solutions to the problems were made.


Finally, a suggestion was made for a similar research to be carried out in another part of the state using a wider population and samples to compare the findings of this study.









English is used as a first language in countries like Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It is used as a second and official language in many of the former British Colonies. Nigeria is one of such countries that use English as an official language. The territories that make up Nigeria are made up of ethnic groups of varying sizes, each with an extended speech community and a dominant language – Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Edo, Efik among others.


According to Uzozie (1992), “the origins of the English language in Nigeria are shrouded in obscurity”


Spencer (1971) wrote that


 English was introduced into Nigeria by the activities of Portuguese traders, the first Europeans that came to the West Coast of Africa.


The Portuguese spoke little English. Their interests were more in the area of trade. However, as seamen and traders exchanged goods and services with local people, there arose a need for a coherent system of communication. Anwosi further remarks that


When English challenged the monopoly of Portuguese traders‟ interests and finally ousted them from the ancient Benin Kingdom, the Portuguese language was replaced with English as the language of diplomacy and trade


The colonial period witnessed the institutionalization of the English language learning in Nigerian educational institutions.


European officials had very poor impression of our native languages which to them were neither extensive nor of high quality. There own language (English) was therefore imposed on the people. Omelewa (1984) explains that


The  missionaries  who  came  to    Badagry


near Lagos in 1842 introduced English into


Nigeria. Schools  were  opened  and  pupils


were taught in English language.


 These missionaries came as a result of the British attempts to suppress the trans-atlantic slave trade and replace it with the civilizing mission of colonialism.


These schools, churches and government institution were established to aid


in governing the native Africans.


Crowder (1966) reports that


In the late 1930s  many freed slaves from


free town came to their original homes in


Lagos and Badagry.


Some of these freed slaves had received formal education in English. Many of them were later employed by missionaries, trading companies and British colonial administrators as interpreters, messengers and teachers which gave greater impetus to the spread of the English language in Nigeria.


The English language in Nigeria has the status of a second language. The language has acquired the new forms of manifestation in the multilingual Nigerian situation.


A diachronic study of a language is a statement about changes that occurred over a period of time in the life of that language. If language is seen as a product of history, a diachronic study of the English language in Nigeria can hardly be studied in isolation from its synchronic development.


Many of the historical changes in the language are still observed in the present structure. A valid diachronic analysis therefore should be used on an effective synchronic (descriptive) study.


Statements about linguistic change in Nigeria cannot be made without recourse to existing descriptions of the language in at least two varieties of development: standard and non standard usage.


Evidence that the English in Nigeria has undergone certain changes can be found in old manuscripts and written inscriptions. Synchronic linguistic is the state of a language at a particular time. Ubahakwe (1979) citing an editorial in the Journal of Nigerian English Studies Association maintains that


The state  of  the English Language is no


longer at a cross roads in Nigeria. English


in  Nigeria  connotes  English  as  a  second




The significant status assumed by the Nigerian variety of English makes it capable of being seen as a dialect sub-set comparable to British, American and Australia English among other dialect sub-sets.


Adetugo (1984) opines that “the Nigerian variety which is called Nigerian English has as much viability as other varieties of English”


A new dialect has arisen as a result of the interplay between English and indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria. English in Nigeria is categorized as either standard (educated) or non-standard (uneducated) usage.


A large number of English speakers in Nigeria are uneducated and these include those who have little formal education and illiterates who are exposed to English in communities where pidgin does not flourish. They are confronted with the difficulties posed by errors in the use the language.

English, apart from being the official language in Nigeria is also a second language and it is therefore important for students in post primary schools to have good knowledge of the English language generally and particularly the grammatical aspect of the language in order to enhance effective use of the language. The second system and structure forms the core of the language. The native speaker acquires these as unconscious habits before he enters school.


This is not the case with African child learning it as a second language.


Cliff (2000) defines participles as “yet another verbal; a word derived from a verb”. There are three verb forms in English that are known as verbals.


They are participles, gerunds and infinitives. They belong to the group of verbs called non-finite verbs.


They are called verbal because they are derived from verbs and retain many of the characteristics of the verb, a verbal can take any kind of modifier or complement but cannot make a statement or act as a question. Very often, they are used as pure adjectives‟ and are placed directly before the nouns they modify. The following examples show the participle used as simple adjectives.


He conducts a flourishing business (Here flourishing modifies business). When the participle is used as a „predicative adjective it is found in the predicate and modifies the subject as in the following illustrations. The game is exciting.


The book was interesting.


The rumour were starting


The participles modify game, book and rumour and they are forms of verb. A better understanding of participles will enable the students to differentiate between verbal that act as adjectives, understand verbs- regular and irregular and tenses.


As a result of this, it must be accorded primary importance in any teaching endeavour. Commenting on this point, O‟ cornor (1967) affirms that


It is well known that a child of ten years old or less can learn a language perfectly if he is brought up surrounded by that language, no matter where he was born or who his parents are.


In spite of the above axiom, the teaching and learning of English language in secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu state is still being hindered by numerous problems which are instrumental to poor performance in most examinations. It is not strange that many users of English language are deficient in the effective use of participles and this is enough evidence to validate the claim that it is a problem area that demands great attention especially as much work has not been done in this area.



1.2       Objective of the Study


The general purpose of this study is to find out how the teaching and learning of participles can be improved upon in our secondary schools. This research is undertaken to get reliable information about the participle problems encountered by senior secondary three students in the secondary schools in Nsukka Urban of Enugu State.


The researcher set out to study the participle problems encountered by students of English, the constraints they face and possible ways of helping them.


To achieve these goals, questionnaires containing relevant items were administered to the students and teachers of the English language. This study is based on the assumption that as second language learners students are bound to face difficulties in learning the grammatical units of the language.


This study is also aimed at finding out ways that students can best acquire the knowledge of participles, ways in which teachers can teach participles and how these students might be empowered to become more competent in the use of participles. Since very little has been done in this area and since our students encounter great difficulties in handling the participle, this research is therefore design to explore this aspect of the verb.



1.3       Research Problem


Since very little has been done in this area and since our students encounter great difficulties in handling the participle. English is a second language to our students and because of little provision made for the teaching of participles on the school time table, it is therefore difficult for the students to make effective use of participles in their written works. There is an overlap in the verb which poses a problem to learners of English as a second language. The present form of the verb ends in –ing and ed as the past form for regular verbs.


Participles which are derived from the verbs have their present and past forms as ordinary verbs. The present participle form also ends in – ing and past participle form ends in –ed for regular verbs and en, -t and other ways for the various irregular verbs. This kind of similarity in form brings about difficulty in differentiating between verbs (present and past tenses) and participles.


The problem of teaching the participle is certainly not simplified by the fact that this term is obviously a misnomer.


The student, accustomed to present tenses which indicate present time and past participle which indicates now present, now past, now future time… they insist on in calling the participle in-ing present no matter, what time it happens to be indicating. With all the problems encountered in teaching and learning of participles, little research has been conducted in this area. The result is that some of the teachers are not quite informed and since one cannot give what one does not have; this study is designed to fill the yawning gap in order to provide a reliable date for both the teachers and students.



1.4    Relevance of the Study


This study is crucial because it is aimed at finding out the participles problems encountered by senior secondary three students in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu state.


The finding will help the classroom teacher to be better informed about participles in order to achieve the desired goals in teaching. It will be of immense benefit to the students as they will have a better knowledge of what participles are all about. It will also help them to differentiate between verbs, participles and other verbal. It will also be of immense benefit to the government and curriculum planers since it provides some reliable data for improving the teaching and learning of participles and English language generally in secondary schools in Nigeria. It may also serve as reference material to the Faculty of Arts in the Nigerian universities. The result may be of great value to the students as they will develop the right attitude towards English language by dropping the „pidgin English‟ and adopting the English language for their every day use. It may equally be of help to their parents and guardians if they realize their own faults after reading this work and correct them through suggestions proffered in this project.


1.5       Scope of the Study


This research is based on identifying the problems of participles encountered by senior secondary three students (SS3) in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State and ways in which teaching and learning of participles can be improved. A casual look at the verb and other parts of speech whose operations involve the participle will be done. In undertaking this study, relevant data will be collected from secondary schools in Nsukka urban and other community secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.






1.6       Research Question




The research questions include the following:




1.    In what ways does insufficiency of qualified English teachers pose problems to the teaching and learning of participles?




2.    How do misplaced and dangling participles affect the students‟ performance in the use of English?




3.    Does mother-tongue interference constitute problems to the teaching and learning of participles?




4.    To what extent does poor teaching method affect the effective teaching and learning of participles?







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Participle Problems Encountered By Senior Secondary School Students In Nsukka Local Government Area Of Enugu State