Page images

ly agrees with its nominative, in the plural number: as,

The arguments advanced were nearly such as follow;" " The positions were such as appear incontrovertible."*

They who doubt the accuracy of Horne Tooke's state. ment, co That

as, however and whenever used in English, means the same as it, or that, or which ;" and who are not satisfied whether the verbs, in the sentence first mentioned, should be in the singular or the plural number, may vary the form of expression. Thus, the sense of the preceding sentences, may be conveyed in the following terms. “ The arguments advanced were nearly of the following nature ;” “ The following are nearly the arguments which were advanced;'

;" “ The arguments advanced - were nearly those which follow :" “ It appears that the positions were incontrovertible;" “ That the positions were incontrovertible is apparent;" “ The positions were apparently incontrovertible." See the Octavo Grammar; the note under Rule 1.

RULE HITwo or more nouns, &c. in the singular number, joined together by a copulative conjunction, expressed or understood, must have verbs, nouns, and pronouns, agreeing with them in the plural number: as, Socrates and Plato were wise; they were the most eminent pbilosophers of Greece;" “ The sun that rolls over our heads, the food that we receive, the rest that we enjoy, daily admonish us of a superior and superintending Power.”+

This rule is often violated; some instances of which are annexed. “And so was also James and John the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon;"

66 and so

* These gramınarians are supported by general usage, and by the authority of an eminent critic on language and composition.

1 When a verb is used impersonally," says Dr. Campbell in his Philosophy of Rhetoric, “ it ought undoubtedly to he in the singular number, whether the neuter pronoun he express ed or understood. For this reason, analogy and usage favour this mode of expression : “ The conditions of the agreement were as follons ;" and not, as follow. A few late writers have inconsiderately adopted this last form, through a mistake of the construction. For the same reason, we ought to say, shall consider his censures so far only as concerns my friend's conduct;" and not so far as concern.'

† See the exceptions to this rule, at p. 46 of the Key; 12th edition.

are dig.


were also."

"All joy, tranquillity, and peace, even for ever and ever, doth dwell;" " dwell for ever.• Ву whose power all good and evil is distributed;" " tributed."" "" Their love, and their hatred, and their envy: is now perished;" " are perished.” “The thoughtless and intemperate enjoyment of pleasure, the criminal abuse of it, and the forgetfulness of our being accountable creatures, obliterates every serious thought of the proper business of life, and effaces the sense of religion and of God;" It ought to be,“ obliterate,” and “ etface."

1. When the nouns are nearly related, or scarcely distinguishable in sense, and sometimes even when they are: very different, some authors have thought it allowable to put the verbs, nouns, and pronouns, in the singular number: as, “ Tranquillity and peace dwells there;” “ Ignorance and negligence has produced the effect;" “ The discomfiture and slaughter was very great." But it is evidently contrary to the first principles of grammar, to consider two distinct ideas as one, however nice may their shades of difference: and if there be no difference, one of them must be superfluous, and ought to be rejected.

To support the above construction, it is said, that the verb may be understood as applied to each of the preceding terms; as in the following example. Sand, anc salt, and a mass of iron, is easier to bear than a mai without understanding.". But besides the confusion, ani the latitude of application, which such a construction would introduce, it appears to be more proper and apalogical, in cases where the verb is intended to be applied to any one of the terms, to make use of the disjunctive conjunction, which grammatically refers the verb to one or other of the preceding terms in a separate view. To preserve the distinctive uses of the copulative and disjunctive conjunctions, would render the rules precise, consistent, and intelligible. Dr. Blair very justly observes, that “ two or more substantives, joined by a copulative, must always require the verb or pronoun to which they refer, to be placed in the plural number."

2. In many complex sentences, it is difficult for learncrs to determin whether one or more of the clauses are to be considered as the nominative case; and consequent ly, whether the verb should be in the singular or the.


plural number. We shall, therefore, set down a aumber of varied examples of this nature, which may serve as some government to the scholar, with respect to sentences of a similar construction. Prosperity, with humility, renders its possessor truly amiable.” “ The ship, with all her furniture, was destroyed.” “ Not only his estate, his reputation too has suffered by his misconduct.” “ The general also, in conjunction with the officers, has applied for redress.” “ He cannot be justified; for it is true, that the prince, as well as the people, was blameworthy.” “ The king, with his lifeguard, has just passed througb the village.”

- In the mutual influence of body and soul, there is a wisdom, a wonderful wisdom, which we cannot fatboin.” “ Virtue, honour, nay, even self-interest, conspire to recommend the measure.” “ Patriotism, morality, every public and private consideration, demand our submission to just and lawful government." “Nothing delights me so much as the works of nature.”

In support of such forms of expression as the following, we see the authority of Hume, Priestley, and other writers; and we annex them for the reader's consideration. “A long course of time, with a variety of accidents and circumstances, are requisite to produce those revolutions. “ The king, with the lords and commons, form an excel lent frame of government.” “ The side A, with the sides B and C, compose the triangle.” “ The fire communicated itself to the bed, which, with the furniture of the room, and a valuable library, were all entirely consumed." It is, however, proper to observe, that these modes of expression do not appear to be warranted by the just principles of construction. The words, A long course of time,” “ The king,” “ The side A," and " which,” are the true nominatives to the respective verbs. In the last example, the word all should be expunged. As the preposition with governs the objective case in English ; and, if translated into Latin, would govern the ablative case, it is manifest, that the clauses following with, in the preceding sentences, cannot form any part of the nominative case. They cannot be at the same time in the objective and the nominative cases. The following sentence appears to be unexceptionable ; and may serve to explain

the others. « The lords and commons

are essential branches of the British constitution : the king, with them, forms an excellent frame of government."*

3. If the singular nouns and pronouns, which are joined together by a copulative conjunction, be of several persons, in making the plural pronoun agree with them in person, the second person takes place of the third, and the first of

** James, and thou, and I, are attached to our country.” “ Thou and he shared it between you."

both : as,



The conjunction disjunctive has an effect contrary to that of the conjunction copulative; for as the verb, noun, or pronoun, is referred to the preceding terms taken separately, it must be in the singular number: as,

Ignorance or negligence has caused this mistake ;": " John, James, or Joseph, intends to accompany me;" "There is, in many minds, neither knowledge nor understanding.'

The following sentences are variations from this rule : "A man may see a metaphor or an allegory in a picture, as well as read them in a description ;" “ read 11.". Neither character nor dialogue were yet understood ;” yet." " It must indeed be confessed, that a lampoon or a satire do not carry in them robbery or murder;" does not carry in it.

." "i Death, or some worse misfortune, soon divide them." It ought to be “ divides.'

1. When singular pronouns, or a noun and pronoun, of different persons, are disjunctively connected, the verb must agree with that person which is placed nearest to it: as, " I or thou art to blame;" Thou or I am in fault;" I, or thou, or he, is the author of it;" George or I am the person.” But it would be better to say; " Žither I am to blame, or thou art,” &c.

2. When a disjunctive occurs between a singolar poupe, or pronoun, and a plural one, the verb is made to agree with the plural noun and pronoun : as,

“ Neither poverty . Though the construction will not admit of a plural verb, the sentence would certainly stand better thus : "The king, the londe, and the cominode form ad excellent constitution."


nor riches were injurious to him ;" “ I or they were of fended by it.” But in this case, the plural noun or pronoun, when it can conveniently be done, should be placed Dext to the verb. 3

RULE IV. A noun of multitude, or signifying many, may have a verb or pronoun agreeing with it, either of the singular or plural number; yet not without regard to the import of the word, as conveying unity or plurality of idea: as, “ The meeting was large;" “ The parliament is dissolved;" “ The nation is powerful ;" “ My people do not consider : they have not known me; « The multitude eagerly pursue pleasure, as their chief good;" “ The council were divided in their sentiments."

We ought to consider whether the term will immediately suggest the idea of the number it represents, or whether it exhibits to the mind the idea of the whole as one thing. In the former case, the verb ought to be plural ; in the latter, it ought to be singular. Thus, it seems improper

“The peasantry goes barefoot, and the middle sort grakes use ot' wooden shoes.” It would be better to say, “ The peasantry go barefoot, and the middle sort make use,” &c. because the idea in both these cases, is that of a number. On the contrary, there is a harshness in the following sentences, in which nouns of number have verbs plural; because the ideas they represent seem not to be sufficiently divided in the mind. • The court of Rome were not without solicitude." - The house of commons were of small weight.” - The house of lords were so much influenced by these reasons. • Stephen's party were entirely broken up by the captivity of their leader." “ An army of twenty-four thousand were assembled." " What reason have the church of Rome for proceeding in this manner ?“ There is indeed no constitution so tame and careless of their own defence.” “ All the vir. tues of mankind are to be counted upon a few fingers, but his follies and vices are innomerable." Is not mankind in this place a noun of multitude, and such as requires the pronoun referring to it to be in the plural number, their ?

to say,

« PreviousContinue »