English in Use/Syntax
|General||Contents • Introduction|
|Parts of speech||Articles • Nouns • Verbs • Gerunds and participles • Pronouns • Adjectives • Adverbs • Prepositions, Conjunctions and Interjections|
|Other topics||Orthography • Punctuation • Syntax • Figures of Syntax • Glossary|
Syntax treats of the relation, agreement, government, and arrangement, of words in sentences.
The relation of words is their reference to other words, or their dependence according to the sense.
The agreement of words is their similarity in person, number, gender, case, mood, tense, or form.
The government of words is that power which one word has over another, to cause it to assume some particular modification.
The arrangement of words is their collocation, or relative position, in a sentence.
A sentence is an assemblage of words, making complete sense, and always containing a nominative and a verb: as,
- "Reward sweetens labour."
The principal parts of a sentence are usually three; namely, the subject, or nominative; the finite verb; and the object governed by the verb: as,
- "Crimes deserve punishment."
A predicate is the part of the sentence (or clause) which states something about the subject.
The other or subordinate parts depend on these, either as primary or as secondary adjuncts: as,
- "High crimes justly deserve very severe punishments."
Sentences are usually said to be of two kinds, simple and compound.
A simple sentence is a sentence which consists of one single assertion, supposition, command, question, or exclamation: as,
- "David and Jonathan loved each other."
- "If your enemy hunger."
- "Do violence to no man."
- "Am I not an apostle?"—1 Cor., ix, 1.
- "What immortal glory shall I have acquired!"—Hooke: Mur. Seq., p. 71.
A compound sentence is a sentence which consists of two or more simple ones either expressly or tacitly connected: as,
- "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell you words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved."—Acts, xi, 13.
- "The more the works of Cowper are read, the more his readers will find reason to admire the variety and the extent, the graces and the energy, of his literary talents."—Hayley: Mur. Seq., p. 250.
A clause, or member, is a subdivision of a compound sentence; and is itself a sentence, either simple or compound: as,
- "If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; if he be thirsty, give him water to drink."—Prov., xxv, 21.
A phrase is two or more words which express some relation of different ideas, but no entire proposition: as,
- "By the means appointed."
- "To be plain with you."
- "Having loved his own."
Words that are omitted by ellipsis, and that are necessarily understood in order to complete the construction, must be supplied in parsing.
The leading principles to be observed in the construction of sentences, are embraced in the following rules, which are arranged, as nearly as possible, in the order of the parts of speech.
Articles relate to the nouns which they limit: as,
- "At a little distance from the ruins of the abbey, stands an aged elm."
- "See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing, the sot a hero, lunatic a king."—Pope's Essay, Ep. ii, l. 268.
The comparative or superlative degree
The definite article may relate to an adjective or adverb of the comparative or the superlative degree: as,
- "A land which was the mightiest."—Byron.
- "The farther they proceeded, the greater appeared their alacrity."—Dr. Johnson.
- "He chooses it the rather."—Cowper.
An unstressed numeral
The indefinite article is sometimes used to give a collective meaning to an unstressed numeral (a plural adjective of number): as,
- "You have a few names even in Sardis."—Rev., iii, 4.
- "There are a thousand things which crowd into my memory."—Spectator, No. 468.
- "The centurion commanded a hundred men."—Webster.
The subject or nominative
A noun or a pronoun which is the subject of a finite verb, must be in the nominative case: as,
- "The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things; and they derided him."—Luke, xvi, 14.
- "But where the meekness of self-knowledge veils the front of self-respect, there look you for the man whom none can know but they will honour."—Book of Thoughts, p. 66.
- "Do you mourn Philander's fate? I know you say it: says your life the same?"—Young, N. ii, l. 22.
The subject, or nominative, is generally placed before the verb: as,
- "Peace dawned on his mind."—Johnson.
- "What is written in the law?"—Bible.
But, in the following nine cases, the subject of the verb is usually placed after it, or after the first auxiliary:
When a question is asked without an interrogative pronoun in the nominative case: as,
- "Shall mortals be implacable?"—Hooke.
- "What are you doing?"—Id.
- "How many loaves have you?"—Bible.
- "Are they Israelites? So am I."—Ib.
The imperative mood
When the verb is in the imperative mood: as,
- "Go you,"
- "Come you."
But, with this mood, the pronoun is very often omitted and understood: as,
- "Philip said to him, Come and see."—John, i, 46.
- "And he said to them, Be not afraid."—Mark, xvi, 5.
An earnest wish or strong feeling
When an earnest wish, or other strong feeling, is expressed: as,
- "May she be happy!"
- "How were we struck!"—Young.
- "Not as the world gives, give I to you."—Bible.
A supposition without if
When a supposition is made without the conjunction if: as,
- "Had they known it;" for, "If they had known it."
- "Were it true;" for, "If it were true."
- "Could we draw by the covering of the grave;" for, "If we could draw," etc.
Neither or nor
When neither or nor, signifying and not, precedes the verb: as,
- "This was his fear; nor was his apprehension groundless."
- "You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it."—Gen., iii, 3.
When, for the sake of emphasis, some word or words are placed before the verb, which more naturally come after it: as,
- "Here am I,"
- "Narrow is the way,"
- "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I you."—Bible.
When the verb has no regimen, and is itself emphatical: as,
- "Echo the mountains round."—Thomson.
- "After the light infantry marched the grenadiers, then followed the horse."—Buchanan's Syntax, p. 71.
When the verbs, say, answer, reply, and the like, introduce the parts of a dialogue: as,
- "'Son of affliction,' said Omar, 'who are you?' 'My name,' replied the stranger, 'is Hassan.'"—Dr. Johnson.
The adverb there
When the adverb there precedes the verb: as,
- "There lived a man."—Montgomery.
- "In all worldly joys, there is a secret wound."—Owen.
This use of there, is idiomatic, and somewhat different from the use of the same word in reference to a particular locality: as,
- "Because there was not much water there."—John, iii, 23.
Apposition or appositive
A noun or a personal pronoun used to explain a preceding noun or pronoun, is put, by apposition, in the same case: as,
- "But it is really I, your old friend and neighbour, Piso, late a dweller on the Coelian hill, who am now basking in the warm skies of Palmyra."—Zenobia.
- "But he, our gracious Master, kind as just, knowing our frame, remembers we are dust."—Barbauld.
An apposition or appositive is an interjection into a sentence. Appositive renames, or adds to the description of another noun. The thought expressed by the sentence will stand fully on its own without the appositive. In the following sentence, "My best friend's collie" is an appositive:
- "The dog, my best friend's collie, caught the frisbee every time."
A possessive noun
A noun or a pronoun in the possessive case, is governed by the name of the thing possessed: as,
- "God's mercy prolongs man's life."—Allen.
- "Theirs is the vanity, the learning yours; touched by your hand, again Rome's glories shine."—Pope.
The possessive case generally comes immediately before the governing noun, expressed or understood: as,
- "All nature's difference keeps all nature's peace."—Pope.
- "Lady! be yours (i. e., your walk) the Christian's walk."—Chr. Observer.
- "Some of Aeschylus's [plays] and Euripides's plays are opened in this manner."—Blair's Rhet., p. 459.
And in this order one possessive sometimes governs another: as,
- "Peter's wife's mother,"
- "Paul's sister's son."—Bible.
But, to this general principle of arrangement, there are some exceptions: as,
When the governing noun has an adjective, this may intervene: as,
- "Flora's earliest smells."—Milton.
- "Of man's first disobedience."—Id.
In the following phrase from the Spectator,
- "Of Will's last night's lecture,"
it is not very clear, whether Will's is governed by night's or by lecture; yet it violates a general principle of our grammar, to suppose the latter; because, on this supposition, two possessives, each having the sign, will be governed by one noun.
The affirmed or denied possessive
When the possessive is affirmed or denied: as,
- "The book is mine, and not John's."
But here the governing noun may be supplied in its proper place; else a pronoun or the verb will be the only governing word: as,
- "You are Christ's [disciples, or people]; and Christ is God's [son]."—St. Paul.
Whether this phraseology is thus elliptical or not, is questionable.
The case without the sign
When the case occurs without the sign, either by apposition or by connection: as,
- "In her brother Absalom's house."—Bible.
- "David and Jonathan's friendship."—Allen.
- "Adam and Eve's morning hymn."—Dr. Ash.
- "Behold the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, is the Lord's your God."—Deut., x, 14.
- "For peace and quiet's sake."—Cowper.
- "To the beginning of King James the First's reign."—Bolingbroke, on Hist., p. 32.
The object of predicate
A noun or a pronoun made the object of an active transitive verb or participle, is governed by it in the objective case: as,
- "I found her assisting him,"
- "Having finished the work, I submit it,"
- "Preventing fame, misfortune lends him wings, and Pompey's self his own sad story brings." —Rowe's Lucan, B. viii, l. 66.
An intransitive verb
A noun or a pronoun put after an intransitive verb or participle, agrees in case with a preceding noun or pronoun referring to the same thing: as,
- "It is I,"
- "These are they,"
- "The child was named John,"
- "It could not be he,"
- "The Lord sits King forever."—Psalms, xxix, 10.
- "What war could ravish, commerce could bestow, and he returned a friend, who came a foe."—Pope, Ep. iii, l. 206.
An absolute noun
A noun or a pronoun is put absolute in the nominative, when its case depends on no other word: as,
- "He failing, who shall meet success?"
- "Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever?"—Zech., i, 5.
- "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?"—1 Cor., ix, 6.
- "Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God?"—Rom., ix, 20.
- "O rare we!"—Cowper.
- "Miserable they!"—Thomson.
An adjective relates to nouns
Adjectives relate to nouns or pronouns: as,
- "Miserable comforters are you all."—Job, xvi, 2.
- "No worldly enjoyments are adequate to the high desires and powers of an immortal spirit."—Blair.
- "Whatever faction's partial notions are, no hand is wholly innocent in war."—Rowe's Lucan, B. vii, l. 191.
An intervening verb
An adjective sometimes relates to a phrase or sentence which is made the subject of an intervening verb: as,
- "To insult the afflicted, is impious."—Dillwyn.
- "That he should refuse, is not strange."
- "To err is human."
Combined arithmetical numbers
In combined arithmetical numbers, one adjective often relates to another, and the whole phrase, to a subsequent noun: as,
- "One thousand four hundred and fifty-six men,"
- "Six dollars and eighty-seven and a half cents for every five days' service,"
- "In the one hundred and twenty-second year,"
- "One seven times more than it was wont to be heated."—Daniel, iii, 19.
A being or action in the abstract
With an infinitive or a participle denoting being or action in the abstract, an adjective is sometimes also taken abstractly; that is, without reference to any particular noun, pronoun, or other subject: as,
- "To be sincere, is to be wise, innocent, and safe."—Hawkesworth.
- "Capacity marks the abstract quality of being able to receive or hold."—Crabb's Synonymes.
- "Indeed, the main secret of being sublime, is to say great things in few and plain words."—Hiley's Gram., p. 215.
- "Concerning being free from sin in heaven, there is no question."—Barclay's Works, iii, 437.
- Better, "Concerning freedom from sin," etc.
Adjectives are sometimes substituted for their corresponding abstract nouns; perhaps, in most instances, elliptically: as,
- "The sensations of sublime and beautiful are not always distinguished by very distant boundaries."—Blair's Rhet., p. 47.
- "The faults opposite to the sublime are chiefly two: the frigid, and the bombast."—Ib., p. 44.
- Better, "The faults opposite to sublimity, are chiefly two; frigidity and bombast."
- "Yet the ruling character of the nation was that of barbarous and cruel."—Brown's Estimate, ii, 26.
- "In a word, agreeable and disagreeable are qualities of the objects we perceive."—Kames, El. of Crit., i, 99.
- "Polished, or refined, was the idea which the author had in view."—Blair's Rhet., p. 219.
An adjective placed before noun
The adjective is generally placed immediately before its noun: as,
- "Vain man! is grandeur given to gay attire?"—Beattie.
Adjectives can also come before the subject:
- "The red dog likes chocolate."
- "The tiny man had a height problem."
In the following instances the adjective is placed after the word to which it relates:
Those adjectives which relate to pronouns, most commonly follow them: as,
- "They left me weary on a grassy turf."—Milton.
But to both these general rules there are many exceptions; for the position of an adjective may be varied by a variety of circumstances, not excepting the mere convenience of emphasis: as,
- "And Jehu said, to which of all us?"—2 Kings, ix, 5.
Words which depend on the adjective
When other words depend on the adjective, or stand before it to qualify it: as,
- "A mind conscious of right,"
- "A wall three feet thick,"
- "A body of troops fifty thousand strong."
The quality which results from action
When the quality results from an action, or receives its application through a verb or participle: as,
- "Virtue renders life happy."
- "He was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza."—1 Kings, xvi, 9.
- "All men agree to call vinegar sour, honey sweet, and aloes bitter."—Burke, on Taste, p. 38.
- "God made you perfect, not immutable."—Milton.
The quality which excites admiration
When the quality excites admiration, and the adjective would thus be more clearly distinctive: as,
- "Goodness infinite,"
- "Wisdom unsearchable."—Murray.
When a verb comes between the adjective and the noun: as,
- "Truth stands independent of all external things."—Burgh.
- "Honour is not seemly for a fool."—Solomon.
The adjective formed by prefix
When the adjective is formed by means of the prefix a: as, afraid, alert, alike, alive, alone, asleep, awake, aware, averse, ashamed, askew. To these may be added a few other words: as, else, enough, extant, extinct, fraught, pursuant.
The nature of a participle
When the adjective has the nature, but not the form, of a participle: as,
- "A queen regnant,"
- "The prince regent,"
- "The heir apparent,"
- "A lion, not rampant, but couchant or dormant,"
- "For the time then present."
In some instances, the adjective may either precede or follow its noun; as, in poetry, provided the sense be obvious: as,
- "Will you to the isles atlantic, to the rich hesperian clime, fly in the train of Autumn?"—Akenside, P. of I., Book i, p. 27.
- "Will you fly with laughing Autumn to the atlantic isles, and range with him the hesperian field?"—Id. Bucke's Gram., p. 120.
When technical usage favours one order, and common usage another: as,
- "A notary public," or, "A public notary;"
- "The heir presumptive," or, "The presumptive heir."
When an adverb precedes the adjective: as,
- "A Being infinitely wise," or,
- "An infinitely wise Being."
Murray, Comly, and others, here approve only the former order; but the latter is certainly not ungrammatical.
Belonging to the same noun
When several adjectives belong to the same noun: as,
- "The red, hungry dog ate the chocolate."
- "The car is red, slow and very old."
- "A woman, modest, sensible, and virtuous," or, "A modest, sensible, and virtuous woman."
An emphatic adjective
When the adjective is emphatic, it may be foremost in the sentence, though the natural order of the words would bring it last: as,
- "Weighty is the anger of the righteous."—Bible.
- "Blessed are the pure in heart."—Ib.
- "Great is the earth, high is the heaven, swift is the sun in his course."—1 Esdras, iv, 34.
- "The more laborious the life is, the less populous is the country."—Goldsmith's Essays, p. 151.
A part of the object or predicate
When the adjective and its noun both follow a verb as parts of the predicate, either may possibly come before the other, yet the arrangement is fixed by the sense intended. Thus, there is a great difference between the following assertions:
- "We call the boy good,"
- "We call the good boy."
An equivalent to an adverb
By an ellipsis of the noun, an adjective with a preposition before it, is sometimes equivalent to an adverb: as,
- "In particular;" that is, "In a particular manner;" equivalent to "Particularly".
- So "In general" is equivalent to "Generally".
A pronoun must agree with its antecedent, or the noun or pronoun which it represents, in person, number, and gender: as,
- "This is the friend of whom I spoke; he has just arrived."
- "This is the book which I bought; it is an excellent work."
- "You, therefore, who love mercy, teach your sons to love it too."—Cowper.
- "Speak you, whose thoughts at humble peace repine, shall Wolsey's wealth with Wolsey's end be yours?"—Dr. Johnson.
When a pronoun stands for some person or thing indefinite, or unknown to the speaker, the person, number, and gender, are rather assumed in the pronoun, than regulated by an antecedent: as,
- "I do not care who knows it."—Steele.
- "Who touched me? Tell me who it was."
- "We have no knowledge how, or by whom, it is inhabited."—Abbot: Joh. Dict.
The neuter pronoun
The neuter pronoun may be applied to a young child, or to other creatures masculine or feminine by nature, when they are not obviously distinguishable with regard to sex: as,
- "Which is the real friend to the child, the person who gives it the sweetmeats, or the person who, considering only its health, resists its importunities?"—Opis.
- "He loads the animal he is showing me, with so many trappings and collars, that I cannot distinctly view it."—Murray's Gram., p. 301.
- "The nightingale sings most sweetly when it sings in the night."—Bucke's Gram., p. 52.
The pronoun it
The pronoun it is often used without a definite reference to any antecedent, and is sometimes a mere expletive, and sometimes the representative of an action expressed afterwards by a verb: as,
- "Whether she grapple it with the pride of philosophy."—Chalmers.
- "Seeking to lord it over God's heritage."—The Friend, vii, 253.
- "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink."—Prov., xxxi, 4.
- "Having no temptation to it, God cannot act unjustly without defiling his nature."—Brown's Divinity, p. 11.
- "Come, and trip it as you go, on the light fantastic toe."—Milton.
The adjective many
A singular antecedent with the adjective many, sometimes admits a plural pronoun, but never in the same clause: as,
- "Hard has been the fate of many a great genius, that while they have conferred immortality on others, they have wanted themselves some friend to embalm their names to posterity."—Welwood's Pref. to Rowe's Lucan.
- "In Hawick twinkled many a light, behind him soon they set in night."—W. Scott.
When a plural pronoun is put by enallage for the singular, it does not agree with its noun in number, because it still requires a plural verb: as,
- "We [Lindley Murray] have followed those authors, who appear to have given them the most natural and intelligible distribution."—Murray's Gram., 8vo, p. 29.
- "We shall close our remarks on this subject, by introducing the sentiments of Dr. Johnson respecting it."—Ib.
- "My lord, you know I love you."—Shakespeare.
The antecedent taken in another sense
The pronoun sometimes disagrees with its antecedent in one sense, because it takes it in another: as,
- "I have perused Mr. Johnson's Grammatical Commentaries, and find it a very laborious, learned, and useful work."—Tho. Knipe, D. D.
- "Lamps is of the plural number, because it means more than one."—Smith's New Gram., p. 8.
- "Man is of the masculine gender, because it is the name of a male."—Ib.
- "The Utica Sentinel says it has not heard whether the wounds are dangerous."—Evening Post.
- Better, "The editor of the Utica Sentinel says, he has not heard," etc.
- "There is little Benjamin with their ruler."—Psalms, lxviii, 27.
- "Her end when emulation misses, she turns to envy, stings, and hisses."—Swift's Poems, p. 415.
Nominatives: (i.e., words parsed as nominatives after the verbs, though mostly transposed:)
- "Who are you?"—Bible.
- "What were we?"—Ib.
- "Do not tell them who I am."
- "Let him be who he may, he is not the honest fellow that he seemed."
- "The general conduct of mankind is neither what it was designed, nor what it ought to be."
This construction of the relative is a latinism, and very seldom used by the best writers.
- "There are certain bounds to imprudence, which being transgressed, there remains no place for repentance in the natural course of things."—Bp. Butler.
- "Which being so, it need not be any wonder, why I should."—Walker's Particles, Pref., p. xiv.
- "He offered an apology, which not being admitted, he became submissive."—Murray's Key, p. 202.
- "The chief man of the island, whose name was Publius."—Acts.
- "Despair, a cruel tyrant, from whose prisons none can escape."—Dr. Johnson.
- "To contemplate on Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light."—Steele.
- "Those whom she persuaded."—Dr. Johnson.
- "The cloak that I left at Troas."—St. Paul.
- "By the things which he suffered."—Id.
- "A man whom there is reason to suspect."
- "What are we to do?"—Burke.
- "Love refuses nothing that love sends."—Gurnall.
- "The first thing, says he, is, to choose some maxim or point of morality; to inculcate which, is to be the design of his work."—Blair's Rhet., p. 421.
- "Whomsoever you please to appoint."—Lowth.
- "Whatsoever he does, shall prosper."—Bible.
- "What we are afraid to do before men, we should be afraid to think before God."—Sibs.
- "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"—Gen., xviii, 32.
- "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?"
- "Call imperfection what you fancy such."—Pope.
Pronouns parsed as objectives after neuter verbs, though they stand before them:
- "He is not the man that I took him to be."
- "Whom did you suppose me to be?"
- "If the lad ever become what you wish him to be."
- "To whom shall we go?"—Bible.
- "The laws by which the world is governed, are general."—Bp. Butler.
- "Whom he looks on as his defender."—Addison.
- "That secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to."—Id.
- "I cannot but think the loss of such talents as the man of whom I am speaking was master of, a more melancholy instance."—Steele.
- "Grammar is the solid foundation on which all other science rests."—Buchanan's Eng. Synt., p. xx.
In familiar language, the relative of the objective case is frequently understood: as,
- "The man [whom] I trust."—Cowper.
- "Here is the letter [which] I received."
- "This is the man they hate. These are the goods they bought. Are these the Gods they worship? Is this the woman you saw?"—Ash's Gram., p. 96.
In grave writing, or deliberate discourse, it is much better to express the relative. The omission of it is often attended with some obscurity: as,
- "The next error [that] I shall mention [,] is a capital one."—Kames, El. of Crit., ii, 157.
- "It is little [that] we know of the divine perfections."—Scougal, p. 94.
- "The faith [which] we give to memory, may be thought, on a superficial view, to be resolvable into consciousness, as well as that [which] we give to the immediate impressions of sense."—Campbell's Rhet., p. 53.
- "We speak that [which] we do know, and testify that [which] we have seen."—John, iii, 11.
A relative in the nominative case
The omission of a relative in the nominative case, is almost always inelegant: as,
- "This is the worst thing [that] could happen."
- "There were several things [which] brought it on me."—Pilgrim's Progress, p. 162.
This ellipsis may occur after but or than, and it is sometimes allowed in poetry: as,
- "[There is] No person of reflection but [who] must be sensible, that an incident makes a stronger impression on an eyewitness, than when heard at second hand."—Kames, El. of Crit., ii, 257.
- "In this it is God directs, in that it is man."—Pope, on Man.
- "Abuse on all he loved, or loved him, spread."—Id., to Arbuthnot.
- "There's nothing blackens like the ink of fools."—Id., to Augustus.
A collective noun
When the antecedent is a collective noun conveying the idea of plurality, the pronoun must agree with it in the plural number: as,
- "The council were divided in their sentiments."
- "The Christian world are beginning to awake out of their slumber."—C. Simeon.
- "Whatever Adam's posterity lost through him, that and more they gain in Christ."—J. Phipps.
- "To this, one pathway gently-winding leads, where march a train with baskets on their heads."—Pope, Iliad, B. xviii, l. 657.
Antecedents connected by or
When a pronoun has two or more antecedents connected by or or nor, it must agree with them singly, and not as if taken together: as,
- "James or John will favour us with his company."
- "Neither wealth nor honour can secure the happiness of its votaries."
- "What virtue or what mental grace, but men unqualified and base will boast it their possession?"—Cowper, on Friendship.
Antecedents connected by and
When a pronoun has two or more antecedents connected by and, it must agree with them jointly in the plural, because they are taken together: as,
- "Minos and Thales sung to the lyre the laws which they composed."—Strabo: Blair's Rhet., p. 379.
- "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided."—2 Sam., i, 23.
- "Rhesus and Rhodius then unite their rills, Caresus roaring down the stony hills."—Pope, Il., B. xii, l. 17.
One person or thing
When two or more antecedents connected by and serve merely to describe one person or thing, they are either in apposition or equivalent to one name, and do not require a plural pronoun: as,
- "This great philosopher and statesman continued in public life till his eighty-second year."
- "The same Spirit, light, and life, which enlightens, also sanctifies, and there is not another."—Penington.
- "My Constantius and Philetus confesses me two years older when I wrote it."—Cowley's Preface.
- "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel! for you are my servant."—Isaiah, xliv, 21.
- "In that strength and cogency which renders eloquence powerful."—Blair's Rhet., p. 252.
When two antecedents connected by and are emphatically distinguished, they belong to different propositions, and, if singular, do not require a plural pronoun: as,
- "The butler, and not the baker, was restored to his office."
- "The good man, and the sinner too, shall have his reward."
- "Truth, and truth only, is worth seeking for its own sake."
- "It is the sense in which the word is used, and not the letters of which it is composed, that determines what is the part of speech to which it belongs."—Cobbett's Gram., 130.
Each, every, or no
When two or more antecedents connected by and are preceded by the adjective each, every, or no, they are taken separately, and do not require a plural pronoun: as,
- "Every plant and every tree produces others after its own kind."
- "It is the cause of every reproach and distress which has attended your government."—Junius, Let. xxxv.
But if the latter be a collective noun, the pronoun may be plural: as,
- "Each minister and each church act according to their own impressions."—Dr. M'Cartee.
The finite verb
Every finite verb must agree with its subject, or nominative, in person and number: as,
- "I know; You know; He knows;"
- "The bird flies; The birds fly."
- "Our fathers' fertile fields by slaves are tilled, and Rome with dregs of foreign lands is filled."—Rowe's Lucan, B. vii, l. 600.
When the nominative is a collective noun conveying the idea of plurality, the verb must agree with it in the plural number: as,
- "The council were divided."
- "The college of cardinals are the electors of the pope."—Murray's Key, p. 176.
- "Quintus Curtius relates, that a number of them were drowned in the river Lycus."—Home's Art of Thinking, p. 125.
- "Yon host come learned in academic rules."—Rowe's Lucan, vii, 401.
- "While heaven's high host on hallelujahs live."—Young's N. Th., iv, 378.
Nominatives connected by and
When a verb has two or more nominatives connected by and, it must agree with them jointly in the plural, because they are taken together: as,
- "True rhetoric and sound logic are very nearly allied."—Blair's Rhet., p. 11.
- "Aggression and injury in no case justify retaliation."—Wayland's Moral Science, p. 406.
- "Judges and senates have been bought for gold, esteem and love were never to be sold."—Pope.
One person or thing
When two nominatives connected by and serve merely to describe one person or thing, they are either in apposition or equivalent to one name, and do not require a plural verb: as,
- "Immediately comes a hue and cry after a gang of thieves."—L'Estrange.
- "The hue and cry of the country pursues him."—Junius, Letter xxiii.
- "Flesh and blood [i.e. man, or man's nature,] has not revealed it to you."—Matt., xvi, 17.
- "Descent and fall to us is adverse."—Milton, P. L., ii, 76.
- "This philosopher and poet was banished from his country."
- "Such a Saviour and Redeemer is actually provided for us."—Gurney's Essays, p. 386.
- "Let us then declare what great things our God and Saviour has done for us."—Dr. Scott, on Luke viii.
- "Toll, tribute, and custom, was paid to them."—Ezra, iv, 20.
- "Whose icy current and compulsive course never feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on."—Shakespeare.
When two nominatives connected by and, are emphatically distinguished, they belong to different propositions, and, if singular, do not require a plural verb: as,
- "Ambition, and not the safety of the state, was concerned."—Goldsmith.
- "Consanguinity, and not affinity, is the ground of the prohibition."—Webster's Essays, p. 324.
- "But a modification, and oftentimes a total change, takes place."—Maunder.
- "Somewhat, and, in many circumstances, a great deal too, is put on us."—Butler's Analogy, p. 108.
- "Disgrace, and perhaps ruin, was the certain consequence of attempting the latter."—Robertson's America, i, 434.
- "Ay, and no too, was no good divinity."—Shakespeare.
- "Love, and love only, is the loan for love."—Young.
Each, every, or no
When two or more nominatives connected by and are preceded by the adjective each, every, or no, they are taken separately, and do not require a plural verb: as,
- "When no part of their substance, and no one of their properties, is the same."—Bp. Butler.
- "Every limb and feature appears with its respective grace."—Steele.
- "Every person, and every occurrence, is beheld in the most favourable light."—Murray's Key, p. 190.
- "Each worm, and each insect, is a marvel of creative power."
- "Whose every look and gesture was a joke to clapping theatres and shouting crowds."—Young.
When the verb separates its nominatives, it agrees with that which precedes it, and is understood to the rest: as,
- "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."—Murray's Exercises, p. 36.
- "Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame."—Milton.
- "Forth in the pleasing spring, your beauty walks, your tenderness, and love."—Thomson.
Nominatives connected by or
When a verb has two or more nominatives connected by or or nor, it must agree with them singly, and not as if taken together: as,
- "Fear or jealousy affects him."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 133.
- "Nor eye, nor listening ear, an object finds: creation sleeps."—Young.
- "Neither character nor dialogue was yet understood."—L. Murray's Gram., p. 151.
- "The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks, safest and seemliest by her husband stays."—Milton, P. L., ix, 267.
The infinitive mood
The infinitive mood is governed in general by the preposition to, which commonly connects it to a finite verb: as,
- "I desire to learn."—Dr. Adam.
- "Of me the Roman people have many pledges, which I must strive, with my utmost endeavours, to preserve, to defend, to confirm, and to redeem."—Duncan's Cicero, p. 41.
- "What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread, or hand to toil, aspired to be the head?"—Pope.
The active verbs, bid, dare, feel, hear, let, make, need, see, and their participles, usually take the infinitive after them without the preposition to: as,
- "If he bade you depart, how dare you stay?"
- "I dare not let my mind be idle as I walk in the streets."—Cotton Mather.
- "Your Hector, wrapt in everlasting sleep, shall neither hear you sigh, nor see you weep." —Pope's Homer.
Though the infinitive is commonly made an adjunct to some finite verb, yet it may be connected to almost all the other parts of speech. The preposition to being its only and almost universal index; unless the word about, in such a situation, is a preposition.
Anciently, the infinitive was sometimes preceded by for as well as to: as,
- "I went up to Jerusalem for to worship."—Acts, xxiv, 11.
- "What went you out for to see?"—Luke, vii, 26.
- "And stood up for to read."—Luke, iv, 16.
It seems practicable to subjoin the infinitive to every one of the ten parts of speech, except the article: as,
- "If there is any precept to obtain felicity."—Hawkesworth.
- "It is high time to awake out of sleep."—Rom., xiii, 11.
- "To flee from the wrath to come."—Matt., iii, 7.
- "He seemed desirous to speak, yet unwilling to offend."—Hawkesworth.
- "He who is the slowest to promise, is the quickest to perform."—Art of Thinking, p. 35.
- "I discovered him to be a scholar."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 166.
- "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar?"—Luke, xx, 22.
- "Let me desire you to reflect impartially."—Blair: Murray's Eng. Reader, p. 77.
- "Whom have you then or what to accuse?"—Milton, P. L., iv, 67.
- "Then Peter began to rebuke him."—Matt., xvi, 22.
- "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."—Luke, xix, 10.
- "To go to enter into Egypt."—Jer., xli, 17.
- "We are not often willing to wait to consider."—J. Abbott.
- "For what had he to do to chide at me?"—Shak.
- "Still threatening to devour me."—Milton.
- "Or as a thief bent to unhoard the cash of some rich burgher."—Id.
- "She is old enough to go to school."
- "I know not how to act."—Nutting's Gram., p. 106.
- "Tell me when to come, and where to meet you."
- "He has not where to lay his head."
- "He knows better than to trust you."
- "It was so hot as to melt these ornaments."
- "Many who praise virtue, do no more than praise it."—Dr. Johnson.
- "I was about to write."—Rev., x, 4.
- "Not for to hide it in a hedge."—Burns's Poems, p. 42.
- "Amatum iri, to be about to be loved."—Adam's Gram., p. 95.
- "O to forget her!"—Young's Night Thoughts.
The uses of the infinitive
The infinitive is a verb, without affirmation, without person or number, and therefore without the agreement peculiar to a finite verb. But, in most instances, it is not without limitation of the being, action, or passion, to some persons or things, that are said, supposed, or denied, to be, to act, or to be acted on. Whenever it is not thus limited, it is taken abstractly, and has some resemblance to a noun. Even then, the active infinitive may govern the objective case. The uses of the infinitive are many and various. The following are the chief of the things for which it may stand:
Supplement to another verb
For the supplement to another verb, to complete the sense: as,
- "Loose him, and let him go."—John, xi, 44.
- "They that go to seek mixed wine."—Prov., xxiii, 30.
- "His hands refuse to labour."—Ib., xxi, 25.
- "If you choose to have those terms."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 374.
- "How our old translators first struggled to express this."—Ib., ii, 456.
- "To any one who will please to examine our language."—Ib., ii, 444.
- "They are forced to give up at last."—Ib., ii, 375.
- "Which ought to be done."—Ib., ii, 451.
- "Which came to pass."—Acts, xi, 28.
- "I dare engage to make it out."—Swift.
For the purpose, or end, of that to which it is added: as,
- "Each has employed his time and pains to establish a criterion."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 374.
- "I shall not stop now, to assist in their elucidation."—Ib., ii, 75.
- "Our purposes are not endowed with words to make them known."—Ib., ii, 74.
- "A tool is some instrument taken up to work with."—Ib., ii, 145.
- "Labour not to be rich."—Prov., xxiii, 4.
- "I flee to you to hide me."—Ps., cxliii, 9.
- "Evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him."—Ib., cxl, 11.
Object of an affection or passion
For the object of an affection or passion: as,
- "He loves to ride."
- "I desire to hear her speak again."—Shale.
- "If we wish to avoid important error."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 3.
- "Who rejoice to do evil."—Prov., ii, 14.
- "All agreeing in earnestness to see him."—Shak.
- "Our curiosity is raised to know what lies beyond."—Kames, El. of Crit., ii, 335.
Cause of an affection or passion
For the cause of an affection or passion: as,
- "I rejoice to hear it."
- "By which I hope to have laid a foundation."—Blair's Rhet., p. 34.
- "For he made me mad, to see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet."—Beauties of Shak., p. 118.
- "You did eat strange flesh, which some did die to look on."—Ib., p. 182.
- "They grieved to see their best allies at variance."—Rev. W. Allen's Gram., p. 165.
Subject of a proposition
For the subject of a proposition, or the chief term in such subject: as,
- "To steal is sinful."
- "To do justice and judgement, is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."—Prov., xxi, 3.
- "To do right, is, to do that which is ordered to be done."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 7.
- "To go to law to plague a neighbour, has in it more of malice, than of love to justice."—Seattle's Mor. Sci., i, 177.
Predicate or object of a proposition
For the predicate of a proposition, or the chief term in such predicate: as,
- "To enjoy is to obey."—Pope.
- "The property of rain is to wet, and fire, to burn."—Beauties of Shak., p. 15.
- "To die is to be banished from myself."—Ib., p. 82.
- "The best way is, to slander Valentine."—Ib., p. 83.
- "The highway of the upright is to depart from evil."—Prov., xvi, 17.
A coming event
For a coming event, or what will be: as,
- "A mutilated structure soon to fall."—Cowper.
- "He being dead, and I speedily to follow him."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 111.
- "She shall rejoice in time to come."—Prov., xxxi, 25.
- "Things present, or things to come."—1 Cor., iii, 22.
A necessary event
For a necessary event, or what ought to be: as,
- "It is to be remembered."
- "It is never to be forgotten."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 2.
- "An oversight much to be deplored."—Ib., ii, 460.
- "The sign is not to be used by itself, or to stand alone; but is to be joined to some other term."—Ib., ii, 372.
- "The Lord's name is to be praised."—Ps., cxiii, 3.
Something previously suggested
For what is previously suggested by another word: as,
- "I have faith to believe."
- "The glossarist did well here not to yield to his inclination."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 329.
- "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord."—Ps., xcii, 1.
- "It is as sport to a fool to do mischief."—Prov., x, 23.
- "They have the gift to know it."—Shak.
- "We have no remaining occupation but to take care of the public."—Art of Thinking, p. 52.
Term of comparison or measure
For a term of comparison or measure: as,
- "He was so much affected as to weep."
- "Who could do no less than furnish him."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 408.
- "I shall venture no farther than to explain the nature and convenience of these abbreviations."—Ib., ii, 439.
- "I have already said enough to show what sort of operation that is."—Ib., ii, 358.
The regular syntax of the participle, is twofold; being sometimes that of simple relation to a noun or a pronoun that precedes it, and sometimes that of government, or the state of being governed by a preposition. In the former construction, the participle resembles an adjective; in the latter, it is more like a noun, or like the infinitive mood. To these constructions, some add others less regular: using the participle as the subject of a finite verb, as the object of a transitive verb, or as a nominative after a neuter verb.
Participles relate to nouns or pronouns, or else are governed by prepositions: as,
- "Elizabeth's tutor, at one time paying her a visit, found her employed in reading Plato."—Hume.
- "I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it."—Dr. Johnson.
- "Now, raised on Tyre's sad ruins, Pharaoh's pride soared high, his legions threatening far and wide."—Dryden.
A preceding phrase
A participle sometimes relates to a preceding phrase or sentence, of which it forms no part: as,
- "I then quit the society; to withdraw and leave them to themselves, appearing to me a duty."
- "It is almost exclusively on the ground we have mentioned, that we have heard his being continued in office defended."—Professors' Reasons, p. 23.
- Better, "His continuance in office," or, "The continuing of him in office."
- "But ever to do ill our sole delight, as being the contrary to his high will."—Milton.
A being or action in the abstract
With an infinitive denoting being or action in the abstract, a participle is sometimes also taken abstractly; that is, without reference to any particular noun, pronoun, or other subject: as,
- "To seem compelled, is disagreeable."
- "To keep always praying aloud, is plainly impossible."
- "It must be disagreeable to be left pausing on a word which does not, by itself, produce any idea."—Murray's Gram., 8vo, p. 323.
- "To praise him is to serve him, and fulfill, doing and suffering, his unquestioned will."—Cowper, Vol. i, p. 88.
Substitute for the infinitive mood
The participle is often used irregularly, as a substitute for the infinitive mood, to which it is sometimes equivalent without irregularity: as,
- "I saw him enter, or entering."—Grant's Lat. Gram., p. 230.
- "He is afraid of trying, or to try."—Ibid.
- "Sir, said I, if the case stands thus, it is dangerous drinking."—Collier's Tablet of Cebes.
- "It will be but ill venturing your soul on that."—Bunyan's Law and Grace, p. 27.
- "Describing a past event as present, has a fine effect in language."—Kames, El. of Crit., i, 93.
- "In English likewise it deserves remarking."—Harris's Hermes, p. 232.
- "Bishop Atterbury deserves being particularly mentioned."—Blair's Rhet., p. 291.
- "This, however, is in effect no more than enjoying the sweet that predominates."—Campbell's Rhet., p. 43.
- "Habits are soon assumed; but when we strive to strip them off, it is being flayed alive."—Cowper, Vol. i, p. 44
A participle which is treated as a noun
Another frequent irregularity in the construction of participles, is the practice of treating them essentially as nouns, without taking from them the regimen and adjuncts of participles: as,
- "Your having been well educated will be a great recommendation."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 171.
- Better, "Your excellent education," or "That you have been well educated, will be," etc.
- "It arises from sublimity's expressing grandeur in its highest degree."—Blair's Rhet., p. 29.
- "Concerning the separating by a circumstance, words intimately connected."—Kames, El. of Crit., Vol. ii, p. 104.
- "As long as there is any hope of their keeping pace with them."—Literary Convention, p. 114.
- "Which could only arise from his knowing the secrets of all hearts."—West's Letters to a Young Lady, p. 180.
- "But this again is talking quite at random."—Butler's Analogy, p. 146.
- "My being here it is, that holds you hence."—Shak.
- "Such, but by foils, the clearest lustre see, and deem aspersing others, praising you."—Savage, to Walpole.
The syntax of an adverb consists in its simple relation to a verb, a participle, an adjective, or whatever else it qualifies.
Adverbs relate to verbs, participles, adjectives, or other adverbs: as,
- "Any passion that habitually discomposes our temper, or unfits us for properly discharging the duties of life, has most certainly gained a very dangerous ascendency."—Blair.
- "How blessed this happy hour, should he appear, dear to us all, to me supremely dear!"—Pope's Homer.
The adverbs yes, ay, and yea, expressing a simple affirmation, and the adverbs no and nay, expressing a simple negation, are always independent. They generally answer a question, and are equivalent to a whole sentence. Is it clear, that they ought to be called adverbs? No.
- "Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour has no skill in surgery then? No."—Shak.: First Part of Hen. IV, Act v, 1.
The word amen
The word amen, which is commonly called an adverb, is often used independently at the beginning or end of a declaration or a prayer: as,
- "Surely, I come quickly. Amen: even so, come Lord Jesus."—Rev., xxii, 20.
When it does not stand thus alone, it seems in general to be used substantively: as,
- "The strangers among them stood on Gerizim, and echoed amen to the blessings."—Wood's Dict.
- "These things say the amen."—Rev., iii, 14
An adverb before a preposition
An adverb before a preposition seems sometimes to relate to the latter, rather than to the verb or participle to which the preposition connects its object: as,
- "This mode of pronunciation runs considerably beyond ordinary discourse."—Blair's Rhet., p. 334.
- "Yea, all along the times of the apostasy, this was the thing that preserved the witnesses."—Penington's Works, Vol. iv, p. 12.
- "Right against the eastern gate, where the great sun begins his state."—Milton, L'Allegro.
Much, little, far, and all
The words much, little, far, and all, being originally adjectives, are sometimes preceded by the negative not, or (except the last) by such an adverb as too, how, thus, so, or as, when they are taken substantively: as,
- "Not all that glitters, is gold."
- "Too much should not be offered at once."—Murray's Gram., p. 140.
- "Thus far is consistent."—Ib., p. 161.
- "Thus far is right."—Lowth's Gram., p. 101.
The syntax of conjunctions consists in the simple fact, that they link together such and such terms, and thus "Mark the connections of human thought."—Beattie.
Conjunctions connect words, sentences, or parts of sentences: as,
- "Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdmen and your herdmen; for we are brethren."—Gen., xiii, 8.
- "Ah! if she lend not arms as well as rules. What can she more than tell us we are fools?"—Pope.
Introducing a sentence
The conjunction that sometimes serves merely to introduce a sentence which is made the subject or the object of a finite verb: as,
- "That mind is not matter, is certain."
- "That you have wronged me, does appear in this."—Shak.
- "That time is mine, O Mead! to you, I owe."—Young.
Two corresponding conjunctions
When two corresponding conjunctions occur, in their usual order, the former should generally be parsed as referring to the latter, which is more properly the connecting word: as,
- "Neither sun nor stars in many days appeared."—Acts, xxvii, 20.
- "Whether that evidence has been afforded [or not,] is a matter of investigation."—Keith's Evidences, p. 18.
Either and neither
Either, corresponding to or, and neither, corresponding to nor or not, are sometimes transposed, so as to repeat the disjunction or negation at the end of the sentence: as,
- "Where then was their capacity of standing, or his either?"—Barclay's Works, iii, 359.
- "It is not dangerous neither."—Bolingbroke, on Hist., p. 135.
- "He is very tall, but not too tall neither."—Spect., No. 475.
The syntax of prepositions consists, not solely or mainly in their power of governing the objective case, but in their adaptation to the other terms between which they express certain relations.
Prepositions show the relations of words, and of the things or thoughts expressed by them: as,
- "He came from Rome to Paris, in the company of many eminent men, and passed with them through many cities."—Analectic Magazine.
- "Ah! who can tell the triumphs of the mind, by truth illumined, and by taste refined?"—Rogers.
A noun or a pronoun made the object of a preposition, is governed by it in the objective case: as,
- "The temple of fame stands on the grave: the flame that burns on its altars, is kindled from the ashes of great men."—Hazlitt.
- "Life is his gift, from whom whatever life needs, with every good and perfect gift, proceeds."—Cowper, Vol. i, p. 95.
The preposition to
The preposition to, before an abstract infinitive, and at the head of a phrase which is made the subject of a verb, has no proper antecedent term of relation: as,
- "To learn to die, is the great business of life."—Dillwyn.
- "Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh, is more needful for you."—St. Paul: Phil., i, 24.
- "To be reduced to poverty, is a great affliction."
- "Too much to know, is, to know nought but fame; and every godfather can give a name."—Shakespeare.
The preposition for
The preposition for, when it introduces its object before an infinitive, and the whole phrase is made the subject of a verb, has properly no antecedent term of relation: as,
- "For us to learn to die, is the great business of life."
- "Nevertheless, for me to abide in the flesh, is more needful for you."
- "For an old man to be reduced to poverty is a very great affliction."
- "For man to tell how human life began, is hard; for who himself beginning knew?"—Milton.
Interjections have no dependent construction; they are put absolute, either alone, or with other words: as,
- "O! let not your heart despise me."—Dr. Johnson.
- "O cruel you!"—Pope, Odys., B. xii, l. 333.
- "Ah wretched we, poets of earth!"—Cowley,
- "Ah Dennis! Gildon ah! what ill-starred rage divides a friendship long confirmed by age?"—Pope, Dunciad, B. iii,
In the formation of sentences, the consistency and adaptation of all the words should be observed; and a regular, clear, and correspondent construction should be preserved throughout.
Words that may constitute different parts of speech, must not be left doubtful as to their classification.
The reference of words to other words, or their syntactical relation according to the sense, should never be left doubtful.
A definition must include the whole class of things, which it pretends to define, and exclude everything which comes not under the name.
A comparison is a form of speech which requires some similarity or common property in the things compared; without which, it becomes a solecism.
Sentences that convey a meaning manifestly false, should be changed, rejected, or contradicted. They distort language from its only worthy use; which is, to state facts, and to tell the truth.
Every writer should be careful not to contradict himself; for what is self-contradictory, is both null in argument, and bad in style.
Words that are entirely needless, and especially such as encumber the expression, ought in general to be omitted.
Words necessary to the sense, or even to the melody or beauty of a sentence, ought seldom, if ever, to be omitted.