Page images

Depart thou; Remember my admonitions ; Tarry awhile longer; Go in peace.”

The verb depart expresses a command ; remember exhorts ; tarry expresses entreaty; and go, permission; therefore they are all in the imperative mood.

The imperative, from impero, to commaná, is literally that mode of the verb used in commanding; but its technical meaning in grammar is extended to the use of the verb in exhorting, entrcating, and permitting.

A verb in the imperative mood, is always of the second per son, though never varied in its terminations, agreeing with thou, ye, or you, either expressed or implied. You may know a verb in this mood by the sense ; recollect, however, that the nominative is always second person, and frequently understood; as, George, give me my hat; that is, give thou, or give you. When the nominative is expressed, it is generally placed after the verb; as, Go thou ; Depart ye; or between the auxiliary and the verb ; as, Do thou go ; Do ye depart. (Do is the auxiliary.)

The POTENTIAL Mood implies possibility, liberty, or necessity, power, will, or obligation; as, “ It may rain ; He may go or stay; We must eat and drink ; I can ride; He would walk ; They should learn."

In the first of these examples, the auxiliary may implies pos sibility ; in the second it implies liberty; that is, he is at liberty to go or to stay; in the third, must denotes necessity ; can denotes power or ability ; would implies will or inclination; that is, he had a mind to walk; and should implies obligation. Hence


The changes in the termination of words, in all languages, have been formed by the coalescence of words of appropriate meaning. This subject was approached on page 49. It is again taken up for the purpose of showing, that the moods and tenses, as well as the niimber and person, of Eng. lish verbs, do not solely depend on inflection.

The coalescing syllables which form the number and person of the Ho brew verb, are still considered pronouns; and, by those who have investigated the subject, it is conceded, that the same plan has been adopted in the formation of the Latin and Greek verbs, as in the Hebrew. Somo anguages have carried this process to a very

great extent. Ours is remarkible for the small number of its inflections. But they who reject the passivo verb, and those moods and tenses which are formed by employing what aro salled "auxiliary verbs, because they are formed of two or more verbs, do not sppear to reason soundly. It is inconsistent to admit, that walk-eth, and ralk-ed, are tenses, because each is but one word, and to reject have walls you perceive, that the verbs, may rain, may go, must oat, must drink, can ride, would walk, and should learn, are in the potential mood.

Note 1. As a verh in the indicative mood is converted into the subjunc tive when it is preceded by a conjunction expressing doubt, contingency, supposition, &c., so a verb in the potential mood, may, in like manner, be turned into the subjunctive; as, If I could c!eceive him, I should abhor it; Though he should increase in wealth, he wcuid not be charitable.” I could deceive, is in the potential; if I could deceive, is in the subjunctive mood.

2. The potential mood, as well as the indicative, is used in asking a ques tion; as, « May I go? Could you understand kin? Must we die ?"

The INFINITIVE Mood expresses action, passion, or being, in a general and unlimited manner, having no nominative, consequently, neither person nor number; as, “ To speak, to walk.

Infinitive means unconfined, or unlimiled. This mood is called the infinitive, because its verb is not confined or limited to a nominative. A verb in any other mood is limited ; that is, it must agree in number and person with its nominative; but a verb in this mood has no nominative, therefore, it never changes its termination, except to form the perfect tense.

Now you un derstand why all verbs are called finite or limited, excepting those in the infinitive mood.

Note. To, the sign of the infinitive mood, is often understood before the verb; as, “Let me proceed ; that is, Lct me to proceed. See Rule 25. To is not a preposition when joined to a verb in this mood; thus, lo ride, to suje; but it should be parsed with the verb, and as a part of it.

If you study this lecture attentively, you will perceive, that when I say, I write, the verb is in the indicative mood; but when I say, if I write, or, unless I write, &c. the verb is in the subjunctive mood; write thou, or write ye or you, the imperative ; í may write, I must write, I could write, fc. the potential; and ed, and will walk, as tenses, because each is composed of two words. Eth, as previously shown, is a contraction of doeth, or haveth, and ed, of dede, dodo, doed, or did; and, therefore, walk-eth; i. e. walk-doeth, or doeth-walk, and walk-ed; 1. e. walk-did, or doed or did-walk, are, when analyzed, as strictly compound, as will walk, shall walk, and have walked. The only difference in the formation of these tenses, is, that in the two former, the associated verbs have been contracted and made to coalesce with the main verb, but in the two latter, they still maintain their ground as separate words.

If it be said that will walk is composed of two words, each of which conveys a distinct idea, and, therefore, should be analyzed by itself, the same argument, with all its force, may be applied to 'walk-elh, walk-ed, walk-did, or did walk. The result of all the investigations of this subject, appears to settle down into the hackneyed truisin, that the passive verbs, and the moods and tenses, of some languages, are formed by inflections, or terminations

either prefixed or postfixed, and of other languages, by the association of auxiliary verbs, which have not yet been contracted and made to coalesce lo write, the infinitive. Any other verb (except the defective) may be employed in the same manner.

II. OF THE TENSES. TENSE means time.

Verbs have six tenses, the Present, the Imperfect, the Perfect, the Pluperfect, and the First and Second Future tenses.

The PRESENT TENSE represents an action or event as taking place at the time in which it is mentioned; as," I smile; I see; I am seen.”

Note 1. The present tense is also used in speaking of actions continuod, with occasional intermissions, to the present time; as, “He rides out every morning."

2. This tense is sometimes applied to represent the actions of persons long since dead; as, “Seneca reasons and moralizes well ; An honest man is the noblest work of God.”

3. When the present tense is preceded by the words, when, before, after, as soon as, &c. it is sometimes used to point out the relative time of a futura action; as, “ When he arrives we shall hear the news."

The IMPERFECT TENSE denotes a past action or event, however distant; or,

The IMPERFECT TENSE represents an action or event as past and finished, but without defining the precise time of its completion; as, “I loved her for her modesty and virtue; They were trav elling post when he met them.”

In these examples, the verbs loved and met express past and finished actions, and therefore constitute a perfect tense as strictly as any form of the verb in our language ; but, as they do as terminations. The auxiliary, when contracted into a terminating syllable, retains its distinct and intrinsick meaning, as much as when associated with a verb by juxtaposition : consequently, an "auxiliary verb” may form a part of a mood

or tense, or passive verb, with as much propriety as a terminating syllable. They who contend for the ancient custom of keeping the auxiliaries distinct, and parsing them

as primary verbs, are, by the same principle, bound to extend their dissecting-knife to every compound word in the language.

Having thus atteinpted briefly to prove the philosophical accuracy of the theory which recognises the tenses, moods, and passive verbs, formed by the aid of auxiliaries, I shall now offer one argument to show that this theory, and this only, will subserve the purposes of the practical grammarian.

As it is not so much the province of philology to instruct in the exact meaning of single and separate words, as it is to teach the student to com bine and employ them properly in framing sentences, and as those combina tions which go by the name of compound tenses and passive verbs, are no cosmary in writing and discourse, it follows, conclusively that that theory

tot define the precise time of the completion of these actions, heir tense may properly be denominated an indefinite past. By lefining the present participle in conjunction with the verb, we tave an imperfect tense in the expression, were travelling. This jourse, however, would not be in accordance with the ordinary method of treating the participle. Hence it follows, that the terms Imperfect and perfect, as applied to this and the next succeeding lense, are not altogether significant of their true character ; but if you learn to apply these tenses correctly, the propriety or impropriety of their names is not a consideration of very great moment.

The PERFECT TENSE denotes past time, and also conveys an allusion to the present; as, “I have finished my letter.”

The verb have finished, in this example, signifies that the action, though past, was perfectly finished at a point of time iinmediately preceding, or in the course of a period which comes to the present.

Under this view of the subject, the term perfect may be properly applied to this tense, for it specifies, not only the completion of the action, but, also, alludes to the particular period of its accomplishment.

The PLUPERFECT TENSE represents a past action or event that transpired before some other past time specified; as, “I had finished my

letter before my brother arrived."

You observe that the verb had finished, in this example, represents one past action, and the arrival of my brother, another past action; therefore had finished is in the pluperfect tense, because which does not explain these verbs in their combined state, cannot teach the student the correct uscand application of the verbs of our language. By such an arrangement, he cannot learn when it is proper to use the phrases, shall kave walked, might have gone, have seen, instead of, shall walk, might go, and saw; because this theory has nothing to do with the combining of verbs. If it be alleged, that the speaker or writer's own good sense must guide him in combining these verbs, and, thercfore, that the directions of the grammarian are unnecessary, it must be recollected, that such an argument would bear, equally, against every principle of grammar whatever. In short, the theory of the compound tenses, and of the passive verb, appears to be so firmly based in the genius of our language, and so practically important to the student, as to defy all the engines of the paralogistick speculator, and the philosophical quibhler, to batter it down.

But the most plausible objection to the old theory is, that it is encumbered with much useless technicality and tedious prolixity, which are avoided by he simple process of exploding the passive verb, and reducing the number o

the action took place prior to the taking place of the other past action specified in the same sentence.

The FIRST FUTURE TENSE denotes a future action or event; as, I will finish ; I shall finish

my letter."

The SECOND FUTURE TENSE represents a future action that will be fully accomplished, at or before the time of another future action or event; as, “I shall have finished my letter when my brother arrives.”

This example clearly shows you the meaning and the proper use of the second future tense. The verb "shall have finished” implies a future action that will be completely finished, at or before the time of the other future event denoted by the phrase, " when my brother arrives.

Note. What is sometimes called the Inceptive future, is expressed thus, “ I am going to write ;" “ I am about to write.” Future time is also indicated by placing the infinitive present immediately after the indicative present of the verb to be; thus, “ I am to write ;" “ {arrison is to be, or ought to be, commander in chief;" “Harrison is to command the army."

You may now read what is said respecting the moods and tenses several times over, and then you may learn to conjugate a verb. But, before you proceed to the conjugation of verbs, you will please to commit the following paragraph on the Auxil. iary verbs, and, also, the signs of the moods and tenses ; and, in conjugating, you must pay particular attention to the manner in which these signs are applied.

OF THE AUXILIARY VERBS. AUXILIARY or HELPING VERBS are those by the help of which the English verbs are princithe moods to three, and of the tenses to two. It is certain, however, that if we reject the names of the perfect, pluperfect, and future tenses, the names of the potential and subjunctive moods, and of the passive verb, in writing and discourse we must still employ those verbal combinations which form them; and it is equally certain, that the proper mode of employing such combinations, is as easily taught or learned by the old theory, which names them, as by the new, which gives them no name.

On philosophical principles, we might, perhaps, dispense with the future tenses of the verb, by analyzing each word separately; but, as illustrated or page 79, the combined words which form our perfect and pluperfect tenses have an associated meaning, which is destroyed by analyzing each word sepa. rately. That arrangement, therefore, which rejects these tenses, appears to be, not only unphilosophical, but inconsistent and inaccurate.

For the satisfaction of those teachers who prefer it, and for their adop lion, too, a modernized philosophuc al theory of the moods and tenses is here

« PreviousContinue »