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them it would occasion an ambiguity, and give the sentence the appearance of an interrogation, which it scarcely ever hath in the tenses above mentioned. Sometimes, indeed, the preterimperfect admits this idiom, without rendering the expression ambiguous, as in these words, “ Did I but know his intention,” for “ If I did but know his intention"-"Were I present,” for “ If I were present.” The tense, however, in such instances, may more properly be terined an aorist than a preterit of any kind, and the mood is subjunctive.
OF OTHER CONNECTIVES. Now that I am speaking of the auxiliaries, it may not be amiss to remark, that they too, like the conjunctions, the relatives, and the prepositions, are but words of a secondary order. The signification of the verb is ascertained by the infinitive or the participle which follows the auxiliary in the compound tenses of the active voice, and always by the participle in the passive. The auxiliaries themselves serve only to modify the verb, by adding the circumstances of time, af. firination, supposition, interrogation, and some others. An abridgment in these, therefore, which are but weak, though not the weakest parts of discourse, conduceth to strengthen the expression. But there are not many cases wherein this is practicable. Sometimes had supplies emphatically the place of would have, and were of would be. An instance of the first we have in the words of Martha to our Saviour; “ Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."* The last clause would have been feebler had it been “my brother would not have died.” An example of the second is the words of the Israelites on hearing the report of the spies: “ Were it not better for us to return into Egypt ?”for“ Would it not be better ?"
But to come to the consideration of the relatives : the first real improvement which taste hath produced here, is the dismission of the article from its wonted attendance on the pronoun which. The definite article could nowhere be less necessary, as the antecedent always defines the meaning. An. other effect of the same cause is the introduction of what instead of that which, as, “ I remember what you told me ;” otherwise, “ that which you told me." Another is the extending of the use of the word whose, by making it serve as the possessive of the pronoun which.
The distinction between who and which is now perfectly established in the language. The former relates only to persons, the latter to things. But this distinction, though a real
* John, xi., 21.
† Num., xiv., 3.
advantage in point of perspicuity and precision, affects not much the vivacity of the style. The possessive of who is properly whose ; the pronoun which, originally indeclinable, hath no possessive. This want was supplied in the common periphrastic manner, by the help of the preposition and the article. But as this could not fail to enfeeble the expression, when so much time was given to mere conjunctives, all our best authors, both in prose and in verse, have come now regularly to adopt, in such cases, the possessive of who, and thus have substituted one syllable in the room of three, as in the example following: “ Philosophy, whose ènd is to instruct us in the knowledge of Nature,” for, “ Philosophy, the end of which is to instruct us." Some grammarians remonstrate. But it ought to be remembered, that use well established must give law to grammar, and not grammar to use. Nor is this acceptation of the word whose of recent introduction into the language. It occurs even in Shakspeare, and almost uniformly in authors of any character since his time. Neither does there appear to be any inconvenience arising from this usage. The connexion with the antecedent is commonly so close as to remove all possible ambiguity. If, however, in any instance, the application should appear ambiguous, in that instance, without question, the periphrasis ought to be preferred. But the term thus applied to things could not be considered as improper any longer than it was by general use peculiarly appropriated to persons, and, therefore, considered merely as an inflection of the pronoun who. Now that cannot be affirmed to be the case at present.
Though to limit the signification of the pronouns would at first seem conducive to precision, it may sometimes be followed with the conveniences which would more than counterbalance the advantage. • That,” says Dr. Lowth, " is used indifferently both of persons and things, but perhaps would be more properly confined to the latter."* Yet there are cases wherein we cannot conveniently dispense with this relative as applied to persons; as, first, after who the interrogative, “Who that has any sense of religion would have argued thus ?" Secondly, when persons make but a part of the antecedent : “ The men and things that he hath studied have not contributed to the improvement of his morals.” In neither of these examples could any other relative be used. In the instances specified by Dr. Priestley,f the that, if not necessary, is at least more elegant than the who. The first is after a superlative, as, “He was the fittest person that could then be found;" the second is after the pronominal adjective the same, as, “ He is the same man that you saw before." And it is even probable that these are not the only cases.
* Introduction, Sentences.
† Grammar, Pronouns.
The possessive its, of the neuter personal pronoun it, hath contributed in the same way, though not a relative, both to abbreviate and to invigorate the idiom of the present age. It is not above a century and a half since this possessive was brought into use. Accordingly, you will not find it in all the vulgar translation of the Bible. Its place there is always supplied either by the article and the preposition, as in these words: “ They are of those that rebel against the light : they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof,” for “they know not its ways, nor abide in its paths ;” or by the possessive of the masculine, as in this verse : “The altar of burnt-offerings with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot.”+ The first method is formal and languid ; the second must appear awkward to English ears, because very unsuitable to the genius of the language, which never, unless in the figurative style, as is well observed by Mr. Harris,& ascribes gender to such things as are neither reasonable beings nor susceptible of sex.
The only other instance of abbreviation which I recollect in the pronouns is the frequent suppression of the relatives who, whom, and which. This, I imagine, is an ellipsis peculiar to the English, though it may be exemplified from authors of the first note; and that, too, in all the cases following: first, when the pronoun is the nominative to the verb; secondly, when it is the accusative of an active verb; and, thirdly, when it is governed by a preposition. Of the first case, which is rather the most unfavourable of the three, you have an example in these words, “ I had several men died in my ship of calentures,” for “ who died.” Of the second, which is the most tolerable, in these, “ They who affect to guess at the objects they cannot see,”|| for“ which they cannot
Of the third, in these, " To contain the spirit of anger is the worthiest discipline we can put ourselves to,”? for “to which we can put ourselves.” Sometimes, especially in verse, both the preposition and the pronoun are omitted, as in the speech of Cardinal Wolsey, after his disgrace:
"Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served my king."** To complete the construction of this member of the sentence, the words with which must be supplied immediately after “ zeal.” Concerning this idiom I shall only observe in general, that as it is the most licentious, and, therefore, the most exceptionable in the language, it ought to be used very cautiously. In some cases it may occasion obscurity ; in others, by giving a maimed appearance to the sentence, it may oc
* Job, xxiv., 13.
+ Exod., xxxi., 9.
# Hermes. ll Bol. Phil., Es. ii., i.
** Shakspeare's Henry VIIL
casion ineleg ince. In both these it ought carefully to be avoided. *
The only other part of speech which partakes of the weakness remarked in conjunctions, relatives, and auxiliary verbs, is prepositions. These are expressive of the relations which the substantives, as the signs of things, bear to one arother, or to the verbs, the symbols of agency with which they are construed. They answer the same purpose in connecting words, which the conjunctions answer in connecting clauses. For the same reason, the shorter these particles are, the better. The less time you bestow on the insignificant parts of a sentence, the more significant will the whole appear. ACcordingly, in all languages the prepositions are commonly among their shortest words. With us, such of them as are in most frequent use consist of one short syllable only, and even those which occur seldomer rarely exceed two syllables. I
* In French, by an idiom not unlike, the antecedent is often dropped, and the relative retained, as in this example: “Il ne faut pas se fier à qui a beaucoup d'ambition." “A qui” for “à celui qui.” The idiom is not the same in Italian; for thougl' the antecedent is sometimes dropped, there is properly no ellipsis, as the relative is changed; as thus, “Lo stampatore a chi legge,” for “ a quel che." This is exactly similar to the English what or that which. By poetic license there is sometimes an ellipsis of the antecedent in English verse, as in this line of Dryden, Georg. 2:
“ Which who would learn as soon may tell the sands." Who for he who. More rarely when the antecedent is the regimen of a verb, as, "I gladly shunn'd, who gladly fled from me."
Rom, and Juliet. † Such as at, in, of, from, till, to, for, by, through, near, with, on, off.
# Such are above, below, along, across, amid, around, beyond, within, without, beside, among, between, except. It may not be amiss to observe, that though the French in the comnionest prepositions have the advantage of us by rea son of their frequent elisions, the coalition of some of them with the article, and their pronominal particles y and en, they have, nevertheless, greatly the disadvantage in the less common, which with them are not so properly denominated prepositions as prepositive phrases that supply the place of prepositions. In evidence of this, take the French translation of all the dissyllabic prepositions above mentioned, except the last four. These are au dessus de, au dessous de, le long de, au travers de, au milieu de, autour de, au dela de, au dedans de, au lehors de. On comparing the two languages merely in point of vivacity, the French, I think, excels in the colloquial and epistolary style, where the recurrence must be frequent to those petty aids of discourse, the prepositious first mentioned, and where there is little scope for composition, as there are almost no complex sentences. The English, on the contrary, excels in the more elaborate style of history, philosophy, and oratory, where a greater variety of prepositions is needed, and where there is more frequent occasion of recurring to the conjunctions. These, indeed, are rather unwiely in French; and I am not sure but a tacit conviction of this is the cause that a sort of detached aphoristic style is getting much into vogue with their authors. I shall remark here, also, that their vivacity of expression is often attained at the expense of perspicuity. « La personne qui l'aime” may mean either “ The person who loves him,” “ The
On this part of speech the improvements have not been so considerable (nor was there equal need) as on the conjunctions and the relatives. Yet even here the progress of taste hath not been entirely without effect. The until and unto are now almost always, and the upon very often, contracted into till and to, and on. The to and the for are in some cases, without occasioning any inconvenience, and with a sensible advantage in point of energy, discarded altogether. Thus we say, "Forgive us our debts,” and not "forgive to us our debts”_.“ I have gotten you a license,” and not “ I have gotten a license for you." The same manner hath also obtained in some other modern tongues. What I am next to mention is peculiar to us: the preposition of is frequently supplied by the possessive case of the noun. Lastly, which is a real acquisition in respect of vivacity, when two or more nouns are conjoined in the sam construction, it is not necessary in English, as in French, that the preposition of the first be repeated before each of the subsequent nouns. This ought to be done only in those cases wherein either perspicuity or harmony requires it.
Now that I am on the subject of the prepositions, it will not be improper to consider a peculiarity which is often to be found with us in their arrangement. In every other language the preposition is almost constantly prefixed to the noun which it governs; in English it is sometimes placed not only after the noun, but at a considerable distance from it, as in the following example: “The infirmary was indeed never so full as on this day, which I was at some loss to account for, till, upon my going abroad, I observed that it was an easterly wind."* Here no fewer than seven words intervene between the relative which and the preposition for belonging to it. Besides, the preposition doth not here precede its regimen, but follows it.
One would imagine, to consider the matter abstractly, that this could not fail in a language like ours, which admits so few inflections, to create obscurity. Yet this, in fact, is seldom or never the consequence. Indeed, the singularity of the idiom hath made some critics condemn it absolutely. That there is nothing analogous in any known tongue, ancient or modern, hath appeared to them a sufficient reason. I own it never appeared so to me.
If we examine the matter independently of custom, we person who loves her,” or “ The person who loves it.” Nay, more, though there is a difference in writing between qui l'aime and qu'il aime, there is no difference in sound, and therefore the same phrase spoken may also mean “The person whom he loves.” In Italian There are several periphrastic prepositions in the same taste with the French, as a l'intorno di, di la di, in mezzo di, dentro di, fuori di, di sopra di, di sotto di. There are only two prepositions in French which we are obliged to express by circumlocution. These are, chez, at the house of, and selon, according to.
* Spectator, No. 440, C.