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Higher Lessons in English A work on english grammar and composition online

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** Transcriber's Notes **

Underscores mark italics; words enclosed in +pluses+ represent boldface;
Vowels followed by a colon represent a long vowel (printed with a macron in
the original text).

To represent the sentence diagrams in ASCII, the following conventions are

- The heavy horizontal line (for the main clause) is formed with equals
signs (==).
- Other solid vertical lines are formed with minus signs ( - ).
- Diagonal lines are formed with backslashes (\).
- Words printed on a diagonal line are preceded by a backslash, with no
horizontal line under them.
- Dotted horizontal lines are formed with periods (..)
- Dotted vertical lines are formed with straight apostrophes (')
- Dotted diagonal lines are formed with slanted apostrophes (`)
- Words printed over a horizontally broken line are shown like this:

- - , helping
' - - - - -

- Words printed bending around a diagonal-horizontal line are broken like

\ ting
- - - - -
** End Transcriber's Notes **









Revised Edition, 1896.


The plan of "Higher Lessons" will perhaps be better understood if we first
speak of two classes of text-books with which this work is brought into

+Method of One Class of Text-books+. - In one class are those that aim
chiefly to present a course of technical grammar in the order of
Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody. These books give large space
to grammatical Etymology, and demand much memorizing of definitions, rules,
declensions, and conjugations, and much formal word parsing, - work of which
a considerable portion is merely the invention of grammarians, and has
little value in determining the pupil's use of language or in developing
his reasoning faculties. This is a revival of the long-endured, unfruitful,
old-time method.

+Method of Another Class of Text-books.+ - In another class are those that
present a miscellaneous collection of lessons in Composition, Spelling,
Pronunciation, Sentence-analysis, Technical Grammar, and General
Information, without unity or continuity. The pupil who completes these
books will have gained something by practice and will have picked up some
scraps of knowledge; but his information will be vague and disconnected,
and he will have missed that mental training which it is the aim of a good
text-book to afford. A text-book is of value just so far as it presents a
clear, logical development of its subject. It must present its science or
its art as a natural growth, otherwise there is no apology for its being.

+The Study of the Sentence for the Proper Use of Words.+ - It is the plan of
_this_ book to trace with easy steps the natural development of the
sentence, to consider the leading facts first and then to descend to the
details. To begin with the parts of speech is to begin with details and to
disregard the higher unities, without which the details are scarcely
intelligible. The part of speech to which a word belongs is determined only
by its function in the sentence, and inflections simply mark the offices
and relations of words. Unless the pupil has been systematically trained to
discover the functions and relations of words as elements of an organic
whole, his knowledge of the parts of speech is of little value. It is not
because he cannot conjugate the verb or decline the pronoun that he falls
into such errors as "How many sounds _have_ each of the vowels?" "Five
years' interest _are_ due." "She is older than _me_." He probably would not
say "each _have_," "interest _are_," "_me_ am." One thoroughly familiar
with the structure of the sentence will find little trouble in using
correctly the few inflectional forms in English.

+The Study of the Sentence for the Laws of Discourse.+ - Through the study
of the sentence we not only arrive at an intelligent knowledge of the parts
of speech and a correct use of grammatical forms, but we discover the laws
of discourse in general. In the sentence the student should find the law of
unity, of continuity, of proportion, of order. All good writing consists of
good sentences properly joined. Since the sentence is the foundation or
unit of discourse, it is all-important that the pupil should know the
sentence. He should be able to put the principal and the subordinate parts
in their proper relation; he should know the exact function of every
element, its relation to other elements and its relation to the whole. He
should know the sentence as the skillful engineer knows his engine, that,
when there is a disorganization of parts, he may at once find the
difficulty and the remedy for it.

+The Study of the Sentence for the Sake of Translation.+ - The laws of
thought being the same for all nations, the logical analysis of the
sentence is the same for all languages. When a student who has acquired a
knowledge of the English sentence comes to the translation of a foreign
language, he finds his work greatly simplified. If in a sentence of his own
language he sees only a mass of unorganized words, how much greater must be
his confusion when this mass of words is in a foreign tongue! A study of
the parts of speech is a far less important preparation for translation,
since the declensions and conjugations in English do not conform to those
of other languages. Teachers of the classics and of modern languages are
beginning to appreciate these facts.

+The Study of the Sentence for Discipline+. - As a means of discipline
nothing can compare with a training in the logical analysis of the
sentence. To study thought through its outward form, the sentence, and to
discover the fitness of the different parts of the expression to the parts
of the thought, is to learn to think. It has been noticed that pupils
thoroughly trained in the analysis and the construction of sentences come
to their other studies with a decided advantage in mental power. These
results can be obtained only by systematic and persistent work. Experienced
teachers understand that a few weak lessons on the sentence at the
beginning of a course and a few at the end can afford little discipline and
little knowledge that will endure, nor can a knowledge of the sentence be
gained by memorizing complicated rules and labored forms of analysis. To
compel a pupil to wade through a page or two of such bewildering terms as
"complex adverbial element of the second class" and "compound prepositional
adjective phrase," in order to comprehend a few simple functions, is
grossly unjust; it is a substitution of form for content, of words for

+Subdivisions and Modifications after the Sentence.+ - Teachers familiar
with text-books that group all grammatical instruction around the eight
parts of speech, making eight independent units, will not, in the following
lessons, find everything in its accustomed place. But, when it is
remembered that the thread of connection unifying this work is the
sentence, it will be seen that the lessons fall into their natural order of
sequence. When, through the development of the sentence, all the offices of
the different parts of speech are mastered, the most natural thing is to
continue the work of classification and subdivide the parts of speech. The
inflection of words, being distinct from their classification, makes a
separate division of the work. If the chief end of grammar were to enable
one to parse, we should not here depart from long-established precedent.

+Sentences in Groups - Paragraphs+. - In tracing the growth of the sentence
from the simplest to the most complex form, each element, as it is
introduced, is illustrated by a large number of detached sentences, chosen
with the utmost care as to thought and expression. These compel the pupil
to confine his attention to one thing till he gets it well in hand.
Paragraphs from literature are then selected to be used at intervals, with
questions and suggestions to enforce principles already presented, and to
prepare the way informally for the regular lessons that follow. The lessons
on these selections are, however, made to take a much wider scope. They
lead the pupil to discover how and why sentences are grouped into
paragraphs, and how paragraphs are related to each other; they also lead
him on to discover whatever is most worthy of imitation in the style of the
several models presented.

+The Use of the Diagram+. - In written analysis, the simple map, or diagram,
found in the following lessons, will enable the pupil to present directly
and vividly to the eye the exact function of every clause in the sentence,
of every phrase in the clause, and of every word in the phrase - to picture
the complete analysis of the sentence, with principal and subordinate parts
in their proper relations. It is only by the aid of such a map, or picture,
that the pupil can, at a single view, see the sentence as an organic whole
made up of many parts performing various functions and standing in various
relations. Without such map he must labor under the disadvantage of seeing
all these things by piecemeal or in succession.

But if for any reason the teacher prefers not to use these diagrams, they
may be omitted without causing the slightest break in the work. The plan of
this book is in no way dependent on the use of the diagrams.

+The Objections to the Diagram+. - The fact that the pictorial diagram
groups the parts of a sentence according to their offices and relations,
and not in the order of speech, has been spoken of as a fault. It is, on
the contrary, a merit, for it teaches the pupil to look through the
literary order and discover the logical order. He thus learns what the
literary order really is, and sees that this may be varied indefinitely, so
long as the logical relations are kept clear.

The assertion that correct diagrams can be made mechanically is not borne
out by the facts. It is easier to avoid precision in oral analysis than in
written. The diagram drives the pupil to a most searching examination of
the sentence, brings him face to face with every difficulty, and compels a
decision on every point.

+The Abuse of the Diagram+. - Analysis by diagram often becomes so
interesting and so helpful that, like other good things, it is liable to be
overdone. There is danger of requiring too much written analysis. When the
ordinary constructions have been made clear, diagrams should be used only
for the more difficult sentences, or, if the sentences are long, only for
the more difficult parts of them. In both oral and written analysis there
is danger of repeating what needs no repetition. When the diagram has
served its purpose, it should be dropped.


During the years in which "Higher Lessons" has been in existence, we have
ourselves had an instructive experience with it in the classroom. We have
considered hundreds of suggestive letters written us by intelligent
teachers using the book. We have examined the best works on grammar that
have been published recently here and in England. And we have done more. We
have gone to the original source of all valid authority in our language -
the best writers and speakers of it. That we might ascertain what present
linguistic usage is, we chose fifty authors, now alive or living till
recently, and have carefully read three hundred pages of each. We have
minutely noted and recorded what these men by habitual use declare to be
good English. Among the fifty are such men as Ruskin, Froude, Hamerton,
Matthew Arnold, Macaulay, De Quincey, Thackeray, Bagehot, John Morley,
James Martineau, Cardinal Newman, J. R. Green, and Lecky in England; and
Hawthorne, Curtis, Prof. W. D. Whitney, George P. Marsh, Prescott, Emerson,
Motley, Prof. Austin Phelps, Holmes, Edward Everett, Irving, and Lowell in
America. When in the pages following we anywhere quote usage, it is to the
authority of such men that we appeal.

Upon these four sources of help we have drawn in the Revision of "Higher
Lessons" that we now offer to the public.

In this revised work we have given additional reasons for the opinions we
hold, and have advanced to some new positions; have explained more fully
what some teachers have thought obscure; have qualified what we think was
put too positively in former editions; have given the history of
constructions where this would deepen interest or aid in composition; have
quoted the verdicts of usage on many locutions condemned by purists; have
tried to work into the pupil's style the felicities of expression found in
the lesson sentences; have taught the pupil earlier in the work, and more
thoroughly, the structure and the function of paragraphs; and have led him
on from the composition of single sentences of all kinds to the composition
of these great groups of sentences. But the distinctive features of "Higher
Lessons" that have made the work so useful and so popular stand as they
have stood - the Study of Words from their Offices in the Sentence, Analysis
for the sake of subsequent Synthesis, Easy Gradation, the Subdivisions and
Modifications of the Parts of Speech after the treatment of these in the
Sentence, etc., etc. We confess to some surprise that so little of what was
thought good in matter and method years ago has been seriously affected by
criticism since.

The additions made to "Higher Lessons" - additions that bring the work up to
the latest requirements - are generally in foot-notes to pages, and
sometimes are incorporated into the body of the Lessons, which in number
and numbering remain as they were. The books of former editions and those
of this revised edition can, therefore, be used in the same class without
any inconvenience.

Of the teachers who have given us invaluable assistance in this Revision,
we wish specially to name Prof. Henry M. Worrell, of the Polytechnic
Institute; and in this edition of the work, as in the preceding, we take
pleasure in acknowledging our great indebtedness to our critic, the
distinguished Prof. Francis A. March, of Lafayette College.

* * * * *



Let us talk to-day about a language that we never learn from a grammar or
from a book of any kind - a language that we come by naturally, and use
without thinking of it.

It is a universal language, and consequently needs no interpreter. People
of all lands and of all degrees of culture use it; even the brute animals
in some measure understand it.

This Natural language is the language of cries, laughter, and tones, the
language of the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the whole face; the language of
gestures and postures.

The child's cry tells of its wants; its sob, of grief; its scream, of pain;
its laugh, of delight. The boy raises his eyebrows in surprise and his nose
in disgust, leans forward in expectation, draws back in fear, makes a fist
in anger, and calls or drives away his dog simply by the tone in which he

But feelings and desires are not the only things we wish to communicate.
Early in life we begin to acquire knowledge and learn to think, and then we
feel the need of a better language.

Suppose, for instance, you have formed an idea of a day; could you express
this by a tone, a look, or a gesture?

If you wish to tell me the fact that _yesterday was cloudy_, or that _the
days are shorter in winter than in summer_, you find it wholly impossible
to do this by means of Natural language.

To communicate, then, your thoughts, or even the mental pictures we have
called ideas, you need a language more nearly perfect.

This language is made up of words.

These words you learn from your mothers, and so Word language is your
mother-tongue. You learn them, also, from your friends and teachers, your
playmates and companions, and you learn them by reading; for words, as you
know, may be written as well as spoken.

This Word language we may, from its superiority, call +Language Proper+.

Natural language, as was said, precedes this Word language, but gives way
as Word language comes in and takes its place; yet Natural language may be
used, and always should be used, to assist and strengthen Word language. In
earnest conversation we enforce what we say in words, by the tone in which
we utter them, by the varying expression of the face, and by the movements
of the different parts of the body.

The look or the gesture may even dart ahead of the word, or it may
contradict it, and thus convict the speaker of ignorance or deception.

The happy union of the two kinds of language is the charm of all good
reading and speaking. The teacher of elocution is ever trying to recall the
pupil to the tones, the facial expression, and the action, so natural to
him in childhood and in animated conversation.

+DEFINITION. - _Language Proper_ consists of the spoken and the written
words used to communicate ideas and thoughts+.

+DEFINITION. - _English Grammar_ is the science which teaches the forms,
uses, and relations of the words of the English language.+

* * * * *



To express a thought we use more than a single word, and the words arranged
to express a thought we call a sentence.

But there was a time when, through lack of words, we compressed our thought
into a single word. The child says to his father, _up_, meaning, _Take me
up into your lap_; or, _book_, meaning, _This thing in my hand is a book_.

These first words always deal with the things that can be learned by the
senses; they express the child's ideas of these things.

We have spoken of thoughts and sentences; let us see now whether we can
find out what a thought is, and what a sentence is.

A sentence is a group of words expressing a thought; it is a body of which
a thought is the soul. It is something that can be seen or heard, while a
thought cannot be. Let us see whether, in studying a sentence, we may not
learn what a thought is.

In any such sentence as this, _Spiders spin_, something is said, or
asserted, about something. Here it is said, or asserted, of the animals,
spiders, that they spin.

The sentence, then, consists of two parts, - the name of that of which
something is said, and that which is said of it.

The first of these parts we call the +Subject+ of the sentence; the second,
the +Predicate+.

Now, if the sentence, composed of two parts, expresses the thought, there
must be in the thought two parts to be expressed. And there are two: viz.,
something of which we think, and that which we think of it. In the thought
expressed by _Spiders spin_, the animals, spiders, are the something of
which we think, and their spinning is what we think of them. In the
sentence expressing this thought, the word _spiders_ names that of which we
think, and the word _spin_ tells what we think of spiders.

Not every group of words is necessarily a sentence, because it may not be
the expression of a thought. _Spiders spinning_ is not a sentence. There is
nothing in this expression to show that we have formed a judgment, _i.e._,
that we have really made up our minds that spiders do spin. The spinning is
not asserted of the spiders.

_Soft feathers_, _The shining sun_ are not sentences, and for similar
reasons. _Feathers are soft_, _The sun shines_ are sentences. Here the
asserting word is supplied, and something is said of something else.

_The shines sun_ is not a sentence; for, though it contains the asserting
word _shines_, the arrangement is such that no assertion is made, and no
thought is expressed.

* * * * *



We have already told you that in expressing our ideas and thoughts we use
two kinds of words, spoken words and written words.

We learned the spoken words first. Mankind spoke long before they wrote.
Not until people wished to communicate with those at a distance, or had
thought out something worth handing down to aftertimes, did they need to

But speaking was easy. The air, the lungs, and the organs of the throat and
mouth were at hand. The first cry was a suggestion. Sounds and noises were
heard on every side, provoking imitation, and the need of speech for the
purposes of communication was imperative.

Spoken words are made up of sounds. There are over forty sounds in the
English language. The different combinations of these give us all the words
of our spoken tongue. That you may clearly understand these sounds, we will
tell you something about the human voice.

In talking, the air driven out from your lungs beats against two flat
muscles, stretched, like bands, across the top of the windpipe, and causes
them to vibrate up and down. This vibration makes sound. Take a thread, put
one end between your teeth, hold the other with thumb and finger, draw it
tight and strike it, and you will understand how voice is made. The shorter
the string, or the tighter it is drawn, the faster will it vibrate, and the
higher will be the pitch of the sound. The more violent the blow, the
farther will the string vibrate, and the louder will be the sound. Just so
with these vocal bands or cords. The varying force with which the breath
strikes them and their different tensions and lengths at different times,
explain the different degrees of loudness and the varying pitch of the

If the voice thus produced comes out through the mouth held well open, a
class of sounds is formed which we call vowel sounds.

But if the voice is held back or obstructed by the palate, tongue, teeth,
or lips, one kind of the sounds called consonant sounds is made. If the
breath is driven out without voice, and is held back by these same parts of
the mouth, the other kind of consonant sounds is formed.

The written word is made up of characters, or letters, which represent to
the eye these sounds that address the ear.

You are now prepared to understand us when we say that +vowels+ are the
+letters+ that stand for the +open sounds+ of the +voice+, and that
+consonants+ are the +letters+ that stand for the sounds made by the
+obstructed voice+ and the +obstructed breath+.

The alphabet of a language is a complete list of its letters. A perfect
alphabet would have one letter for each sound, and only one.

Our alphabet is imperfect in at least these three ways: -

1. Some of the letters are superfluous; _c_ stands for the sound of _s_ or
of _k_, as in _city_ and _can_; _q_ has the sound of _k_, as in _quit_; and
_x_ that of _ks_, _gz_, or _z_, as in _expel_, _exist_, and _Xenophon_.

2. Combinations of letters sometimes represent single sounds; as, _th_ in
thine, _th_ in _thin_, _ng_ in _sing_, and _sh_ in _shut_.

3. Some letters stand each for many sounds. Twenty-three letters represent
over forty sounds. Every vowel does more than single duty; _e_ stands for
two sounds, as in _mete_ and _met_; _i_ for two, as in _pine_ and _pin_;
_o_ for three, as in _note, not_, and _move_; _u_ for four, as in _tube,
tub, full_, and _fur_; _a_ for six, as in _fate, fat, far, fall, fast_, and

_W_ is a vowel when it unites with a preceding vowel to represent a vowel
sound, and _y_ is a vowel when it has the sound of _i_, as in _now, by,
boy, newly_. _W_ and _y_ are consonants at the beginning of a word or

The various sounds of the several vowels and even of the same vowel are
caused by the different shapes which the mouth assumes. These changes in
its cavity produce, also, the two sounds that unite in each of the
compounds, _ou_, _oi_, _ew_, and in the alphabetic _i_ and _o_.

1. 2.
_Vocal Consonants_. _Aspirates_.
- - - - - - - - - -h
l - - - - - - - - -
m - - - - - - - - -
n - - - - - - - - -
r - - - - - - - - -
(in _thine_) (in _thin_)
w - - - - - - - - -
y - - - - - - - - -
z (in _zone_)......s

Online LibraryAlonzo ReedHigher Lessons in English A work on english grammar and composition → online text (page 1 of 28)