Prescriptive English Grammar.


by qspeechc
Tags: english, grammar, prescriptive
SW VandeCarr
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#19
Aug14-10, 03:13 PM
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Quote Quote by Studiot View Post
It's probably not worth all this fuss, but I am simply illustrating my point that your link is pretty poor and certainly not authoritative, if it does not even list the most common form of the present tense. No offence.
OK. First, you're not saying it's wrong, are you? After all, it's English! I know for a fact that British English uses constructions like "If she have said it, it must be correct." It may not be common even in the UK, but it's the Queen's English.

As for completeness, why should it be complete? The progressive is an aspect, not a tense although it's often referred to as a tense. It replicates tenses in constructions like "I have gone." with "I have been going". The table doesn't replicate tenses in the passive voice either. Your criticism only makes sense it you can find a mistake in the table. Where's the mistake?

http://www.brighthub.com/education/l...les/41915.aspx

This wiki article has some editorial suggestions, but it was recommended to me for this rather arcane topic (which is what interests the OP and is the topic of this thead). It confirms my earlier thoughts about the English "conjunctive"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunc...ive_in_English

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_aspect
DrGreg
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Aug14-10, 05:04 PM
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Quote Quote by SW VandeCarr View Post
OK. First, your not saying it's wrong, are you? After all, it's English! I know for a fact that British English uses constructions like "If she have said it, it must be correct." It may not be common even in the UK, but it's the Queen's English.
For what it's worth, "if she have..." certainly is wrong, it should be "if she has...". However, that is not an example of the conjunctive. "If" is only used with a past tense conjunctive. (See English subjunctive)
SW VandeCarr
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#21
Aug14-10, 06:29 PM
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Quote Quote by DrGreg View Post
For what it's worth, "if she have..." certainly is wrong, it should be "if she has...". However, that is not an example of the conjunctive. "If" is only used with a past tense conjunctive. (See English subjunctive)
Well, your citation shows the third person singular subjunctive of "to own' is 'own', not 'owns'. That is, it follows the morphology of the first and second person just as my citation did for the verb 'to have'. (See Modern Form)
Studiot
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#22
Aug14-10, 06:40 PM
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I am trying not to get into an argument here.

But it seems to me that before repeatedly laying down 'what the OP wants' other posters should read the original post.

Further they should check their facts before presenting links to dubious information.
Both the subjunctive and the conjunctive are represented in the declension of english verbs. My Oxford English Dictionary clearly distinguishes between these two functions, which are very different.

The OP asked for a book, not internet links.

Whilst I agree with posters who have indicated that there is no formal controlling body for english grammar I can report the following.

S H Burton wrote a series of grammars in the days when such was actually taught in UK schools.

So the following books may be sought, perhaps from Abe or the like.

A Comprehensive English Course
A First English Course
A Second English Course
A Third English Course
A Fourth English Course
A Fifth English Course

All published by Longmans.
DrGreg
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Aug14-10, 09:27 PM
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Quote Quote by SW VandeCarr View Post
Well, your citation shows the third person singular subjunctive of "to own' is 'own', not 'owns'. That is, it follows the morphology of the first and second person just as my citation did for the verb 'to have'. (See Modern Form)
I agree that "she have" is the subjunctive. I disagree that "if she have" is the subjunctive. A valid example would be the past subjunctive "if she had", or in the present tense a different example without the word "if".
SW VandeCarr
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#24
Aug14-10, 10:09 PM
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Quote Quote by DrGreg View Post
I agree that "she have" is the subjunctive. I disagree that "if she have" is the subjunctive. A valid example would be the past subjunctive "if she had", or in the present tense a different example without the word "if".
I've always used "If I were..." instead of "If I was....." and this referenced source seems to agree. If "if' clauses take the subjunctive for the verb "to be", why not other verbs, and why not the same third person singular conjugation for other verbs?

http://www.ceafinney.com/subjunctive/guide.html.

Click on "Scholarship" for more depth. The following is an excerpt from Fowler: the protasis (if it please you),
Also, from "Examples":# if it please the court
# if need be

EDIT: For the past tense, I agree. Your table and earlier posts of mine show the English subjunctive and indicative as having the same form.
SW VandeCarr
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#25
Aug14-10, 10:31 PM
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Quote Quote by Studiot View Post
I am trying not to get into an argument here.

But it seems to me that before repeatedly laying down 'what the OP wants' other posters should read the original post.
It began when I suggested that texts on the English language for non-English speakers (especially French speakers) might give good examples of prescriptive English grammar.

the subjunctive and the conjunctive are represented in the declension of english verbs. My Oxford English Dictionary clearly distinguishes between these two functions, which are very different.
Good. Can you provide a link or at least discuss these differences? This link says you are wrong. So far you have provided no links for your claims.

As I said before this could be a difference between British and American English. I'm almost certain that American English does not use the conjunctive form as distinct from the subjunctive.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conjunctive_mood

BTW, did you find any mistakes in the link you criticized for the neutral (habitual) aspect, active voice of the verb "to have"?
Studiot
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#26
Aug15-10, 03:15 AM
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Quotations from the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2 volumes.

Only pertinenent meanings displayed

Conjunctive

b. Of the mood of a verb and only used in conjunction with another verb. (my italics)

Subjunctive

Designating the mood of a verb of which the essential function is to state a relation wished, thought of, etc, between the subject and the predicate, as opposed to a relation of objective fact.

Although I had never heard of the conjunctive until this thread, I think these statements to be clear enough.

I make no claims to be a grammar expert; I do not afford mutable presentations on the web the same authoritative status as long established publications such as the OED. However I can recognise imcompleteness, which is all I have commented on in this thread.
qspeechc
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#27
Aug15-10, 03:38 PM
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Hmm, well the dicussion has certainly become too difficult for me to understand.

SW VandeCarr, in my university's library there is a copy of that book you suggested in that link, the one by Quirk et. al., but it is classified as a reference, so like a volume of a journal or the OED you cannot take it out the library, unfortunately. At any rate, it is a very large book! Maybe a bit too large for my needs, I am a beginner after all.
Oh and I don't know any German or French; are these languages syntactical like English? Is English even a syntactical language? An English-speaking person will say "I only have one more thing to do" and "I have only one more thing to do" and mean the same thing both times. If English is truely a syntactical language wouldn't the two sentences mean different things? Or perhaps English grammar does say there is a difference and I am just ignorant of this.

Thank you for recommending S. H. Burton's books Studiot. We never learnt much grammar when I was in school, only very basic things like what is a noun, verb, adjective etc., but nothing beyond that. It will still take several months for the order to arrive.

Well all this is getting to be a lot of trouble, so I just went down to the library to look at their grammar books. After eliminating those too advanced and those too large (like I said, I am just a beginner really) I was left with about five books to choose from. I settled on Manual of English Grammar and Composition by Nesfield and Wood. As the title suggests, it is not just a grammar. It has sections on composition, poetry and prose, the history of the language, and so on, which I like because I would like to learn more about the language, anything about my language. I've read up to page fifteen. It starts with an outline of parsing; more detailed parsing analysis follows later. It does however assume some familiarity with grammar so it's not entirely elementary. And that seems to be the problem with many of the grammars I saw. They assume some knowledge of grammar, because they assume you were taught that stuff in school. They don't teach grammar any more, at least not when I was in school. But I am still able to follow it, mostly. So I think those school-level books you recommended Studiot will be very helpful for me.
Studiot
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#28
Aug15-10, 03:59 PM
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So I think those school-level books you recommended Studiot will be very helpful for me.
If you would like to PM me an email address that receives attachments I will let you have a scan of the 3 page introduction to book 1. I think it will answer your needs, especially if you can also track down some of his references.
SW VandeCarr
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#29
Aug15-10, 07:14 PM
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Quote Quote by qspeechc View Post
Hmm, well the dicussion has certainly become too difficult for me to understand.

SW VandeCarr, in my university's library there is a copy of that book you suggested in that link, the one by Quirk et. al., but it is classified as a reference, so like a volume of a journal or the OED you cannot take it out the library, unfortunately. At any rate, it is a very large book! Maybe a bit too large for my needs, I am a beginner after all.
I wasn't sure exactly what you were looking for. I thought you were interested in the more esoteric features of English grammar since you said Fowler was too descriptive. In any case Quirk et al is about as comprehensive as you can get, but it's more of a reference than a textbook. Don't worry about prescriptive vs descriptive. Any decent book on English grammar should give all the rules you need to know. Since you are a native speaker, you've already probably internalized the rules and are guided by what simply sounds correct. This is usually a good guide if you've had good general education. You may not know why something "sounds" right or wrong, which is where an explicit knowledge of grammar can help you. If you go to my first post in this thread (#9) and you can identify exactly what's wrong with the sentence I wrote, I'd say your knowledge of English grammar is above average for native speakers.

Is English even a syntactical language? An English-speaking person will say "I only have one more thing to do" and "I have only one more thing to do" and mean the same thing both times. If English is truely a syntactical language wouldn't the two sentences mean different things? Or perhaps English grammar does say there is a difference and I am just ignorant of this.
In English, syntax (word order) is more important than morphology (word form). Such languages are called "analytical". In this sense English is unlike most European languages which rely more on morphology. The changes in word form are called "inflections". They indicate the grammatical form of the word, but usually don't change the meaning. However all European languages use both inflection and word order. Examples of inflections in English are call, calls, called, calling. Some verbs have more forms: ride, rides, rode, ridden, riding. As with most Western languages the verb 'to be' is exceptional: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.

Also English has what the French call the "Saxon genitive" which is a noun case inflection to show possession: "the car's doors" (inflected) or "the doors of the car" (noninflected). In French you can only use the latter form, but overall French is more highly inflected than English. Verbs have literally dozens of forms to indicate person, number, tense and mood. This is true for almost all the continental European languages. German is more highly inflected than French which is strange because English, a Germanic language, has so few inflections.

In your example, the English syntax is relaxed enough that both forms are clear. A purist might say place the adverb before the verb as in "I only wish that I could." Placing 'only' after the verb seems to give the word an emphasis that you may or may not want. What's really important is not to reverse subject and object: "Bob loves Alice." doesn't mean "Alice loves Bob."
qspeechc
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#30
Aug17-10, 03:49 AM
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SW VandeCarr, your recommendation is not useless to me, I do want to learn all the niceties of English grammar, it's just that I am a beginner now so is a book of over one thousand pages really the right place to start? I don't think so. But after I have learn the basics of grammar I would like to move on to Quirk et. al. after that, so it has been a very helpful suggestion.
And in fact I think I know what's wrong with the sentence "Will the government speak for you and I?". "I" should be "me" since it is governed by the preposition "for". In any case, it is logically the indirect object of "speak". If what I have said is correct do not take it as a sign my grammar is above average. I have a slight and patchy knowledge of grammar.

And since you bring up the genitive, I'd like to ask you something. Is there a difference between "the victims of drink" and "drink's victims"? I only bring this up because I remember reading somewhere in Fowler (I can't remember where) that he says there is a slight difference between the two, but he doesn't say what that difference is. I can't discern a difference.
SW VandeCarr
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#31
Aug17-10, 04:07 AM
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Quote Quote by qspeechc View Post
SW VandeCarr, your recommendation is not useless to me, I do want to learn all the niceties of English grammar, it's just that I am a beginner now so is a book of over one thousand pages really the right place to start? I don't think so. But after I have learn the basics of grammar I would like to move on to Quirk et. al. after that, so it has been a very helpful suggestion.
As I said, any good grammar text will give the basics. Studiot gave some suggestions and I wouldn't worry too much about prescriptive vs descriptive. The basics are prescriptive. We don't say "we was". That's just wrong, no matter how liberal you want to be about usage. I also said in my previous post that Quirk et al is a good reference to help settle specific questions you may have, but not really a proper textbook.

And in fact I think I know what's wrong with the sentence "Will the government speak for you and I?". "I" should be "me" since it is governed by the preposition "for". In any case, it is logically the indirect object of "speak". If what I have said is correct do not take it as a sign my grammar is above average. I have a slight and patchy knowledge of grammar.
You're correct and you would be surprised how many native speakers don't know that. The sentence, as written, seems to sound (to many) more literate, but if you split it, would you say "for I"?

And since you bring up the genitive, I'd like to ask you something. Is there a difference between "the victims of drink" and "drink's victims"? I only bring this up because I remember reading somewhere in Fowler (I can't remember where) that he says there is a slight difference between the two, but he doesn't say what that difference is. I can't discern a difference.
We can overdo the English genitive. Most of the time, "victims of drink" would be used, but one of the strengths of English is that we can say it more than one way: "The victims of drink are more than drink's victims; they are the victims of our social ills."
Studiot
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#32
Aug17-10, 04:30 AM
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Is there a difference between "the victims of drink" and "drink's victims"?
Actually there is a difference.

Compare for instance

The tale of John Smith (as told and owned by his biographer)

John Smith's tale ( as told and owned by JS)
SW VandeCarr
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#33
Aug17-10, 04:56 AM
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Quote Quote by Studiot View Post
Actually there is a difference.

Compare for instance

The tale of John Smith (as told by his biographer)

John Smith's tale ( as told by JS)
This is an interesting point regarding the ambiguities in the usage of English prepositions. In the first example, "of'" has the meaning of "about" or "regarding" and is not really a genitive relation. For example: "I just thought of that." can't very well be written "I just had thats thought." The thought is mine, not "thats". (You have to write 'thats' without the apostrophe or else it would be confused with the contraction 'that's' for 'that is'.)
qspeechc
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#34
Aug17-10, 11:35 AM
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So in the phrase "drink's victims" drink has in some sense been personalized? As though the victims were attacked by Drink and their addiction is not their fault, whereas "the victims of drink" has no such personalization? Or am I completely off the mark?
This reminds me of the way we use "all" in mathematics. Whenever I read "for all" I sometimes, for a moment, think "all" is being used collectively rather than distributively as a synonym for "each". Though "all" in mathematics is never used collectively no one ever points out this ambiguity of the word. I suppose mathematicians don't care much for English, or maybe it's that many writers of textbooks are not native speakers.

By the way, I've found the article in the second edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage; I'll type out part of it for anyone who's interested.
noun-adjectives. 'Too many ofs have dropped out of the language', said Lord Dunsany in 1943, 'and the dark of the floor is littered with this useful word.' Some twenty years earlier this phenomenon had provoked the following comment in the first edition of the present dictionary: 'It will be a surprise, and to some an agreeable one, if at ths late stage in our change from and inflexional to an analytical language we revert to a free use of the case we formerly tended more and more to restrict. It begins to seem lkely that drink's victims will before long be the natural and no longer the affected or rhetorical version of the victims of drink. The devotees of inflexion may do well to rejoice; the change may improve rather than injure the language; and if that is so let due praise be bestowed on the newspaper press, which is bringing it about. But to the present (or perhaps already past) generation, which has been instinctively away of the differences between drink's victims and the victims of drink, and now finds them scornfully disregarded, there will be an unhappy interim. It is the headline that is doing it.'
Studiot
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#35
Aug17-10, 12:51 PM
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So in the phrase "drink's victims" drink has in some sense been personalized? As though the victims were attacked by Drink and their addiction is not their fault, whereas "the victims of drink" has no such personalization? Or am I completely off the mark?
There is no noun case in the english language, that I know of, indicating fault.

However consider the following:

A sober man walking along the highway, is knocked down and killed by a drunken alcoholic driver.

They are both 'victims of drink', one directly , one indirectly. I would contend that only the direct victim is one of 'drink's victims'
SW VandeCarr
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#36
Aug17-10, 07:55 PM
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Quote Quote by Studiot View Post
There is no noun case in the english language, that I know of, indicating fault.

However consider the following:

A sober man walking along the highway, is knocked down and killed by a drunken alcoholic driver.

They are both 'victims of drink', one directly , one indirectly. I would contend that only the direct victim is one of 'drink's victims'
You can read meanings into these constructions. However, my only intent was to show that the two ways of expressing the genitive in English can be employed to avoid repetition. The sentence could have been "The victims of drink are more than victims of drink;......" with no substantial change in meaning.


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