Page images
PDF
EPUB

104. Let us take these examples :

This is the book I gave you.
This is the house I live in.
This is the way I came.

He left the day I arrived. In one stage of the English language, the word that would have been employed in these sentences :

This is the book that I gave you.
This is the house that I live in.
This is the way that I came.

He left the day that I arrived. Here that has the force of a relative pronoun. In more modern English, there is a tendency to substitute who, which, for that; and as a notion has prevailed that sentences should not end with a preposition, many writers say 'in which I live,' rather than which I live in. Accordingly these sentences might stand,

This is the book which I gave you.
This is the house in which I live.
This is the way by which I came.

He left the day on which I arrived. 105. According to our notions of grammatical construction, founded in a great measure upon the grammar of the Latin language, we cannot analyse sentences of this kind without supplying some word to stand in the place of a relative pronoun; as “This is the book that I gave you.'

This . . . . Subject-nominative.
is . . . . . Predicate-verb.
the .... Article, qualifying the predicate-

nominative, ‘book.'
book . . . . Predicate-nominative.
that I gave you Adjective-clause, qualifying the predi-

cate-nominative, "book.' If I might offer a conjecture, the sentence “This is the book I gave you,' represents the ancient British idiom, answering to the modern Welsh idiom; for I believe that the traces of the old British are much more numerous in our language than is generally surmised. The sentence · This is the book that I gave you,' corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon form ; and “This is the book which I gave you,' is the modern English, founded upon imitation of the Latin construction.

RULES AND CAUTIONS.

CHAPTER V.

NOUNS.

NOMINATIVE.
RELATIONS OF SUBJECT AND PREDICATE.

The Nominative and The Verb. 106. The Verb agrees with its Nominative case in number and person,' said the old rule.

But as there may be many verbs and many nominatives in a sentence, the rule was somewhat indefinite, and was learned rather by practical application, than from any precision in the terms employed.

The nominative to the verb' meant the subject-nominative; and the nominative after the verb' meant the predicatenominative.

By the Verb was understood the predicate-verb.

The form of analysis, which we propose for simple sentences, is

1. Time flies.
Time. . . . . . Subject-nominative.
flies . . . . . . Predicate-verb.

2. Mirth is good.
Mirth . . . . . Subject-nominative.
is. . . . . . . Predicate-verb.

good . . . . . . Predicate-nominative. 107. We shall first consider the relations of the subjectnominative and the predicate-nominative. Then we shall proceed to the relations of the subject-nominative and the predicate-verb.

Relations of the Subject-nominative and the Predicate

nominative. As the terms themselves imply, the subject-nominative and the predicate-nominative agree in case; but with regard to gender and number, the agreement depends upon several considerations.

If the predicate-nominative be an adjective, it agrees with the subject-nominative in gender and number, as well as in case. And though, in English, adjectives do not vary their ending to show this agreement, the difference must be expressed in translating from English into Latin or any other language, where such variations are necessary. For example,

The boy is good . . . . . Puer est bon-us.
The girl is good . . . . . Puella est bon-a.
The boys are good . . . . Pueri sunt bon-i.

The girls are good ...Puellæ sunt bon-e. 108. But if the predicate-nominative be a noun, there may be diversity of gender and number. If, indeed, a noun changes its form to denote difference of gender, we generally make the change; we say, for example,

John Kemble was an actor.

Mrs. Siddons was an actress. However, we do not always follow the rule exactly. For though, in strictness, we ought to say Sims Reeves is a singer' and Jenny Lind is a songstress; ' still, in ordinary conversation, we commonly call Jenny Lind a singer.' And yet, during the height of her popularity, when admiring critics rose into enthusiasm, she was sometimes styled this gifted songstress,' this divine songstress.'

109. Greater latitude is allowed, with regard to number. We say,

Dutiful children are great blessings,

[ocr errors]

Dutiful children are a great blessing.
The fine arts are sources of delight,

The fine arts are a source of delight. But when the number is not the same on both sides, a difficulty sometimes arises in the use of the verb, which might agree with either, but cannot possibly agree with both.

Very often the verb agrees with the nominative which comes first, as in the examples just given : and so here, ' This convention was really the two Houses of Parliament.

Kerr's Blackstone, i. 138. But not always; as, His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick

clouds of the skies.- Psalm xviii. 11. The wages of sin is death. — Rom. vi. 23. A similar question occurs, when the subject-nominative and the predicate-nominative differ in person, as we shall see more particularly in considering the use of pronouns. We commonly say, 'It is I,' but Chaucer says “It am I;' and instead of. It is the sheriff's men,' he has " It ben the sherrefes men.'

Relations of the Subject-nominative and the Predicate-verb.

110. Generally speaking, the form must be our guide; singular follows singular, and plural follows plural. Sometimes, however, the meaning overrides the form; and we have to enquire whether the idea of unity, or of plurality is intended.

When the subject-nominative is in the singular, the predicate-verb is in the singular; as, 'Time flies.'

No matter how many singular or plural nouns, dependent on prepositions, or under any other government, may intervene between the subject-nominative and the predicate-verb, they cannot affect this rule.

But even the best writers are liable to trip, in such instances; as

The right to recall the governor-general and to declare war are vested in the court of directors.

Kerr's Blackstone, i. 96. As when the excellence of the Church, of the House of

Lords and Commons, of the procedure of law courts, &c., are inferred from the mere fact that the country has prospered under them.

Mill, Logic, i. 422. Here the &c. must depend on the preposition of: and then we have the excellence . . . are.' If it be replied that sc. stands in the place of a second subject-nominative, what are we to understand by the excellence ... &c.?'

I recently observed the following passages in the reviews and magazines :

The discovery of gold, however, brought a greatly in

creased population to the adjacent colony of Victoria, and the superior richness of its gold-fields have since maintained it at the head of the group.

Edinburgh Review, April 1865. No. 248, p. 357. Our fancy to speak of books, and their writers, and

sellers, have led us aside from the area marked out by Mr. Thornbury for his own explorations, so we must return to bounds, within which we find Lincoln'sInn Fields.

Dublin University Magazine, July 1865. 111. These are mere slips of the pen, and without constant care anyone may fall into similar errors. But some persons are guided almost entirely by the ear. In the ship sails,' and the ships sail,' 'the boy walks,' and the boys walk,' there is an alternation of the letter s which catches the ear, and is the chief guide which many people follow. Hence, in examining a written sentence, they will ask how it reads, often meaning nothing more than how it sounds. And thus, if several dependent nouns, in the plural, occur between the subject-nominative and the predicate-verb, the notion of plurality takes possession of the mind, and the verb follows in the plural. But it is evident that this is a very unsafe method of judging; for we ought to be guided by the sense, and not by the sound alone. Here, therefore, we should always keep the subject-nominative distinctly in view.

112. If the subject-nominative has a plural form, but is still regarded as one thing, the predicate-verb is generally in the singular.; as "The “ Pleasures of Hope” was written by Campbell ;' because we mean to assert that the poem called · The Pleasures of Hope,' was written by Campbell. And yet, Dr. Johnson, speaking about his 'Lives of the Poets,' says, 'My “Lives" are reprinting,' where the Lives are regarded as plural. In these instances, the intention of the writer, and not the form, must be the guide.

113. Some nouns, which have a plural form, are often used as singular; for example, 'news,' pains,' means,' ósummons,' and the names of sciences, as, mathematics,'' ethics,' ." optics.

Older writers vary.considerably in the employment of these

« PreviousContinue »