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language, the only one in which the principal verb is varied in
termination. It is not, however, on all occasions, confined to its primary
use; else it would be simply and only declarative. But we use it sometimes
interrogatively, sometimes conditionally; and each of these uses is
different from a simple declaration. Indeed, the difference between a
question and an assertion is practically very great. Hence some of the old
grammarians made the form of inquiry a separate mood, which they called the
_Interrogative Mood_. But, as these different expressions are
distinguished, not by any difference of form in the verb itself, but merely
by a different order, choice, or delivery of the words, it has been found
most convenient in practice, to treat them as one mood susceptible of
different senses. So, in every conditional sentence, the _prot'asis_, or
condition, differs considerably from the _apod'osis_, or principal clause,
even where both are expressed as facts. Hence some of our modern
grammarians, by the help of a few connectives, absurdly merge a great
multitude of Indicative or Potential expressions in what they call the
_Subjunctive Mood_. But here again it is better to refer still to the
Indicative or Potential mood whatsoever has any proper sign of such mood,
even though it occur in a dependent clause.

OBS. 3. - The _Potential_ mood is so called because the leading idea
expressed by it, is that of the _power_ of performing some action. This
mood is known by the signs _may, can, must, might, could, would_, and
_should_. Some of these auxiliaries convey other ideas than that of power
in the agent; but there is no occasion to explain them severally here. The
potential mood, like the indicative, may be used in asking a question; as,
"_Must_ I _budge_? _must_ I _observe_ you? _must_ I _stand_ and _crouch_
under your testy humour?" - _Shakspeare_. No question can be asked in any
other mood than these two. By some grammarians, the potential mood has been
included in the subjunctive, because its meaning is often expressed in
Latin by what in that language is called the subjunctive. By others, it has
been entirely rejected, because all its tenses are compound, and it has
been thought the words could as well be parsed separately. Neither of these
opinions is sufficiently prevalent, or sufficiently plausible, to deserve a
laboured refutation. On the other hand, James White, in his Essay on the
English Verb, (London, 1761,) divided this mood into the following five:
"the _Elective_," denoted by _may_ or _might_; "the _Potential_," by _can_
or _could_; "the _Determinative_" by _would_; "the _Obligative_," by
_should_; and "the _Compulsive_," by _must_. Such a distribution is
needlessly minute. Most of these can as well be spared as those other
"moods, _Interrogative, Optative, Promissive, Hortative, Precative_, &c.",
which Murray mentions only to reject. See his _Octavo Gram._, p. 68.

OBS. 4. - The _Subjunctive_ mood is so called because it is always
_subjoined_ to an other verb. It usually denotes some doubtful contingency,
or some supposition contrary to fact. The manner of its dependence is
commonly denoted by one of the following conjunctions; _if, that, though,
lest, unless_. The indicative and potential moods, in all their tenses, may
be used in the same dependent manner, to express any positive or potential
condition; but this seems not to be a sufficient reason for considering
them as parts of the subjunctive mood. In short, the idea of a "subjunctive
mood in the indicative form," (which is adopted by Chandler, Frazee, Fisk,
S. S. Greene, Comly, Ingersoll, R. C. Smith, Sanborn, Mack, Butler, Hart,
Weld, Pinneo, and others,) is utterly inconsistent with any just notion of
what a mood is; and the suggestion, which we frequently meet with, that the
regular indicative or potential mood may be _thrown into the subjunctive_
by merely prefixing a conjunction, is something worse than nonsense.
Indeed, no mood can ever be made _a part of an other_, without the grossest
confusion and absurdity. Yet, strange as it is, some celebrated authors,
misled by an _if_, have tangled together three of them, producing such a
snarl of tenses as never yet can have been understood without being thought
ridiculous. See _Murray's Grammar_, and others that agree with his late

OBS. 5. - In regard to the number and form of the tenses which should
constitute the _subjunctive mood_ in English, our grammarians are greatly
at variance; and some, supposing its distinctive parts to be but elliptical
forms of the indicative or the potential,[230] even deny the existence of
such a mood altogether. On this point, the instructions published by
Lindley Murray, however commended and copied, are most remarkably vague and
inconsistent.[231] The early editions of his Grammar gave to this mood _six
tenses_, none of which had any of the personal inflections; consequently
there was, in all the tenses, _some difference_ between it and the
indicative. His later editions, on the contrary, make the subjunctive
exactly like the indicative, except in the present tense, and in the choice
of auxiliaries for the second-future. Both ways, he goes too far. And while
at last he restricts the _distinctive form_ of the subjunctive to narrower
bounds than he ought, and argues against, "If thou _loved_, If thou
_knew_," &c., he gives to this mood not only the last five tenses of the
indicative, but also all those of the potential, with its multiplied
auxiliaries; alleging, "that as the indicative mood _is converted_ into the
subjunctive, by the expression of a condition, motive, wish, supposition,
&c.[232] being superadded to it, so the potential mood may, in like manner,
_be turned into_ the subjunctive." - _Octavo Gram._, p. 82. According to
this, the subjunctive mood of every regular verb embraces, in one voice, as
many as one hundred and thirty-eight different expressions; 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 compose Murray's pluperfect
tense of the subjunctive mood of the verb _to strow_ - a tense which most
grammarians very properly reject as needless! But this is not all. The
scheme not only confounds the moods, and utterly overwhelms the learner
with its multiplicity, but condemns as bad English what the author himself
once adopted and taught for the imperfect tense of the subjunctive mood,
"If thou _loved_, If thou _knew_," &c., wherein he was sustained by Dr.
Priestley, by Harrison, by Caleb Alexander, by John Burn, by Alexander
Murray, the schoolmaster, and by others of high authority. Dr. Johnson,
indeed, made the preterit subjunctive like the indicative; and this may
have induced the author to change his plan, and inflect this part of the
verb with _st_. But Dr. Alexander Murray, a greater linguist than either of
them, 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 have them. No speaker of good English, expressing himself
conditionally, says, Though thou _fallest_, or Though he _falls_, but,
Though thou _fall_, and Though he _fall_; nor, Though thou _camest_, but,
Though, or although, thou _came_." - _History of European Languages_, Vol.
i, p. 55.

OBS. 6. - Nothing is more important in the grammar of any language, than a
knowledge of the _true forms_ of its verbs. Nothing is more difficult in
the grammar of our own, than to learn, in this instance and some others,
what forms we ought to prefer. Yet some authors tell us, and Dr. Lowth
among the rest, that our language is wonderfully simple and easy. Perhaps
it is so. But do not its "simplicity and facility" appear greatest to those
who know least about it? - i.e., least of its grammar, and least of its
history? In citing a passage from the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel, Lord
Kames has taken the liberty to change the word _hath_ to _have_ seven times
in one sentence. This he did, upon the supposition that the subjunctive
mood has a perfect tense which differs from that of the indicative; and for
such an idea he had the authority of Dr. Johnson's Grammar, and others. The
sentence is this: "But if he _be_ a robber, a shedder of blood; if he
_have_ eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour's wife; if he
_have_ oppressed the poor and needy, _have_ spoiled by violence, _have_ not
restored the pledge, _have lift_ up his eyes to idols, _have_ given forth
upon usury, and _have_ taken increase: shall he live? he shall not
live." - _Elements of Criticism_, Vol. ii, p. 261. Now, is this good
English, or is it not? One might cite about half of our grammarians in
favour of this reading, and the other half against it; with Murray, the
most noted of all, first on one side, and then on the other. Similar
puzzles may be presented concerning three or four other tenses, which are
sometimes ascribed, and sometimes denied, to this mood. It seems to me,
after much examination, that the subjunctive mood in English should have
_two tenses_, and no more; the _present_ and the _imperfect_. The present
tense of this mood naturally implies contingency and futurity, while the
imperfect here becomes an _aorist_, and serves to suppose a case as a mere
supposition, a case contrary to fact. Consequently the foregoing sentence,
if expressed by the subjunctive at all, ought to be written thus: "But if
he _be_ a robber, a shedder of blood; if he _eat_ upon the mountains, and
_defile_ his neighbour's wife; if he _oppress_ the poor and needy, _spoil_
by violence, _restore_ not the pledge, _lift_ up his eyes to idols, _give_
forth upon usury, and _take_ increase; shall he live? he shall not live."

OBS. 7. - "Grammarians _generally_ make a present and a past time under the
subjunctive mode." - _Cobbett's E. Gram._, ¶ 100. These are the tenses which
are given to the subjunctive by _Blair_, in his "_Practical Grammar_." If
any one will give to this mood _more_ tenses than these, the five which are
adopted by _Staniford_, are perhaps the least objectionable: namely,
"_Present_, If thou love, or do love; _Imperfect_, If thou loved, or did
love; _Perfect_, If thou have loved; _Pluperfect_, If thou had loved;
_Future_, If thou should or would love." - _Staniford's Gram._, p. 22. But
there are no sufficient reasons for even this extension of its
tenses. - Fisk, speaking of this mood, says: "Lowth restricts it entirely to
the present tense." - "Uniformity on this point is highly desirable." - "On
this subject, we adopt the opinion of Dr. Lowth." - _English Grammar
Simplified_, p. 70. His desire of uniformity he has both heralded and
backed by a palpable misstatement. The learned Doctor's subjunctive mood,
in the second person singular, is this: "_Present time_. Thou love; AND,
Thou _mayest_ love. _Past time_. Thou _mightest_ love; AND, Thou _couldst_,
&c. love; and have loved." - _Lowth's Gram._, p. 38. But Fisk's subjunctive
runs thus: "_Indic. form_, If thou lovest; _varied form_, If thou love."
And again: "_Present tense_, If thou art, If thou be; _Imperfect tense_, If
thou wast, If thou wert." - _Fisk's Grammar Simplified_, p. 70. His very
definition of the subjunctive mood is illustrated _only by the indicative_;
as, "If thou _walkest_." - "I will perform the operation, if he _desires_
it." - _Ib._, p. 69. Comly's subjunctive mood, except in some of his early
editions, stands thus: "_Present tense_, If thou lovest; _Imperfect tense_,
If thou lovedst or loved; _First future tense_, If thou (shalt)
love." - _Eleventh Ed._, p. 41. This author teaches, that the indicative or
potential, when preceded by an _if_, "should be _parsed_ in the subjunctive
mood." - _Ib._, p. 42. Of what is in fact the true subjunctive, he says:
"_Some writers_ use the singular number in the present tense of the
subjunctive mood, without any variation; as, 'if I _love_, if thou _love_,
if he _love_.' But this usage _must be ranked amongst the anomalies_ of our
language." - _Ib._, p. 41. Cooper, in his pretended "_Abridgment of Murray's
Grammar, Philad._, 1828," gave to the subjunctive mood the following form,
which contains all six of the tenses: "2d pers. If thou love, If thou do
love, If thou loved, If thou did love, If thou have loved, If thou had
loved, If thou shall (or will) love, If thou shall (or will) have loved."
This is almost exactly what Murray at first adopted, and afterwards
rejected; though it is probable, from the abridger's preface, that the
latter was ignorant of this fact. Soon afterwards, a perusal of Dr.
Wilson's Essay on Grammar dashed from the reverend gentleman's mind the
whole of this fabric; and in his "Plain and Practical Grammar, Philad.,
1831," he acknowledges but four moods, and concludes some pages of argument
thus: "From the above considerations, it will appear _to every sound
grammarian_, that our language does not admit a subjunctive mode, at least,
separate and distinct from the indicative and potential." - _Cooper's New
Gram._, p. 63.

OBS. 8. - The true _Subjunctive_ mood, in English, is virtually rejected by
some later grammarians, who nevertheless acknowledge under that name a
greater number and variety of forms than have ever been claimed for it in
any other tongue. All that is peculiar to the Subjunctive, all that should
constitute it a distinct mood, they represent as an archaism, an obsolete
or antiquated mode of expression, while they willingly give to it every
form of both the indicative and the potential, the two other moods which
sometimes follow an _if_. Thus Wells, in his strange entanglement of the
moods, not only gives to the subjunctive, as well as to the indicative, a
"Simple" or "Common Form," and a "Potential Form;" not only recognizes in
each an "Auxiliary Form," and a "Progressive Form;" but encumbers the whole
with distinctions of style, - with what he calls the "Common Style," and the
"Ancient Style;" or the "Solemn Style," and the "Familiar Style:" yet,
after all, his own example of the Subjunctive, "Take heed, lest any man
_deceive_ you," is obviously different from all these, and not explainable
under any of his paradigms! Nor is it truly consonant with any part of his
theory, which is this: "The subjunctive of all verbs except _be_, takes
_the same form as the indicative_. Good writers were formerly much
accustomed to _drop_ the personal termination in the _subjunctive present_,
and write 'If he _have_,' 'If he _deny_,' etc., for 'If he _has_,' 'If he
_denies_,' etc.; but this termination is now _generally retained_, unless
_an auxiliary is understood_. Thus, 'If he _hear_,' may properly be used
for 'If he _shall hear_' or 'If he _should hear_,' but not for 'If he
_hears_.'" - _Wells's School Gram._, 1st Ed., p. 83; 3d Ed., p. 87. Now
every position here taken is demonstrably absurd. How could "good writers"
indite "much" bad English by _dropping_ from the subjunctive an indicative
ending which never belonged to it? And how can a needless "auxiliary" be
"_understood_," on the principle of equivalence, where, by awkwardly
changing a mood or tense, it only helps some grammatical theorist to
convert good English into bad, or to pervert a text? The phrases above may
all be right, or all be wrong, according to the correctness or
incorrectness of their application: when each is used as best it may be,
there is no exact equivalence. And this is true of half a dozen more of the
same sort; as, "If he _does hear_," - "If he _do hear_," - "If he is
_hearing_," - "If he _be hearing_," - "If he _shall be hearing_," - "If he
_should be hearing_."

OBS. 9. - Similar to Wells's, are the subjunctive forms of Allen H. Weld.
Mistaking _annex_ to signify _prefix_, this author teaches thus: "ANNEX
_if, though, unless, suppose, admit, grant, allow_, or any word implying a
_condition_, to each tense of the _Indicative and Potential modes_, to form
the subjunctive; as, If thou lovest or love. If he loves, or love. Formerly
it was customary to _omit the terminations_ in the second and third persons
of the present tense of the Subjunctive mode. But now the terminations are
_generally retained_, except when the ellipsis of _shall_ or _should_ is
implied; as, If he obey, i. e., if he _shall_, or _should_ obey." - _Weld's
Grammar, Abridged Edition_, p. 71. Again: "_In general_, the form of the
verb in the Subjunctive, _is the same as that of the Indicative_; but an
_elliptical form_ in the second and third _person_ [persona] singular, is
used in the following instances: (1.) _Future contingency_ is expressed by
the _omission of the Indicative termination_; as, If he go, for, if he
_shall_ go. Though he slay me, i.e., though he _should_ slay me. (2.)
_Lest_ and _that_ annexed to a command are followed by the _elliptical
form_ of the Subjunctive; as, Love not sleep [,] lest thou _come_ to
poverty. (3.) _If_ with _but_ following it, when futurity is denoted,
requires the _elliptical form_; as, If he _do_ but _touch_ the hills, they
shall smoke." - _Ib._, p. 126. As for this scheme, errors and
inconsistencies mark every part of it. First, the rule for forming the
subjunctive is false, and is plainly contradicted _by all that is true_ in
the examples: "_If thou love_," or, "_If he love_" contains not the form of
the indicative. Secondly, no terminations have ever been "generally"
omitted from, or retained in, the form of the subjunctive present; because
that part of the mood, as commonly exhibited, is well known to be made of
the _radical verb_, without inflection. One might as well talk of suffixes
for the imperative, "_Love_ thou," or "_Do_ thou love." Thirdly, _shall_ or
_should_ can never be really implied in the subjunctive present; because
the supposed ellipsis, needless and unexampled, would change the tense, the
mood, and commonly also the meaning. "If he _shall_," properly implies a
condition of _future certainty_; "If he _should_," a supposition of _duty_:
the true subjunctive suggests neither of these. Fourthly, "the ellipsis of
_shall_, or _should_," is most absurdly called above, "the omission of the
_Indicative termination_." Fifthly, it is very strangely supposed, that to
omit what pertains to the _indicative_ or the _potential_ mood, will
produce an "elliptical form of _the Subjunctive_." Sixthly, such examples
as the last, "If he _do_ but _touch_ the hills," having the auxiliary _do_
not inflected as in the indicative, disprove the whole theory.

OBS. 10. - In J. B. Chandler's grammars, are taken nearly the same views of
the "Subjunctive or Conditional Mood," that have just been noticed. "This
mood," we are told, "is _only_ the indicative _or_ potential mood, with the
word _if_ placed before the nominative case." - _Gram. of_ 1821, p. 48;
_Gram. of_ 1847, p. 73. Yet, of even _this_, the author has said, in the
former edition, "It would, perhaps, be _better to abolish the use_ of the
subjunctive mood entirely. _Its use_ is a continual source of dispute among
grammarians, and of perplexity to scholars." - Page 33. The suppositive verb
_were_, - (as, "_Were_ I a king," - "If I _were_ a king," - ) which this
author formerly rejected, preferring _was_, is now, after six and twenty
years, replaced in his own examples; and yet he still attempts to _disgrace
it_, by falsely representing it as being only "the indicative _plural_"
very grossly misapplied! See _Chandler's Common School Gram._, p. 77.

OBS. 11. - The _Imperative_ mood is so called because it is chiefly used in
_commanding_. It is that brief form of the verb, by which we directly urge
upon others our claims and wishes. But the nature of this urging varies
according to the relation of the parties. We command inferiors; exhort
equals; entreat superiors; permit whom we will; - and all by this same
imperative form of the verb. In answer to a request, the imperative implies
nothing more than permission. The will of a superior may also be urged
imperatively by the indicative, future. This form is particularly common in
solemn prohibitions; as, "Thou _shalt not kill_. * * * Thou _shalt not
steal_." - _Exodus_, xx, 13 and 15. Of the ten commandments, eight are
negative, and all these are indicative in form. The other two are in the
imperative mood: "_Remember_ the sabbath day to keep it holy. _Honour_ thy
father and thy mother." - _Ib._ But the imperative form may also be
negative: as, "_Touch not; taste not; handle not_." - _Colossians_, ii, 21.


Tenses are those modifications of the verb, which distinguish time. There
are six tenses; the _Present_, the _Imperfect_, the _Perfect_, the
_Pluperfect_, the _First-future_, and the _Second-future_.

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, and _hailed_
him as he _was passing_."

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;
something _must have detained_ him."

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, and I _will inform_ him."

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
tomorrow 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, it is
thought inexpedient to change them. In many old grammars, and even in the
early editions of Murray, the three past tenses are called the
_Preterimperfect, Preterperfect_, and _Preterpluperfect_. From these names,
the term _Preter_, (which is from the Latin preposition _præter_, meaning
_beside, beyond_, or _past_,) has been well dropped for the sake of

OBS. 2. - The distinctive epithet _Imperfect_, or _Preterimperfect_, appears
to have been much less accurately employed by the explainers of our
language, than it was by the Latin grammarians from whom it was borrowed.
That tense which passes in our schools for the _Imperfect_, (as, I _slept,
did sleep_, or _was sleeping_,) is in fact, so far as the indicative mood
is concerned, _more completely past_, than that which we call the
_Perfect_. Murray indeed has attempted to show that the name is right; and,
for the sake of consistency, one could wish he had succeeded. But every
scholar must observe, that the simple preterit, which is the first form of
this tense, and is never found in any other, as often as the sentence is
declarative, tells what _happened_ within some period of time _fully past_,
as _last week, last year_; whereas the perfect tense is used to express
what _has happened_ within some period of time _not yet fully past_, as
_this week, this year_. As to the completeness of the action, there is no
difference; for what _has been done_ to-day, is as _completely done_, as
what _was achieved_ a year ago. Hence it is obvious that the term
_Imperfect_ has no other applicability to the English tense so called, than
what it may have derived from the participle in _ing_, which we use in
translating the Latin imperfect tense: as, _Dormiebam, I was sleeping;
Legebam, I was reading; Docebam, I was teaching_. And if for this reason
the whole English tense, with all its variety of forms in the different
moods, "may, with propriety, be denominated _imperfect_;" surely, the
participle itself should be so denominated _a fortiori_: for it always
conveys this same idea, of "_action not finished_," be the tense of its
accompanying auxiliary what it may.

OBS. 3. - The tenses do not all express time with equal precision; nor can
the whole number in any language supersede the necessity of adverbs of
time, much less of dates, and of nouns that express periods of duration.
The tenses of the indicative mood, are the most definite; and, for this
reason, as well as for some others, the explanations of all these
modifications of the verb, are made with particular reference to that mood.
Some suppose the compound or participial form, as _I am writing_, to be
more definite in time, than the simple form, as _I write_, or the emphatic

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