Be Fruitful

by Dave

Problem(s)

So far, those efforts have not born fruit.

Solution(s)

So far, those efforts have not borne fruit.

Explanation

In the latest installment of my ongoing series “It Can Happen to Anyone”, I bring to you the problem sentence above, written by a reporter from Reuters. I found it today (that is, the date listed above) in an article about the release of U.S.-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi. So, hey, if it can happen to a reporter that works for Reuters, it can happen to anyone!

This particular error involves one of those little-used irregular verbs “to bear”. To conjugate “bear” properly, one writes “bear” in the present, “bore” in the past”, and “borne” in the compound past tenses (“has borne”, “had borne”, etc.). The latter is a homonym of the much more common “born”, and the meaning is related (I’m sure the words are related, as well), so it’s no wonder that a writer would slip up and write “born” when they meant “borne”.

At this point in time, though, I would say that “born” is not an acceptable replacement for “borne”. It may be one day, but that day has yet to come, in my opinion. Most of the time the word “borne” is used in fixed expressions, though, so if you simply learn them by rote, you’ll avoid slip-ups. In fact, when it comes to English spelling, I think it’d be helpful to learn everything by rote. The rules and generalizations that exist simply aren’t useful enough to warrant learning the whole mess as a system as opposed to a series of unfortunate accidents.