Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

double Conjugation in the language, except in the verb to be. The past tense of the Subjunctive must, therefore, rest altogether on the distinction between was and were, in the first and third persons singular, where alone they are distinguished; for, in the second person, "Thou wert" is as generally employed in the Indicative as "Thou wast," and is daily becoming more so. The second person with thou, is almost wholly in the hands of the poets; and "thou wast" has rather an inharmonious sound. Pope and Addison wrote "thou wert;" and Milton and Dryden used the words indifferently. Wert, in the Indicative, has also the authority of Dr. Johnson, which, if not great among grammarians, is powerful among the people. "I were," and "She, He, or It were," are then the only past tenses in the English language that can be distinguished from the Indicative; but these materials, scanty as they are, might be formed into a separate mood; and the question is, has such a mood been generally recognized by good writers, or is it merely a manufacture of the Grammars of modern times?

We believe that the two conjugations of the Substantive Verb have long tempted classical scholars to separate them into Indicative and Subjunctive Moods; but the practice, both in

spoken and written language, has been against this distinction; so that phrases really subjunctive strike the reader as uncommon, and appear either as the composition of a pedant, or of one whose knowledge of English has been gathered from grammars rather than from general reading. Indeed, our most approved authors have, in this respect, violated every rule now laid down for the instruction of youth. It is to the translators of the authorized version of the Bible that we have chiefly to attribute the anxiety to encumber our language with moods. In the modern translations from the French, we observe numerous idioms which we term Gallicisms; and the Bible abounds, in a similar manner, with Latinisms and Græcisms. It is almost exclusively in the Scriptures that we have to look for examples of the Subjunctive; and most of those are plainly erroneous if tried by any modern rule. Besides, they are só contradictory, that, were we to manufacture a Grammar from that translation alone, as has been done in the Gothic from the mutilated Gospels of Ulphilas, we should strive in vain to discover a regular Subjunctive.

Lowth, whose Grammar has been plundered without being improved by many of his successors, seems to have been very doubtful concerning this mood. He cites several examples, most of

which, he acknowledges, would have been better put in the Indicative. From the few to which he does not himself object we extract the following: Whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed." 1 Cor. xv. 11.

"

Here the word were is certainly not in the Indicative form; but, arranged as the sentence is, how could was have been substituted? Two pronouns (I and they) the one singular and the other plural, are referred separately, by means of the distributive whether, to the same verb, were, and there was no escape from the blundering construction, but by violating one of the best acknowledged rules of Grammar.

It would seem, from other quotations given by the Doctor, that "He were" and "He was" had once been written indifferently, and that they were merely duplicates of the past Indicative. Thus:

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience, by the things which he suffered." Heb. v. 8.

"6

[ocr errors]

Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor." 2 Cor. viii. 9.

If then were, in the first and third persons singular, is not a Subjunctive, it may be asked, why has it retained its place in the language? We answer that it has another usage, which is very general, but has been less investigated.

61

OF CONDITIONAL CLAUSES.

It must have been observed that Conditional sentences are often prefaced by if, or though, which in grammars are usually noted as signs (if not the governing causes) of the Subjunctive. These words are placed in the list of Conjunctions; and, however obvious it may now appear, we believe that Mr. Tooke was the first to discover that they were Verbs.

Ir is the imperative of the Saxon gifan, to give, grant, or allow, and has come down through the stages of gef, yef, and yf. The Scotch is gif, and in some counties gin, with the hard g: the former is give and the latter gi'en, a contraction of given. "If it exist" is then equivalent to "Give, grant, or allow, that the thing does exist."

THOUGH (the Scotch guttural thoch, sometimes pronounced thof) is the imperative of the Saxon thafian, to allow, grant, or permit. ALTHOUGH is granting all;-the whole of what we speak.

If and though have, therefore, similar origins, and are generally confounded; but a distinction is preserved among accurate writers. "If he do" is granting that he shall do." Though he do" is "notwithstanding he should do." In the former case I shall act because something is done; in the latter, without regard to, or even in opposi

tion to, that doing. "I will do so if you oppose me" means that I will do so, only if you shall object. "I will do so though you oppose me," is I will do it in spite of your opposition.

There is a peculiar usage of the past tense to which If, or Though, is often prefixed that, in the hands of some grammarians, might be raised to the dignity of a mood. This usage is generally applied to Conditional sentences, and, in so far is similar to the Conditional tenses of the French; but it includes other applications which those tenses are not accustomed to designate. The English past tense is imperfect and merely marks continued state or action, without any other regard to time than that it should be previous to any other time of which we may speak. "I had" affirms that I was in possession of the thing spoken of at a certain time now past. "If I had" is a conditional, and leaves us to guess what did or would happen in consequence of that supposition's being granted, or allowed. "If I had struck him, I could not have been blamed, considering the provocation," is a conditional phrase in the past tense. "If I had "If I had money would pay my debts" is a present Conditional; but the times of the two verbs are successive, the wish to pay being subsequent to the having of the money. "If I had had the money I would

I

« ПредишнаНапред »