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“ William reads his book or lesson,” as the case may be. Verbs of the latter class are called transitive, from transeo =to pass; the action expressed by them being always represented as passing from the subject to the object; and verbs of the former, intransitive, from the contrary taking place.
It has been a question amongst philosophers, whether language was acquired by man through a process of rude invention and subsequent improvement, or given to him at once by the interposition of a Divine act: if the former is the correct theory, we may go back in imagination to a period in the history of our race when interjections were the only words made use of. A savage, aware of some lurking danger in a certain path, meeting a fellow savage, would endeavour to make him aware of such danger by seizing him rudely, and exclaiming something like the word -Oh! Subsequently to the use of such words, nouns would naturally be resorted to as the names of things, and verbs as being necessary to the making of any assertion about such names. And thus, says Adam Smith, “Verbs must of necessity have been coeval with the first attempts at the formation of language."
“ The inflection of nouns,” says Latham, expresses the ideas of sex as denoted by gender, and of relation in place as denoted by case ; that of verbs rarely expresses sex, and never relation in place. On the other hand, however, it expresses what no noun ever does or can express, viz. the relation of the agency to the individual speaking by means of person, the time in which acts take place by means of tense, and the conditions of their occurrence by means of mood. The idea of number is the only one that, on a superficial view, is common to these two important parts of speech.* A noun denotes an object of
* The noun, it will be recollected, was inflected in number, gender, and case ; person strictly does not belong to it, otherwise Lathain's remark would not be correct, as the idea of person too would attach to the noun in common with the verb, were the former considered as having the distinction of person. Practically speaking, all nouns are considered as in the third person ; when, however, a noun is used as a name for the speaker, it is said to be in the first person, and for the person spoken to, in the second.
which either the senses or the intellect can take cognizance; and a verb does no more.
To move = motion; to rise =
rising; to err = error; to forgive forgiveness. The only difference between the two parts of speech is this, that, whereas a noun may express any object whatever, verbs can express those objects only which consist in an action;
and it is this superadded idea of action that superadds to the verb the phenomena of tense, mood, person, and voice-in other words, the phenomena of conjugation. A noun is a word capable of declension only; a verb is a word capable of declension and conjugation also. The fact of verbs being declined as well as conjugated, must be remembered. The participle has the declension of a noun adjective; the infinitive mood the declension of a noun substantive. Gerunds and supines, in languages where they occur, are only names for certain cases of the verb.”
The verbs of the English language are inflected in person, number, mood, and tense; and, of all the classes of words which are inflected, there is none the accurate knowledge of whose inflection is so essential to a correct style of speaking or writing, as is that of the verb, which is inflected either by a change of termination, or the addition of some word or words, sometimes called signs, in order to the expression of a difference of idea. In the expression, “Thou readest,” the word thou is a pronoun (to be defined hereafter); and it is said to be in the second person, as representing the person addressed. It is also said to agree with read the verb, which is therefore said to be in the second person. In the expression “He reads,” he is a pronoun, in the third person, as representing the person spoken of; and reads, the verb agreeing with it, is in the third person. To the word read, therefore, which may be considered in this case the root, the different terminations est and s are affixed, according to the difference of the idea intended to be conveyed, or, in other words, according to the difference of subject. This is what is meant by the inflection of the verb in person,
Again, in the expression, “ Thou seest,” thou is in the singular number, as representing but one individual; and the verb seest, agreeing with it, is in the singular number,
In the expression, “Ye see," ye, representing moreindividuals than one, is said to be plural, and accordingly the verb see is, in this case, plural. Thus the same act asserted as having been performed by one individual, in one instance, and more than one, in another, is expressed by the same word ending differently, according to the difference of the number of the subject. This is what is meant by the inflection of the verb in number.
It is worthy of remark, however, that the singular and plural of the verb are frequently the same in form—thus, “I see,” “ We see,” in which and similar cases we must determine the number of the verb by referring to the number of the subject ; indeed, the English language might have preserved more uniformly its characteristic simplicity, if, in the instances of the persons and numbers of its verbs, as in the instance of the case and number of its adjectives, it had permitted of no inflection—“I love, Thou love, He love,” &c. &c., evidently answering the purpose of communication as efficiently as “I love, Thou lovest, He loves."
In the expression “I stand,” there is a positive assertion made, no condition being attached thereto. If I wish to assert the possibility of standing under certain conditions, I do not use the same expression, “ I stand ;" but one modified by what is called the sign of the condition; as in the expression, “I would stand;" or still farther modified, according to circumstances, by the prefix of a part of another verb, hence called an auxiliary, as in the expression, “I would have stood." This is what is meant by the inflection of the verb in mood.
Once more: in the expression “I stand," I affirm of the act expressed by the word stand, that it is taking place at the time in which I speak. If I wish to affirm thereof that it has taken place before, or will take place after, such time, I say, I stood, or will stand, as the case may be. In each of these three instances, the verb is said to be in a different tense, and this is what is meant when it is said that the verb is inflected in tense.*
* The theories of grammarians, as to how far the verb of the English language suffers inflection, properly so called, are as different, and as useless, practically considered, as those on the case of the noun, already alluded to.
Verbs are said to have three persons-love
I love, being in the first, lovest in the second, and Thou lovest, loves in the third person, according to
He loves. the person of the subject of which the act is affirmed. They are also said to have two numbers
I love, “I love, We love;" in the former of which We love. expressions, love is singular, and in the latter, plural, according to the number of the prefixed subject.
On examining the expressions Richard writes;" "Richard! write;" “ Richard may write;" “ If Richard write fast, he will write illegibly;" “ Richard intends to write ;" it will be observed, that the action, that of writing, is the same as expressed in them all, but that it is expressed in five distinct views or modes. In the first, there is a positive assertion that the act is going on; in the second, it is not asserted that the act is going on, but an order is issued that it should go on; in the third, the possibility of the act being accomplished is affirmed; in the fourth, we do not assert that the act is going on, nor that it may go on, neither is an order issued to cause it to take place—but it is affirmed that if such act do take place in a certain manner, some other circumstance will follow therefrom. Here there is a proposition made, that something will take place contingently, that is, resulting from the act of writing in a certain way, or, in other words, the writing illegibly results from the writing fast. In the fifth, the word write is used in a sense altogether different from any of those previously instanced. In the first expression, the verb is said to be in the indicative mood, from the Latin word indico=to point out or show. In the second, it is said to be in the imperative, from impero I command; in the third, the verb is in the potential, from potentia=power. In the fourth, in the expression “If Richard write fast,” the verb is said to be in the conditional, or, as some call it, the subjunctive or conjunctive mood, from jungo=to join; the act expressed by the verb in such mood being the condition on which the other act will take place which is conjoined therewith. In the fifth expression, the verb write is not placed independently, but acts a subordinate part, and expresses merely the act not done, but intended to be done indefinitely ; that is, the time at which the act will take place, and the manner of performing it, are not expressed by the form which the verb itself assumes. The verb, in this instance, therefore, is said to be in the infinitive mood, from in=not, and finis=limit; because the time of the action is not defined or limited, and, consequently, not ascertainable from the form of the verb itself in such mood, but rather from that of the auxiliary connected therewith. These are the great heads of the mode in which an act can be said to take place; and hence there are said to be five moods, from modus=manner,--the indicative, imperative, potential, conjunctive, and infinitive.
It has already been exhibited that verbs are inflected in tense; how far remains to be considered. It is evident, at first sight, that there can be but three times—present, past, and future; and, therefore, but three tenses, the word tense meaning time, from tendo=I stretch, or direct, and being the word used as a name for that particular form the verb assumes, when it expresses the bent or direction of the mind towards a certain point of time. In the expressions, “I write, I wrote, I will write," the act of writing is represented as taking place at the time of speaking, as having taken place before that time, and as about to take place subsequently thereto. Grammarians, however, looking more narrowly into the operations of the mind, have discovered that the above expressions, however definite as regards the great threefold subdivision of time, are, some of them, otherwise indefinite, and, therefore, incapable of expressing adequately the particular point of time under each of the three heads at which an act may be represented as taking place.
In the expressions, “I see, I saw, I have seen, I had seen, I shall or will see, I shall or will have seen,” there are of necessity but three times, at which the act of seeing is represented as taking place. I see, represents the act as occurring at the time of speaking, that is, the present time; which, it appears, admits of no modification, and is definite, that is, requires not the aid of any other expression or word to convey, more clearly than it can itself, the precise time at which the act occurs which is represented
In the expressions, “I saw, I have seen, I had seen," the act of seeing is represented as having occurred