Saturday, August 22, 2009

Definite Article '"THE"

Dear Readers,

As you know, the definite article "the" is the most frequently used word in the English language Therefore, every learner ought to know how to use the definite article . Remember, this short word has tremendous significance from the point of view of discourse !

'The" coming before a noun indicates an anaphoric reference . In other words , after introducing an object with an indefinite article a/an ,we can refer to the same object later in the discourse in an economical way by simply putting "the" before the object .

Look at this passage

"I bought a necklace at Cochin . I brought it home and showed it to my cousin. She took a fancy to the necklace and wanted to buy a necklace like the one I had bought . I told her that she didn"t need to buy one .I had bought the necklace as a wedding gift to her ! "

The use of "the" has an anaphoric reference and it saves us the labor of repeating "which I had bought at Cochin" as a post-modifier after the noun "necklace"

Sometimes "the" before a noun shows that it is the only one of its kind known to or understood by the speaker/listener.. An important thing to bear in mind in this connection is that language is a system based on context and shared conventions between the speaker and the listener.

Look at this sentence

"The Queen is not receiving visitors today "

Both the speaker and the listener know the identity of the queen,. Other examples

*The key is missing .

*The telephone is ringing .

*Where is the thermometer?

The use of "the" based on conventions (not on hard-and-fast rules)

"The" is conventionally used before the names of

rivers(the Nile)

mountain ranges (the Himalayas)

oceans ( the Atlantic )

deserts (the Sahara )and

seas (the Arabian sea )

It is used before the official names of countries (theUnited States of America ) It is omitted before proper nouns, that is , the names of particular persons and places But it can be used when proper nouns are used as common nouns ! examples

Martin Luther King is the Gandhi of America .

Alleppey is the Venice of the East .

Enough for definite article ! I will continue the discussion ti my next entry

Thank You!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bare Infinitives

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed that one of the most commonly used structures in English is

Subject + transitive verb + direct object +to-infinitive


She asked me to help her

But there are a few verbs in English which demand the structure

subject + transitive verb + direct verb + bare infinitive

Bare infinitives are infinitive forms , but without the usual to particle preceding them .

Why do some verbs behave in this aberrant way?No satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming yet . These verbs are

let, bid, make (causative use ) help(chiefly in U.S English)


* I let her go early .

*The King bade the soldiers release the prisoner .

* He made her sign the agreement .

*I helped her organize the birthday party..

Bare Infinitives are used after modal auxiliaries like will, shall, can, may, must, could, might , would , should etc Examples

*He will come if you invite him.

*i shall go to Cochin tomorrow .

*She can help you .

*The train may arrive late .

*We must be kind to beggars .

*I could swim when I was young .

*It might rain at any time this season.

*She would play tennis when she was at school.

* We should respect our teachers .

DUMMY AUXILIARIES like do, does and did are followed by bare infinitives . These auxiliaries carry inflection and tense , thus enabling the verbs to remain in their base forms .. Examples

* Does she play tennis ?(both inflection and tense carried by does )

*Do they speak English ?(do carries the tense of the verb )

*Did the plane take off on time ?((did carries the tense of the verb )

Enough for bare infinitives! I will continue the discussion in my next entry .

Thank you

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Split Infinitives or Misplaced Adverbs?

Dear Readers

As I explained in my previous posts infinitives are a form of non-finite verbs and they are often preceded by the particle to . Examples: to come ,to go ,to sleep etc

The concept of infinitives is borrowed from Latin where it is a kind of verbal nouns., sharing the characteristics of a noun and verbs .

When we use a to-infinitive as the subject and object of a verb , we treat it as a verbal noun When the characteristics of a verb are dominant , infinitives can be modified by adverbs like any verb . Examples

To work is to worship

Both to work and to worship have the meaning of nouns .To work is the subject of the verb is and to worship is its complement.

He wanted to leave immediately.

Here, to leave has the characteristics of a verb and , therefore, it has been modified by the adverb immediately .

What is a split infinitive ?

A split infinitive occurs when to-infinitive is more like a verb than a noun and an adverb comes in between to and the verb example : to successfully solve the problem

Is split infinitive a mistake?

In the early Middle English period -en was the infinitive marker. Later to was used before the verb as an additional infinitive marker. eg . to seeken In course of time -en was dropped because to served the purpose any way Originally ,to had a directional sense But it continued to be used even after the directional sense was dropped

Thus English came to have a two-word infinitive Unfortunately, traditional grammarians conceptualized it as a solid , indivisible entity by analogy with Latin -in which infinitive consists of a single word .So they considered insertion of adverbs between to and the verb as 'SPLITTING '" the infinitive ! .If they had called the practice misplacing of adverbs it would have made better sense

Adverbs generally follow verbs in English as in Latin .In course of time adverbs came to be used before verbs . These adverbs had a different meaning when used before verbs.This is the way English grew into a rich and versatile language .

Please note the adverbs that "split" infinitives are often short ones and they carry emphasis . I think that the so-called split infinitive is a big step in the growth of English and it is not to be denounced as a solecism .

I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you