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Some grammatical doubts in regard to English construction,

the neuter pronoun be expressed or understood ; and when no nominative in the sentence can regularly be construed with the verb, it ought j4 to be considered as impersonal. For this reason, analogy as well as usage favour this mode of expression. “The condi“tions of the agreement were as follows ;” and not as follow. A few late writers have inconsiderately

adopted this last form, through a mistake of the con

struction. For the same reason we ought to say, “I “shall consider his censures so far only as concerns “my friend's conduct;” and not “so far as concern.' It is manifest that the word conditions in the first case, and censures in the second, cannot serve as nominatives. If we give either sentence another turn, and instead of ar, say such ar, the verb is no longer impersonal. The pronoun such is the nominative, whose number is determined by its antecedent. Thus

we must say, “They were such as follow,” “ such “of his censures only as concern my friend.” In this

I entirely concur with a late anonymous remarker on

the language. . .

I SHALL only add on this subject, that the use of impersonal verbs was much more frequent with us formerly than it is now. Thus it pleaseth me, it grieveth me, it repenteth me, were a sort of impersonals, for which we should now say, I please, I grieve, I repent. Methinks and methought at present, as meicemeth and meseemed anciently, are, as Johnson just

stated and examined.

ly supposes, remains of the same practice “. It would not be easy to conjecture what hath misled some writers so far as to make them adopt the uncouth term methoughts, in contempt alike of usage and of analogy, and even without any colourable pretext

that I can think of, for thought is no part of the verb at all.

I SHAt, now consider another suspected idiom in English, which is the indefinite use sometimes made of the pronoun it, when applied in the several ways following: first, to persons as well as to things; secondly, to the first person and the second, as well as to the third; and thirdly, to a plural as well as to a singular. Concerning the second application and the third, Dr Johnson says in his Dictionary, “This mode “ of speech, though used by good authors, and Sup“ ported by the il y a of the French, has yet an ap“ pearance of barbarism.” Dr Lowth doubts only of the third application. “ The phrase,” says he, “which “occurs in the following examples, though pretty “common, and authorised by custom, yet seems to “ be somewhat defective in the same way.” He had been specifying inaccuracies arising from disagreement in number. The examples alluded to are,

* The similar use of impersonal verbs, and the is me remble of the French, render this hypothesis still more probable.

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"Tir they that give the great Attides' spoils;
'Tis they that still renew Ulysses' toils +.

Who was’t came by ?
'Tis two or three, my Lord, that bring you word,
Macduff is fled to England f.

AGAINST the first application, to persons as well as to things, neither of these critics seems to have any objection; and it must be owned, that they express themselves rather sceptically than dogmatically, about the other two. Yet, in my judgment, if one be censurable, they all are censurable, and if one be proper, they all are proper. The distinction of genders, especially with us, is as essential as the distinction of persons, or that of numbers. I say, especially with us, because, though the circumstances be few wherein the gender can be marked, yet, in those few, our language, perhaps more than any other tongue, follows the dictates of pure Nature. The masculine pronoun he it applies always to males, or at least to persons (God and angels, for example) who in respect of dignity are conceived as males; the feminine the to females; and unless where the style is figurative, the neuter it to things either lot susceptible of sex, or in which the sex is unknown. Besides, if we have recourse to the Latin syntax, the genuine source of most of our grammatical scruples, we shall find there

* Pope. + Prior. I Shakespeare.

stated and examined.

an equal repugnancy to all the applications above rehearsed *.

BUT, to clear up the matter as much as possible, I shall recur to some remarks of the last mentioned critic, concerning the significations and the uses of the neuter it. “The pronoun it,” he tells us, “is some“ times employed to express; first, the subject of any “inquiry or discourse; secondly, the state or condi. “tion of any thing or person; thirdly, the thing, “whatever it be, that is the cause of any effect or “event, or any person considered merely as a cause, “without regard to proper personality.” In illustration of the third use, he quotes these words,

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ought to have added to the word personality in the third use, the words gender or number. The example which he hath given, shows that there is no more regard to gender, than to personality; and that there ought to be no more regard to number, than to either of the former, may be evinced from the considerations following.

* In Latin id fuit ille would be as gross a solecism, as id fuit ego, or id fuit vos.

+ Shakespeare.

Some grammatical doubts in regard to English construction,

WHEN a personal pronoun must be used indefinitely, as in asking a question whereof the subject is unknown, there is a necessity of using one person for all the persons, one gender for all the genders, and one number for both numbers. Now in English, custom hath consigned to this indefinite use, the third person, the neuter gender, and the singular number. Accordingly, in asking a question, nobody censures this use of the pronoun, as in the interrogation, Who if it? Yet by the answer it may be found to be 1 or be, one or many. But whatever be the answer, if the question be proper, it is proper to begin the answer by expressing the subject of inquiry in the same inde. finite manner wherein it was expressed in the question. The words it is are consequently pertinent here, whatever be the words which ought to follow, whether I or he, we or they “. Nay, this way of beginning the answer by the same indefinite expression of the subject that was used in the question, is the only method authorised in the language, for connecting these two together, and showing that what is asserted, is an answer to the question asked. And if there be nothing faulty in the expression, when it is an answer to a question actually proposed, there can be no fault in it, where no question is proposed. For every answer, that is not a bare assent or denial, ought, independently of the question, to contain a proposi

* In this observation I find I have the concurrence of Dr Priest.


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