Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, perhaps puzzling over grammar’s intricacies. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The example sentences below demonstrate the proper English usage of interpersonal verbs, inflected for mood, tense and gender.

Unit 1

He is drinking; he is drunk; he was drunk.
He is just 17; he was just 17.
Remember that he is just a kid; remember that he was just a kid; you must remember he was just a kid.
He cannot know what he is doing; he could not know what he was doing; he cannot have known what he was doing.
See your way clear to letting this go; you must see your way clear to letting this go.
He has his future ahead of him; he had his future ahead of him.
This will ruin his life; this is going to ruin his life.
He makes a mistake; he made a mistake; people make mistakes; mistakes were made.
He did something; she had something done to her; something happened.
These things happen.

She is drinking; she is drunk; she was drunk.
She is 15; she was 15.
She is putting herself in this position; she put herself in that position.
She should know better; she should have known better.
She must think about his future; she must think about her future.
She must say nothing; she will say nothing; she says nothing; she said nothing.
What happens here will stay here; what happens here stays here; what happens here stays.
She carries this; she will carry this.
An incident occurred; an incident derailed her life; her life was derailed.
These things happen.

She should not say anything; she will ruin his life; it will not be real unless she says something.
She should not have waited so long to speak; she should have said something; it could not have been real if she did not say anything.
These allegations will ruin his life; making these allegations will ruin someone’s life; she will ruin her life making these allegations.

She went on to lead a productive life, so how bad can it have been?
She did not go on to lead a productive life, so how can we trust what she has to say?
If it is true, why would she want to remain anonymous? Now that we know her name, we are coming to her house.

It happens. It happened. It was a long time ago.
She waits. She says nothing.
She should not have waited. She should not have said nothing.
She remembers it happened. She remembers it happened to her. She remembers he did something.
She says something.
How can she remember? Does she remember? Is it possible to remember? I don’t remember — who can remember?
She wore something. Did she wear something? What did she wear?
Did she drink? Was she drinking?
Did he drink? Was he drinking?
She should have been responsible. He cannot have been responsible.

It is very hard to imagine that anything happened. Did it happen? It was a long time ago. She said nothing.
He does not remember.
He remembers that it did not happen. He remembers that he did nothing. He remembers that he was absent.

Unit 2 (Advanced)

If it happened (although it did not happen), it would not have been wrong.
If it happened (it may have happened; he did not do it, but it may have happened), it was only to be expected.
These things happen. (He did not do it.)
These things happen. (Even if he did it, it was only a thing that sometimes happens.)

We cannot know what happened; she does not know what happened; he knows what happened.
Nothing happens; nothing happened; something happened to her; he did nothing; this is how it always happens.
This is how a thing he did became something that happened to her; this is how something he did becomes something that happens.

This is how this keeps happening.

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