TWTS: In case you were unaware of "unawares" | Michigan Radio

TWTS: In case you were unaware of "unawares"

Jun 15, 2020

Were you aware that "unawares" is a thing people say? 

Maybe you've seen it recently it in relation to COVID-19 – things like "The governor's announcement caught some people unawares," and "We have no excuse to be caught unawares in an outbreak.

We wanted to know, where did that "s" come from?

Short answer, that "s" has been there for a really long time.

"Unaware" and "unawares" have actually been sitting next to each other since the 16th century. Early on, they were both adverbs. The "s" is a construction known in English as the adverbial genitive – it's the same "s" we see in words like "always" and "afterwards."

As an adverb, "unawares" could mean a couple of different things. It could mean "without being aware," as in "He fell unawares into error."

"Unawares" could also mean "without being noticed." The Oxford English Dictionary gives this example: "Hours might have passed, unnumbered and unawares."

"Unawares" is often found with "take" or "catch." This usage goes all the way back to Shakespeare. Today, you'll find "unawares" as an adverb and "unaware" as an adjective.

This week also seemed like a good time to also take a look at "beside" and "besides." To hear our discussion, listen to the audio above.