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with a demure abasing of your eye sometimes'. (Bacon's Essays.)
May' and 'Can.'
These are now disused as regards making up portions of the regular verb; the potential mood not being any longer required. They are so far entitled to be called auxiliary verbs, that they are usually taken along with another verb, which states the principal action : ‘I may go', 'I can see'.
The distinction of the two verbs is plain; yet they are liable to be confounded, especially by Scotchmen. A newspaper, in noticing a book, used this expression : ‘We cannot print the whole, but must give extracts merely’. Now there was no physical impossibility in the case; a newspaper could print a book entire, as easily as it could print its ordinary
The difficulty was moral, it lay in the want of permission; the author's consent was necessary in the first instance; instead of cannot', the writer should have said may not’, or used an equivalent phrase, we are not at liberty', or 'not permitted'.
In the expression of the angel to Lot—'I cannot do anything till thou be come hither', 'cannot ’ is used for moral inability.
From want of permission results, in a figurative sense, physical inability: my hands are tied—I cannot do anything. The following show the third usages :
'He may not, as unvalued persons do,
Carve for himself'. He is not at liberty to do so.
But of this tree we may not taste or touch;
God so commanded'. "Who can advise, may speak'. (Milton.) Whoever has ability (mental capacity) to advise, is at liberty (is permitted) to speak.
To express probability or possibility, 'may’is employed : we may come', 'it may be so’; but there is not much delicacy or nicety in the expression. Better use the adverbs or
adverbial phrases made from the words 'probable', 'possible', likely': we shall probably, or possibly, come'.
What may the king's whole battle reach unto ?' The speaker asks a probable estimate; he does not expect that the person questioned can give the exact number, and he shows by the question that he looks for nothing beyond the approximate number.
This word means compulsion, or unavoidable inference. It is interesting as an illustration of a verb devoid of inflections; and shows us what we should have to do, if all our verbs were uninflected. As regards number and person, we should feel quite indifferent. The only thing to provide for would be Time. Now with 'must' we see what is required. For future time, we simply append an adverb or phrase of futurity: 'we must go soon, to-night, next week'. For past time, the same course might have been open to us; adverbs of past time accompanying the verb could have given it a pást action : ‘he must formerly go', 'he must then go'. Usage, however, not satisfied with this device, has coupled it with a perfect infinitive of the principal verb: we must formerly, at that time, have gone'.
THE SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD.
The Subjunctive Mood, as a distinct inflection, is dying out in the language; yet, so long as it is retained, it may be useful in indicating differences of meaning.
The chief occasion for it is to express a condition; 'if I be there, I will speak'. The conditional meaning is imparted by the conjunction; but even with the conjunction, we make a difference between 'If I am' and 'If I be', 'If I was' and 'If I were'.
With 'if' there is always an insinuation of doubt; the entire absence of doubt would be better given in another way; for 'if he is to be there', with the implication that
THE SUBJUNCTIVE IS FOR CONTINGENT FUTURITY.
he is actually to be there, could be put—'as, since, seeing that, inasmuch as, he is to be there'. A way of expressing the pure conditionality or dependence of one fact upon another, without saying whether the condition is or is not likely to be realised, is 'Supposing, on the supposition that, assuming, on the assumption that'. This is often all that 'if' means, especially in the language of science and of art: 'If a pendulum be drawn to one side, it will swing to the other’; •If you sow, you will reap'. This is the most familiar way of stating the dependence of one assertion upon a second. Another way is seen in the text~ Is any afflicted ? Let him pray'. Or again—'Scratch a Russian, and you will see the Tartar'. These two modes have a certain figurative bold
Farther, the circumstances being altered, that alters the case'; a not unfrequent form of conditionality.
It is the fact that the subjunctive forms, 'be', were', are used when there is doubt as to the fulfilling of the condition, but they are as often used in cases of bare dependence; especially 'be', which is employed in scientific statements. There is nothing to justify these usages. The case most suited to the subjunctive is contingent futurity, or the expression of an event unknown absolutely, as being still in the future: 'If to-morrow be fine, I will walk with you'.
• Unless I were prepared ', insinuates pretty strongly that I am or am not prepared, according to the manner of the principal clause.
• What's a tall man unless he fight?'
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he ?' 'I am to second Ion if he fail'; the failing is left quite doubtful. 'I should very imperfectly execute the task which I have undertaken, if I were merely to treat of battles and sieges’. Macaulay thus implies that the scope of his work is to be wider than mere battles and sieges.
The subjunctive appears in some other constructions. 'I hope to see the Exhibition before it close'; 'wait till he return’; thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come'; take heed lest passion sway thy judgment'; 'speak to me, though it be in wrath'; if he smite him with an instrument of iron so that he die, he is a murderer'; 'it was indifferent to him whether the name of Edward, or that of Henry, were employed in the articles of the treaty'. (Hume.) 'Beware this night that thou cross not my footsteps ':(Shelley.)
Again. Whatever this be'; 'whoever he be'; 'Howe'er it be' (Tennyson); and such like.
* And as long, O God, as she
Not to be trampled out.' The Future Subjunctive is given in our scheme of the verb as 'should' in all persons: 'If I should, if thou should, if he should'. In old English, we have thou shouldst' : 'if thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities'
An inverted conditional form has taken deep root in our language, and may be regarded as an elegant and forcible variety. While dispensing with the conjunction, it does not cause ambiguity; nevertheless, conditionality is well marked.
'If you should abandon your Penelope and your home for Calypso,
For a dark hour or twain'.
Were the graced person of our Banquo present'.
. Come one, come all, this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I'. (Scott.) The following examples are given by Matzner :
*Varney's communications, be they what they might, were operating in his favour'. (Scott.)
Governing persons, were they never so insignificant intrinsically, have for most part plenty of Memoir-writers'. (Carlyle.)
• Even were I disposed, I could not gratify the reader'. (Warren.)
'Bring them back to me, cost what it may'. (Coleridge, Wallenstein.)
' And will you, nill you, I will marry you'. (Taming of Shrew.)
Were is used in the principal clause for should be or would be '. * 'I were (= should be) a fool, not less than if a panther Were panic-stricken by the antelope's eye,
If she escape me'. (Shelley.) • Thou wert (= wouldst be) better gall the devil, Salisbury'.
*Were you but riding forth to air yourself,
Such parting were too petty'. ‘He were (= would be) no lion, were not Romans hinds'.
Should he be roused out of his sleep to-night,
It were not well; indeed it were not well’. (Shelley.) Had is sometimes used in the principal clause for ‘should have' or 'would have'. t
'I had (= should have) fainted, unless I had believed'. (Ps. xxvii.)
‘Had I known this before we set out, I think I had (= would have) remained at home'. (Scott.)
* So, in German, wäre for würde sein. Hätt' ich Schwingen, hätt' ich Flügel, nach den Hügeln zög'ich hin', for wurde ich ziehen'.
† So, in German, hätte occurs for würde haben. · Ware er da gewesen, so hätten wir ihn gesehen': for ‘so wurden wir ihn gesehen haben.' Hätten is still conditional, not indicative. In Latin, the pluperfect indicative is occasionally used ; which is explained as a more vivid form.