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For the same reason that the preterites in Latin often appear to indicate past time or perfected action; so the English affix ed often appears to indicate the same; but unfortunately for distinctions, even of the simplest kind, the definition propounded as if the English verb denoted action either terminated or not terminated, is not free from objections.
We have no wish to discard the affix ed; but it is evidently much less necessary or useful than grammatists would readily admit; for many verbs are destitute of it, (such as shut, set, thrust, spread, &c.,) without any inconvenience or loss of significancy; and when ungrammatic people omit the affix, or employ what is called the Present instead of the Imperfect, their meaning is perfectly intelligible. The truth is, we are very apt to fancy that useless things are necessary, merely because we have been used to them; and we have not the smallest doubt that, if the affix in question had never been adopted, our language would have been as significant without, as it now is with, this termination. But if it were regularly affixed, there would be no objection to its existence: the great grammatic evils we have to complain of, are those irregularities which so much abound; and which serve only to render the verbal apparatus difficult and unwieldy.
If we discard all useless parts and irregularities, what are called the auxiliary verbs, will appear in the following manner :
I do, Thou do, He, She, or It do. We do, You do, They do. I doed, Thou doed, He, &c., doed. We doed, You doed, They doed.
To do, doing, doed.
I have, Thou have, He, &c., have. We have, You have, They have. I haved, Thou haved, He, &c., haved. We haved, You haved, They haved. To have, having, haved.
In consequence of haved being contracted into had, we have such extraordinary combinations as the following: I have had, I had had; and not only the former, but the latter of these expressions is set forth in proper grammatic order, as a necessary and regular tense!
Let and Must require no notice in this place. Can and May merely express power: I can go, is equivalent to, I am able to go-I have power, permission, liberty, &c., to go. I may resign, is equivalent to, I have power to resign and in spite of fatuous doctrines concerning potentials, the shorter is merely an abridged form of the longer expression. May, when the affix ed is assumed, is corrupted into Might instead of Mayed. Could seems a corruption of Canned.
Will (VOL-0) is,
I will, Thou will, He, &c., will. We will, You will, They will. I willed (corrupted into Would), Thou willed, He, &c., willed.
To will, willing, willed.
I shall, Thou shall, He, &c., shall; We shall, &c.: I shalled (corrupted into Should), &c.
Shall seems most entitled to the designation auxiliary verb, for it does not appear to have much distinct significancy of its own; but it is, we believe, merely a diversity of will; and considering the perplexity caused by it, not only to Scotchmen and foreigners, but even to the English themselves, (who often blunder in applying shall and will,) its existence is no grammatic cause of congratulation. What will the reader think, when told, that thirty or forty rules have been prescribed as a necessary directory to the true application and proper distinction of Shall and Will? It would not be very easy, even in a long course of petty criticism, to render English as invincibly difficult as Greek: but if the collective wisdom of the grammatic world were deified with legislative omnipotence, the business would, in time, be most effectually accomplished.
The preceding verbs have some irregularities; but they are simplicity itself when compared with the verb BE; in which there is more of wanton anomaly than could well be found within the same compass, if we were to search all the languages of the world. The remark of Mr. Turner (who possesses too much good sense to be a blind admirer) applies equally to the English substantive verb: "The Anglo-Saxon substantive verb is compounded
that is either necessary or useful: and to change Train from an active to what is called a passive state, all that is necessary is, Be put before it, as accompanied with the affix ed. Thus,
I be loved, thou be loved, &c.
I beed loved, &c.
To be loved, Being loved; Having beed loved. We have no doubt that if ed had never been adopted as a verbal affix, the business could have been well accomplished without it; but having been adopted, it may remain; only let irregularities be banished for ever.
When the auxiliaries are united with the regular verbs, the junction is effected in the following man
I do train, thou do train, he do train, &c.: I doed train, thou doed train, he doed train, &c.
I have trained, &c.: I haved trained, &c.
I will train, thou will train, he will train, &c.
I shall have trained, thou shall have trained, he shall or will have trained.
N. B. I shall have trained, like I had had, &c., is one of those clumsy phrases which no person, tolerably master of composition, would employ: in fact, though exhibited in grammars, a person might read English for years and not meet with such expres
In the simple manner as above may the other
auxiliaries be employed: as, I can train, &c., I may train, &c.
Can it be necessary to work up these simple combinations into such unmeaning entities as grammatic moods? There are, surely, less fantastic methods of teaching the young idea how to shoot! But if the Moods be abandoned, the Tenses yet remain. We had almost forgot the tenses; but we suppose, that by this time the reader is disposed to care very little about them.
The truth is, as before intimated, if any notion as to time ever exist in connexion with any verb, it is wholly accessory or associated, and not signified by the verb itself. In general, what is called the present tense simply indicates action, being, relation, &c.: what are called the past tenses, generally indicate existence, action, relation, &c., as terminated; which, of course, is closely associated in the mind with the notion of the past. What is called future tense properly indicates volition. Thus if I say, I will publish the present work in the month of May : the sentence is equivalent to, I intend to publish in the month of May; or, I am resolved to publish in the month of May. Here the notion of future is manifestly an associated, not the primary notion. It is true that the word is applied to many objects in which volition does not exist; as in the following expressions: The moon will rise at eight to-night; the sun will rise at six to-morrow morning. These