Thursday, October 19, 2017
Grammar

Rebuild or Rebuilt? Confusion Over Confusing Verb Forms

There are times that irregular verbs, verbs that prompt choices like rebuild or rebuilt, can easily throw a reader (or a writer, for that matter).

The other day, I received an email from a reader with the subject line, “Please correct.”

That’s never a good thing. As much as I try to never make a mistake, I’m human, after all, and sometimes I do.

But this reader’s apparent gripe was a story whose headline said something along the lines of this:

Woman returns to rebuilt home after tornado

The reader believed I’d used the wrong form of the verb. If a woman was returning to begin the work of repair after a devastating storm, then the verb that should have been used, as this reader suggested, would be rebuild.

Had the reader actually read past the headline, the real scenario would have been clear.

In this case, it was about a woman whose home had been heavily damaged by the weather. She was forced to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, a group of volunteers came together to restore her home while she was away.

Once their work was complete, she was brought back to her property to see all of the work volunteers had done on her behalf.

So in this case, the woman returned to a rebuilt home. She wasn’t returning to rebuild it herself: she was returning to a home someone else had already rebuilt.

If build were a “regular verb,” its past tense would be “builded” instead of built.

When you only have a single sentence (or in this case, a headline), the real meaning of what’s being conveyed can easily be lost in the word choice.

The past participle form of build, the form that would include has or have before it, is also built as in, “They have rebuilt the woman’s home.”

There are plenty of irregular verbs in English:

The past tense and past participle of creep is crept. Both past tense and past participle of feed is fed.

Some verbs are so irregular that they don’t change at all from present tense to past tense to past participle: bet, hit, and split.

But sometimes you have to read beyond a single sentence before making a snap decision about whether someone has used the wrong form.

Once in a while, you have to take a deep breath before you pounce on a perceived grammatical misstep.

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.