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as acres, gardens, policies, woods, services, respects, parts, spirits, offices, trappings, shutters, blinds, manners, clothes, words, accents, tones, cries, tidings, news, plans, stairs, drawers, lodgings, statistics, annals, memoirs, papers, build. ings, arrears, dues, proceeds, customs, taxes, stocks, estates, summers, days, snows, dews, winds, rains, waters, sands, forces army and navy), hostilities, dangers, eatables, drinkables, viands, greens, nerves, veins, slumbers, goods, effects, sweepings, ruins, remains, environs, festivities, nuptials, orgies, obsequies. All these words are employed on occasions when we could not resolve the plurality into a series of distinct and separate individualities.

Corporate bodies are often named by the plural for the -individual members: the fishmongers, goldsmiths, stationers. So-peers, commoners, working-men, ministers, judges.

A large class of improper or exceptional plurals is made up of names of things that are pairs : scissors, snuffers, tongs, pincers, compasses, bellows, scales, spectacles, reins, nippers, pliers, trousers, leggings, braces, breeches, moustaches, whiskers.

It is well to use the word 'pair' along with these plural names, and thus give them their true singular character and construction : a pair of scissors, a pair of compasses, a pair of spectacles.

In the names of materials, there is an abuse of the plural number, arising from the circumstance that certain kinds of material, as sand, coal, peat, embers, cinders, filings, oats, cheese, bread (loaves), bricks, rags, ashes--are made up of detached pieces or parts heaped together. The separation is in most instances a pure accident and does not affect our mode of estimating the material, which is by bulk or weight. Still, we are accustomed to the plurals-sands, coals, peats, potatoes, apples, strawberries, eggs; and if they are the subject of a sentence, we have to make the verb in the plural: the sands are run; strawberries are dear; eggs are scarce.

As in the summer time the thirsty sands
Drink the swift waters of the Manzanares.'


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No more the cabin smokes rose wreathed and blue.'

(Bryant.) Come when the rains have glazed the snow.' Now, although apples, strawberries, and eggs are produced in separate individual masses, and have even form, symmetry, and character, yet we are not concerned with them otherwise than as making up a certain mass of nutritive material; it would be all one, if they were coherent masses like clay in a brick field.

It is an elegance to keep these plurals from being prominent. They are still farther removed from the typical use of the plural number,—the condensation of separate statements, each of independent value and standing. We seldom want to express any attribute of a single grain of sand, a single piece of coal, a single brick, a single strawberry; when these exceptional occasions arise, we do well to give them all the honours of plural construction. Notwithstanding that coal is broken into lumps for use, correct speakers (as formerly remarked) prefer the singular form, in speaking of it; 'coal has risen in price', 'put some coal on the fire'. So also firewood has to be broken up into chips, and therefore appears as detached individual bodies. In England, the custom is still to use the singular name *wood', with adjectives of quantity in bulk, ‘some wood”; the Scotch are fond of obtruding the plurality-sticks.

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Case in cur language is substantially confined to the Possessive inflection of Nouns and Pronouns.

The fact that the possessive form is used chiefly for persons and personifications, and that, even for these, it is only one of several forms capable of giving expression to the meaning, still farther limits its value.


Very few grammarians have adverted to this limitation. The following extract from a letter of Coleridge (quoted by Mr. Earle) shows how strongly he felt it. 'I have read two pages of Lalla Rookh, or whatever it is called.


The Possessive case is really another part of Speech. It does not represent the Noun in its strict use, as the subject or object of a sentence; it is purely a qualifying word, and makes the nearest approach to the Adjective,* although we may also view it as having passed through the stage of the Adverb. The Dative and the Ablative cases in Latin are of the nature of adverbs, except when, from some special reason, the verb governs them.

It is important to trace the gradations of meaning of the possessive. If we suppose it to start from its most familiar and best understood meaning-personal property or belongings—it stretches away considerably out of this limit. Let us view the successive aspects of possession.

1. Possession in the strictest sense applies to a man's property, belongings, or effects, the things external to him that he can call his-money, land, houses, goods, chattels, clothes, furniture; every kind of property in things, having a marketable value. John's house', 'the farmer's crops', ‘his watch', 'her canary', 'their ships', are all property in the strictest sense of the word, and are accurately expressed by the possessive case.

2. In the relations of family life, each is allowed to claim all the others as possessions : ‘Peter's wife', ‘Mary's husband', 'our father', 'my brother', 'her uncle', 'their cousins '.

Also in the relations of master and servant, there is mutual possession so far as concerns the use of the possessive case

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Merciful Heaven! I dare no more, that I may be able to answer at once to any questions, “I have but looked at the work." Oh, Rubinson ! if I could, or if I dared, act and feel as Moore and his set do, what havoc could I not make amongst their crockery-ware! Why, there are not three lines together without some adulteration of common English, and the ever-recurring blunder of using the possessive case, compassion's tears,” &c. for the preposition “of”.a blunder of which I have found no instances earlier than Dryden's slovenly verses written for the trade. The rule is, that the case's is always personal ; either it marks a person, or a personification, or the relique of some proverbial personification, as “Who for their belly's sake,” in Lycidas.'--Crabb Robinson's Diary, 1817.

* The possessive is called an Adjective by Wallis. His reasons are curious : they are given in Sir John Stoddart's work already quoted.

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and possessive adjectives: the Queen's ladies of the bedchamber', 'John's master', 'my clerks', 'our foreman'.

In all other social relationships-civil ruler, head of a society, teacher, fellow-citizen, member of parliament, provost, mayor, clergyman, sheriff, party, church-each expresses a certain possession in the others by the possessive

We can say—'our policeman.', 'our parochial board', our minister',

The people we trade with, or employ professionally, areour baker, butcher, grocer, doctor, lawyer; and these in their turn saymy customers, patients, clients.

3. We claim as ours, and state by means of the possessive words, our own body, in all its parts: his head, foot, chest, nerves, blood, stomach, mouth, arm, hair, bones.

Also the merits and demerits, healthy and diseased functions of the different organs: John's activity, vigour, digestion, gout, illness, infirmities, blindness, lameness, deafness, laziness.

From the body, we pass to the mind, and regard it as individual property, both collectively and in its several functions: Newton's genius, intellect, mathematical power; Milton's sense of melody, his sublimity, zeal, fortitude; Cæsar's magnanimity, military skill, bravery, statesmanship, judgment, tact; Columbus's daring, perseverance, foresight, resolution; Solomon's wisdom.

We may, in the same way, claim our acquisitions, knowledge, or learning, and designate them by the possessive; Bentley's scholarship, Macaulay's reading.

4. Hitherto we have supposed what may be allowed, without violence of language, to be our possessions, or belongings, something personal to ourselves. When we pass, however, from bodily and mental parts and acquirements to reputation or estimate in the view of other people, we are no longer proprietors, but tenants at will; we may still speak of this as ours, but not with the same rigour as when we designate our property, relationships, and personal endowments. We are passive in the hands of others; and the best way of stating the fact is an active verb: instead of

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• Aristotle's fame', we should say, in full, ' Aristotle has been famous, or renowned'. The possessive form is one of those curt and elliptical expressions that we find useful; but it is not the most adequate or suitable mode of expressing the fact. What is meant is a series of actions on the part of other men; and the natural and full representation consists in putting these parties forward as agents or subjects of an active verb, of which Aristotle is object; or else making him the subject of a passive verb, completed by the proper agency. All civilised nations have admired Aristotle'; ' he has been admired by all his successors in philosophy’.

5. There is only one step further to the extreme point of deviation from personal belongings; indeed the case just quoted already makes the step. It is to use the possessive for events or incidents that we merely take part in: as birth, life, death, burial, succession, elevation, capture.' A man's hat or dog may be called his property ; but to give him 'birth' and 'death' as property, is to stretch the meaning of possession very far indeed. In such cases, there is an employment of the verbal noun for the verb, to contract the expression : 'on his death' is for ' when he died';

George's succession' is the verbal abstract for ‘he succeeded'; his attempt failed', 'he attempted, and failed’; ‘his coming was unexpected', we did not expect him to come'; 'after his capture ', ' after he was taken’.

When there is no purpose to be served, the verb form should, in such cases, be adhered to, as the regular and appropriate construction. An event is always best expressed by a verb; in complicated statements, we attain shortness by the verbal noun, but when nothing is gained, we should adhere to the primary form. • A committee was appointed to consider the code with a view to its amendment (amending it)'.

'Though great and splendid actions must from (their nature) 'the nature of them' be reserved for eminent occasions; yet a system is defective that leaves no room (for their production) 'to produce them'. They are important both from (their) immediate advantage, and from (their) re

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