Page images
PDF
EPUB

TENSES. Tenses are those modifications of the verb, which distinguish time.

There are six tenses; the Present, the Imperfect, the Perfect, the Pluperfect, the Firsl-future, and the Secondfuture.

The Present tense is that which expresses what now exists, or is taking place: as, “I hear a noise; somebody is coming."

The Imperfect tense is that which expresses what took place, or was occurring, in time fully past: as, “I saw him yesterday; he was walking out."

The Perfect tense is that which expresses what has taken place, within some period of time not yet fully past: as, "I have seen him to-day."

The Pluperfect tense is that which expresses what had taken place, at some past time mentioned: as, “I had seen him, when I met you."

The First-future tense is that which expresses what will take place hereafter: as, “I shall see him again.'

The Second-future tense is that which expresses what will have taken place, at some future time mentioned: as, "I shall have seen him by to-morrow noon.”

OBs. 1.-The terms here defined are the names usually given to those parts of the verb to which they are in this work applied; and though some of them are not so strictly appropriate as scientific names ought to be, we think it inexpedient to change them.

OBs. 2.--The tenses do not all express time with equal precision. Those of the indicative mood, are the most definite. The time expressed by the same tenses (or what are called by the same naines) in the other moods, is frequently relative, and sometimes indefinite.

OBs. 3.–The present tense, in the indicative mood, expresses general truths, and customary actious; as, “Vice produces misery.”—“She often

verb embraces, in one voice, as many as one hundred and thirty-eight different espressions; and it may happen that in one single tense a verb shall have no fewer than fifteen different forms in each person and number. Six times fifteen are ninety; and so many are the several phrases which now composo Murray's pluperfect tense of tho subjunctive inood of the verb to strm-a tense which most grammarians very properly reject as needless! But this is not all. The scheme not only confounds the moods, and overwhelms the learner with its multiplicity, but condemns as bad English what the author himself once adopted as the imperfect subjunctive, “ If thou loved," &c., wherein he was sustained by Dr. Priestly and others of high authority. Dr. Johnson, indeed, made the preterit subjunctive like the indicative; and this may have induced the anthor to change his plan, and inflect this part of the verb with st. But Dr. Alexander Murray very positively declares this to be wrong: “When such words as if, though, unless, except, whether, and the like, are used before verbs, they lose their terminations of est, eth, and s, in those persons which commonly bave them. No speaker of good English, expressing himself conditionally, says, Though thou fullest, or Though he falls, but, Though thou fall, and Though he full, nor Though thou cimest

, but Though, or although, thou came.—-1/ist. Europ. Lang., Vol. i. p. 65.

-- Pope.

risits us." We also use it in speaking of persons who are dead, but whoso works remain; as,

“Seneca reasons well." Obs. 4.—The present tense in the subjunctive mood, and in the other moods when preceded by as soon as, after, before, till, or when, is generally used with reference to future time; as, “It he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?”Matt., vi, 10. " When he arrives, I will send for you.”.

Obs. 5.-In animated narrative, the present tense is sometimes substituted (by the figure enallage) for the imperfect; as, “ As he lay indulging himself in state, he sees let down from the ceiling a glittering sword, hung by a single hair.”Tr. of Cicero. “Ulysses wakes, not knowing where he was.

Obs. 6.—The present infinitive can scarcely be said to express any particular time. It is usually dependent on an otier verb, and, therefore, relative in time. It may be connected with any tense of any mood; as, “I intend to do it, I intended to do it, I have intended to do it ; &c. It is often used to express futurity; as, The time to come.”—“The world to come."--" Rapture yet to be.

OBS. 7.—The imperfect tense of the indicative mood, in its simple form, is called the preterit, as, loved, saw, was.

OBs. 8. --The perfect tense, like the present, is sometimes used with reference to future time; as, “He will be fatigued before lie hus walked a mile."

OBs. 9.—The pluperfect tense is often used conditionally, without a conjunction; as, “Had I seen you, I should have stopped.”

[ocr errors]

PERSONS AND NUMBERS.

love,

The person and number of a verb, are those modifications in which it agrees with its subject or nominative.

In each number, there are three persons; and in cach person, two numb rs: thus, Singular.

Plural. 1st per. I

1st per. We love, 2d per. Thou lovest, 2d per. You love, 3d per. He

loves; 3d per. They love. Obs. 1.—Thus the verb in some of its parts, varies its termination to distinguish, or agree with, the different persons and numbers. The change is, however, principally confined to the second and third persons singular of the present tense of the indicative mood, and to the auxiliaries hust and his of the perfect. In the ancient biblical style, now used only on solemn occasions, the second person singular is distinguished through all the tenses of the indicative and potential moods. And as the use of the pronoun thor is now mostly confined to the solemn style, the terminations of that style are retained in all our examples of the conjugation of verbs. In the plural number, there is no variation of ending, to denote the different persons; and the verb in the three persons plural, is the same as in the first person singular. As the verb is always attended by a noun or a pronoun, expressing the subject of the aífirmation, no ambiguity arises from the want of particular terminations in the verb to distinguish the different persons and numbers. Org. 2.- Persous in high stations, being usually surrounded by attendants, it became, many

centuries ago, a species of court flattery, to address individuals of this class, in tlie plural number. And the practico extended, in time, to all ranks of society: so that, at present the customary mode of familiar as well as complimentary address, is altogether plural; both tho verb and the pronoun being used in that form. This practice, which confounds one of the most important distinctions of the language, affords a striking instance of the power of fashion. The society of Friends, or Quckers, however, continue to employ the singular number in fimiliar discourse ; and custom, which has now destroyed the compliment of the plural, has placed the appropriate form, (at least as regards them,) on an equality with the plural in point of respect. The singular is universally employed in reference to the Supreme Being; and is generally preferred in poetry. It is the language of Scripture, and is consistently retained in all our grammars.

OBS. 3.-As most of the peculiar terminations by which the second person singular of verbs is properly distinguished in the solemn style, are not only difficult of utterance, but are quaint and formal in conversation; the preterits and auxiliaries are seldom varied in familiar discourse, and the present is generally simplified contraction. A distinction between the solemn and the familiar style, has long been admitted, in the pronunciation of the termination ed, and in the ending of the verb in the third person singular; and it is evidently according to good taste and the best usage, to admit such a distinction in the second person singular. In the familiar use of the second person singular, the verb is usually varied only in the present tense of the indicative mood, and in the auxiliary hast of the perfect. This method of varying the verb renders the second person singular analogous to the third, and accords with the practice of the most intelligent of those who retain the common use of this distinctive and consistent mode of address. It disencumbers their familiar dialect of a multitude of harsh and useless terminations, which serve only, when uttered, to give an uncouth prominency to words not often emphatic; and, without impairing the strength or perspicaity of the language, increases its harmony, and reduces the form of the verb in the second person singular nearly to the same simplicity as in the other persons and numbers.*

DALL.

* The writings of the Friends being mostly of a grave cast, afford but few examples of their customary mode of forming the verb in connection with the pronoun thou, in familiar discourse. The following may serve to illustrate it: “To devote all thou had to his service;"—“If thou should come;"—“What thou said ;"—“Thou kindly contributed ;”—The Epistle which thou sent me;"-" Thou would perhaps alloro ;"— “If thou submitted ;"—“Since thou left;"_" Shoulil thou act;"_" Thou may be ready;"—"That thou had met;"—"That thou had intimated ;”—“ Before thou puts" [putst];-"What thou meets” [meetst];-" If thou had made ;"_"I observed thou 20018;

-“That thou might put thy trust;" –"Thou had been at my house."-J. KEN

“Thou muy be plundered;"—" That thou may feel;"- -“Though thou waited long, and sought him ; _“I hope thon will bear my style;"_“Thou also knoros" [knowst];-—"Thou grew up;"-" I wish thou would yot tuke my counsel."'--S. Crisp.

Thou manifested thy tender regard, stretched forth thy delivering hand, and fed and sustained us."-S. FOTHERGILL. The writer has met with thousands that use the second person singular in conversation, but never with one that employed, on ordi. nary occasions, all the regular endings of the solemn style. The simplification of the second person singular, which, to a greater or less extent, is everywhere adopted by the Friends, and which is here defined and explained, removes from each verb eighteen of these peculiar terminations; and, (if the number of English verbs be, as stated by several grammarians, 8000,) disburdens their familiar dialect of 144,000 of theso awkward and useloss appendages. This simplification is supported by usage as exten sive as the familiar use of the pronoun thou ; and is also in accordance with the canons of criticism. "All words and phrases which aro remarkably harsh and unharmonious, and not absolutely necessary, should be rejected.”—Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, B. II, Chap. ii, Sec. 2, Canon Sixth. With the subject of this note, those who put you for thou, can have no concern; and many may think it unworthy of notice, because Murray has said nothing about it. We writo not for or against any sect, or any man; but to teach all who desire to know the grammar of our tongue. And who is he that will pretend that the solemn style of the Bible may be used in familiar discourse, without a mouthing affectation ? In preaching, the ancient terminations of est for the second person singular and eth for the third, as well as ed pronounced as a separate syllable for the preterit, are admitted to be in better taste than the smoother forms of the familiar style; because the latter, though now frequently heard in religious assemblies, are not so well suited to the dignity and gravity of a sermon or a prayer. In grave poetry also, especially when it treats of scriptural subjects, to which you put for thou is obviously unsuitable, the personal terminations of the verb, which from the earliest times to the present day have usually been contracted and often omitted by the poets, ought perhaps still to be insisted on, agreeably to the notion of our tuneless critios. The critical objection to their ellision, however, can have no very firm foundation while it is admitted by the objectors themselves, that,

Where the verb is varied, the second person singular is regularly formed by adding st or est to the first person; and the third person singular, in like manner, by adding s or es: as, I see, thou seest, he sees ; I give, thou givest, he gives ; I go, thou goest, he goes; I fly, thou fliest, he flies; I vex, thou vezest, he vexes ; I lose, thou losest, he loses.

Obs. 1.- In the solemn style, (except in Poetry, which usually contracts* these forms,) the second person singular of the present indicative, and that of the irregular preterits,+ commonly end in est, pronounced as á separate.

" Writers generally have recourse to this mode of expression, that they may avoid harsh terminations.Irving's El. Eng. Composition, p. 12. But if writers of good authority, such as Pope, Swift, and Pollok, have sometimes had recourse to this method of simplifying the verb even in the solemn style, the elision may, with tenfold stronger reason, be admitted in familiar writing or discourse, on the authority of general custom among those who choose to employ the pronoun thou in conversation.

Some of the Friends (perhaps from an idea that it is less formal) miscmploy thee for thou, and often join it to the third person of the verb in stead of the second. Such expressions as, thee does, thee is, thee has, thee thinks, &c., are double solecisms; they set all grammar at defiance. Many persons who are not ignorant of grammar, and who employ the pronoun aright, sometimes improperly sacrifice concord to a slight improvement in sound, and give to the verb the ending of the third person, for that of the second. Three instances of this occur in the examples quoted in the preceding paragraph. See also the following, and many more, in the works of the poet Burns; who says of himself, “ Though it cost the schoolmaster some thrashings, I made an excellent English scholar; and, by the time I was ten or eleven years of age, I was a critic in substantives, verbs, and particles:"-"But when thou pours ;”–

;"__"There thou shines chief;"_"Thou clears the head; “Thou strings the nerves;"—" Thou brightens black despair;"—“Thou comes;"_“Thou travels far;"_“Thou paints ;" “ Unseen thou lurks ;”—“O thou pale orb that silent shines.” This mode of simplifying the verb confounds the persons; and as it has little advantage in sound, over tho regular contracted form of the second person, it ought to be avoided. It is too frequently used by the poets.

* The second person singular may be contracted, whenever the verb ends in a sound which will unite with that of "st. The poets generally employ the contracted forms, but they seem not to have adopted a uniform and consistent method of writing them. Some insert the apostrophe, and, after a single vowel, double the final consonant before st; as, hold'st, bidd'st, said'st, ledd'st, may'st, might'st, &c.: others add st only, and form permanent contractions; as, holdst, vidst, saidst, ledst, mayst, mightst, &c. Some retain the vowel in the termination of certain words, and supa press a preceding one; as, quick 'nest, happ'nest, scattrest, slumb'rest, slumb'redst: others contract the termination of such words, and insert the apostrophe; as, quicken'st, happen'st, scatter'st, slumber'st, slumber'dst. The nature of our language, tho accent and pronunciation of it, incline us to contract even all our regular verbs; so as to avoid, if possible, an increase of syables in the inflection of them. Accordingly, several terminations which formerly constituted distinct syllables, have been either wholly dropped, or blended with the final syllables of the verbs to which they aro added. Thus the plural termination on has become entirely obsolete; th or eth is no longer in common use; ed is contracted in pronunciation; the ancient ys or is, of the third person singular, is changed to s or es, and is usually added without increase of syllables; and st or est has, in part, adopted the analogy. So that the proper modo of forming these contractions of the second person singular, seems to be, to aid st only, and to insert the apostrophe, when a vowel is suppressed from the verb to which this termination is added; as, thinkst, sayst, bidst, lovist, lov dší, slumberst, slumber'dst.

+ Some grammarians say, that, whenever the preterit is like the present, it should take edst for the second person singular. This rule gives us such words as cast-edet, cost-edst, bid-dedst, burst-edst, cut-tedst, hit-tedst, let-tedst, put-tedst, hurt-edst, riddedst, shed-dedst, &c. The few examples which may be adduced from ancient writings, in suppor- of this rule, are undoubtedly formed in the usual manner from regular pretorits now obsolete; and if this were not the case, no person of tasto could think of employing derivatives so uncouth. Dr. Johnson has justly remarked, that “tho chief defect of our language is ruggedness and asperity.” And this defect is peculiarly obvious, when even the regular termination of the second person singular is added to our preterits. Accordingly we find numerous instances among the poets, both ancient and modern, in which that termination is omitted.—[See Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry everywhere,

syllable. But as the termination ed, in solemn discourse, constitutes a sylJable, the regular preterits form the second person singular, by adding "st, without further increase of syllables ; as, loved, lovedst—not lovedest. Dost and hast, and the irregular preterits vast, didst, and hadst, are permanently contracted. The auxiliaries shall and will, change the final l to t. To the auxiliaries may, can, might, coule, would, and should, the termination est was formerly added; but they are now generally written with st only, and pronounced as monosyllables, even in solemn discourse.

Obs. 2-The third person singular was anciently formed by adding th to verbs ending in e, and eth to all others. This method of forming the third person singular, almost always adds a syllable to the verb. It is now confined to the solemn style, and is little used. Doth, hath, and waith, are contractions of verbs thus formed.

OBs. 3.-When the second person singular is employed in familiar discourse, it is usually formed in a manner strictly analogous to that which is now adopted in the third person singular. When the verb ends in a sound which will unite with that of st or s, the second person singular is formed by adding at only, and the third, by adding s only; and the number of syllables is not increased: as, I read, thou readst, he reads ; I know, thou knoröst, he knows ; I take, thou takest, he takes. For when the verb ends in mute é, no termination renders this é vocal in the familiar style, if a synæresis can take place.

OBS. 4.-But when the verb ends in a sound which will not unite with that of st or 8, st and 8 are added to final e, and est and es to other terminations ; and the verb acquires an additional syllable: as, I trace, thou tracest, he traces ; I pass, thou passest, he passes ; I fix, thou firest, he fixes. But verbs ending in oor y preceded by a consonant, do not exactly follow this rule: in these, y is changed into iį and to both o and i, est and es are added without increase of syllables: as,

1

go, thou goest, he goes ; I undo, thou undoest, * he undoes ; I fly, thou fliest, he flies; I pity, thou pitiest, he pities.

OBS. 5. --The formation of the third person singular of verbs, is precisely the same as that of the plural number of nouns.

OBs. 6.-The auxiliaries do, dost, does, (pronounced doo, dust, duz,]-am, art, is, -have, hast, has,--being also in frequent use as principal verbs of the present tense, retain their peculiar form when joined to other verbs. - The other auxiliaries are not varied, except in the solemn style.

Obs. 7.-The only regular terminations that are added to verbs, are ing, d or ed, st or est, 8 or es, th or eth. Ing, and th or eth, always add a syllable to the verb; except in doth, hath, saith. The rest, whenever their sound will unite with that of the final syllable of the verb, are added without increasing the number of syllables; otherwise, they are separately pronounced. In solemn discourse, however, ed and est are, by most speakers, uttered distinctly in all cases; except sometimes, when a vowel precedes.

CONJUGATION OF VERBS. The conjugation of a verb is a regular arrangement of its moods, tenses, persons, numbers, and participles.

OBS.—The moods and tenses are formed partly by inflections, or changes made in the verb itself, and partly by the combination of the verb or its participle, with a few short verbs called auxiliaries, or helping verbs.

There are four PRINCIPAL PARTS in the conjugation of every simple and complete verb; namely, the Present, the Preterit

, the Imperfect Participle, and the Perfect Par* The second person singular of the simple verb do, is now usually written dosta and read dust; being contracted in orthography, as well as pronunciation. And per haps the compounds may follow; as, Thou undost, outdost, misdost, overdost, &c. But exceptions to exceptions are puzzling, even when they conform to the general

rule.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »