ENGLISCH/875: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (176) Cease or Sees (SB)


176 Trouble with homophones

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I 've heard the following sentence from a television talking head in an BBC world service programs:

October the 28th cease the end of the festival.

Now, I've got a problem with the verb "cease". At least, I think it is spelled "cease" and comes from "to cease" and if this is correct I'm quite surprised that the grammatical form in this sentence was not "ceases" with the letter "s" at the end for the third person singular.

Maybe you could give me an explanation,

Yours sincerely,

J.R. G. (India)

Dear Mr G.

In fact, you were the victim of a very well known old homophone. Homophones are words which sound alike, but are spelled differently. In this case the verb was not "to cease" but "to see."

Now, you were quite right missing the "s" for the third person singular, but in the form "sees" we do have the right form of the verb "to see". The sentence you should have heard was:

October the 28th sees the end of the festival

This specific use of the verb "to see" is sometimes used when we name a day or a date and then give details what begins or ends there, for example:

May sees the start of the opera festival.
- The opera festival starts in May.

August sees the beginning of the football season. - in other words: the beginning of the football season is in August.

Well, I could say now that todays date sees the end of this letter and hopefully the end of your problem with the missing "s". And maybe it sees the addition of a new member to my readers. Do write again...


Miranda Gobbledygook

23 November 2009