David Pierce // Matematik (Mathematics) // M.S.G.S.Ü.



Here is an analysis of the verb am-was-be, 9 pages, last edited in 2007.

The introduction of these notes is:

These notes are ultimately about the verb that in English is called (to) be. I came to write these notes because of a tendency that seems more prevalent in British than in American English. A supplement to the (British) Guardian Weekly in 2005 contained the following sentence:

[Angel's] boyfriend, Benson, insisted that she had the baby when she belatedly discovered she was pregnant at six months.

The word had here is to me quite startling; I would say that Benson insisted that Angel have the baby. As it is, the quotation suggests to me that, when Angel discovered she was pregnant, she already had a baby, and Benson was insisting that this was true. But this is not what was intended: Benson was insisting on a future act, not a present state.

In a word, I think the subjunctive form have should have been used, rather than the indicative form had. In a similar situation, a subjunctive form of be is used, for example, in an American novel of 1927:

Worse things were said of her, and petitions were afloat that she be locked up.

If the Guardian writers had written this, they might have said petitions were afloat that she was locked up.

Have and had seem to be different forms of the same word, whereas be and was appear to be completely different words. However, we understand be and was to be versions of the one verb (to) be. How did this come about?

What is the history of be, and how did it come to have so many forms?…

Son değişiklik: Thursday, 07 June 2012, 13:48:34 EEST