The Grammar of English Grammars/Part II - Wikisource, the free online library
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I m fairly certain Kay originally hails from St. The Performer The Achiever. We are apt to like pernicious company. An and a, being equivalent in meaning, are commonly reckoned one and the same article. An is used in preference to a, whenever the following word begins with a vowel sound; as, An art, an end, an heir, an inch, an ounce, an hour, an urn.
A is used in preference to an, whenever the following word begins with a consonant sound; as, A man, a house, a wonder, a one, a yew, a use, a ewer. Thus the consonant sounds of w and y, even when expressed by other letters, require a and not an before them. A common noun, when taken in its widest sense, usually admits no article: In English, nouns without any article, or other definitive, are often used in a sense indefinitely partitive: That is, "some bread. That is, "some food.
That is, "some fishes. An or a before the genus, may refer to a whole species; and the before the species, may denote that whole species emphatically: But an or a is commonly used to denote individuals as unknown, or as not specially distinguished from others: And the is commonly used to denote individuals as known, or as specially distinguished from others: The article the is applied to nouns of cither number: The article an or a implies unity, or one, and of course belongs to nouns of the singular number only; as, A man,--An old man,--A good boy.
An or a, like one, sometimes gives a collective meaning to an adjective of number, when the noun following is plural; as, A few days,--A hundred men,--One hundred pounds sterling. Articles should be inserted as often as the sense requires them; as, "Repeat the preterit and [the] perfect participle of the verb to abide.
Needless articles should be omitted; they seldom fail to pervert the sense: The articles can seldom be put one for the other, without gross impropriety; and of course either is to be preferred to the other, as it better suits the sense: Say, "A violation of this rule never fails to displease the reader.
The articles are distinguished as the definite and the indefinite. The definite article is the, which denotes some particular thing or things; as, The boy, the oranges. The indefinite article is an or a, which denotes one thing of a kind, but not any particular one; as, A boy, an orange. And, by reason of the various and very frequent occasions on which these definitives are required, no words are oftener misapplied; none, oftener omitted or inserted erroneously.
I shall therefore copiously illustrate both their uses and their abuses; with the hope that every reader of this volume will think it worth his while to gain that knowledge which is requisite to the true use of these small but important words.
Some parts of the explanation, however, must be deferred till we come to Syntax. Greene, and other writers, to degrade the article from its ancient rank among the parts of speech, no judicious reader, duly acquainted with the subject, can, I think, be well pleased.
An article is not properly an "adjective," as they would have it to be; but it is a word of a peculiar sort--a customary index to the sense of nouns.
It serves not merely to show the extent of signification, in which nouns are to be taken, but is often the principal, and sometimes the only mark, by which a word is known to have the sense and construction of a noun.
There is just as much reason to deny and degrade the Greek or French article, or that of any other language, as the English; and, if those who are so zealous to reform our the, an, and a into adjectives, cared at all to appear consistent in the view of Comparative or General Grammar, they would either set about a wider reformation or back out soon from the pettiness of this.
On some occasions, these adjectives may well be substituted for the articles; but not generally. If the articles were generally equivalent to adjectives, or even if they were generally like them, they would be adjectives; but, that adjectives may occasionally supply their places, is no argument at all for confounding the two parts of speech.
Distinctions must be made, where differences exist; and, that a, an, and the, do differ considerably from the other words which they most resemble, is shown even by some who judge "the distinctive name of article to be useless. The articles therefore must be distinguished, not only from adjectives, but from each other. For, though both are articles, each is an index sui generis; the one definite, the other indefinite.
And as the words that and one cannot often be interchanged without a difference of meaning, so the definite article and the indefinite are seldom, if ever, interchangeable. To put one for the other, is therefore, in general, to put one meaning for an other: This difference between the two articles may be further illustrated by the following example: Proper nouns in their ordinary application, are, for the most part, names of particular individuals; and as there is no plurality to a particular idea, or to an individual person or thing as distinguished from all others, so there is in general none to this class of nouns; and no room for further restriction by articles.
But we sometimes divert such nouns from their usual signification, and consequently employ them with articles or in the plural form; as, "I endeavoured to retain it nakedly in my mind, without regarding whether I had it from an Aristotle or a Zoilus, a Newton or a Descartes.
Hence its effect upon a particular name, or proper noun, is directly the reverse of that which it has upon a common noun. It varies and fixes the meaning of both; but while it restricts that of the latter, it enlarges that of the former. It reduces the general idea of the common noun to any one individual of the class: This article is demonstrative.
It marks either the particular individual, or the particular species,--or, if the noun be plural, some particular individuals of the species,--as being distinguished from all others. It sometimes refers to a thing as having been previously mentioned; sometimes presumes upon the hearer's familiarity with the thing; and sometimes indicates a limitation which is made by subsequent words connected with the noun.
Such is the import of this article, that with it the singular number of the noun is often more comprehensive, and at the same time more specific, than the plural.
Thus, if I say, "The horse is a noble animal," without otherwise intimating that I speak of some particular horse, the sentence will be understood to embrace collectively that species of animal; and I shall be thought to mean, "Horses are noble animals. Such limitations should be made, whenever there is occasion for them; but needless restrictions displease the imagination, and ought to be avoided; because the mind naturally delights in terms as comprehensive as they may be, if also specific.
Lindley Murray, though not uniform in his practice respecting this, seems to have thought it necessary to use the plural in many sentences in which I should decidedly prefer the singular; as, "That the learners may have no doubts. Of plural names like these, and especially of such as designate tribes and sects, there is a very great number. Like other proper names, they must be distinguished from the ordinary words of the language, and accordingly they are always written with capitals; but they partake so largely of the nature of common nouns, that it seems doubtful to which class they most properly belong.
Hence they not only admit, but require the article; while most other proper names are so definite in themselves, that the article, if put before them, would be needless, and therefore improper.
But if the word river be added, the article becomes needless; as, Delaware river, Hudson river, Connecticut river. Yet there seems to be no impropriety in using both; as, The Delaware river, the Hudson river, the Connecticut river. And if the common noun be placed before the proper name, the article is again necessary; as, The river Delaware, the river Hudson, the river Connecticut.
In the first form of expression, however, the article has not usually been resolved by grammarians as relating to the proper name; but these examples, and others of a similar character, have been supposed elliptical: But in the second form, the apposition is reversed; and, in the third, the proper name appears to be taken adjectively. Without the article, some names of rivers could not be understood; as, "No more the Varus and the Atax feel The lordly burden of the Latian keel.
So, sometimes, when the phrase relates to a collective body of men: A similar application of the article in the following sentences, makes a most beautiful and expressive form of compliment: In this last example, the noun man is understood after "generous," and again after "rich;" for, the article being an index to the noun, I conceive it to be improper ever to construe two articles as having reference to one unrepeated word.
Priestley says, "We sometimes repeat the article, when the epithet precedes the substantive; as He was met by the worshipful the magistrates. It is true, we occasionally meet with such fulsome phraseology as this; but the question is, how is it to be explained? I imagine that the word personages, or something equivalent, must be understood after worshipful, and that the Doctor ought to have inserted a comma there.
See, in the original, these texts: So of other nouns. But the definite article of that language, which is exactly equivalent to our the, is a declinable word, making no small figure in grammar.
Date - Definition for English-Language Learners from Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary
It is varied by numbers, genders, and cases; so that it assumes more than twenty different forms, and becomes susceptible of six and thirty different ways of agreement. But this article in English is perfectly simple, being entirely destitute of grammatical modifications, and consequently incapable of any form of grammatical agreement or disagreement--a circumstance of which many of our grammarians seem to be ignorant; since they prescribe a rule, wherein they say, it "agrees," "may agree," or "must agree," with its noun.
Nor has the indefinite article any variation of form, except the change from an to a, which has been made for the sake of brevity or euphony. An eagle is one eagle, and the plural word eagles denotes more than one; but what could possibly be meant by "ans eagles," if such a phrase were invented? What a sample of grammar is this! The force of what? Of a plural an or a,! The error of the first of these sentences, Dr. Blair has copied entire into his eighth lecture.
For the purpose of preventing any erroneous construction of the articles, these rules are utterly useless; and for the purpose of syntactical parsing, or the grammatical resolution of this part of speech, they are awkward and inconvenient.
The syntax of the articles may be much better expressed in this manner: Murray, contrary to Johnson and Webster, considers a to be the original word, and an the euphonic derivative. But if the h be sounded, the a only is to be used.
To this he adds, in a marginal note, "A instead of an is now used before words beginning with u long. It is used before one. An must be used before words WHERE the h is not silent, if the accent is on the second syllable; as, an heroic action, an historical account.
This explanation, clumsy as it is, in the whole conception; broken, prolix, deficient, and inaccurate as it is, both in style and doctrine; has been copied and copied from grammar to grammar, as if no one could possibly better it. Besides several other faults, it contains a palpable misuse of the article itself: Before h in an unaccented syllable, either form of the article may be used without offence to the ear; and either may be made to appear preferable to the other, by merely aspirating the letter in a greater or less degree.
But as the h, though ever so feebly aspirated has something of a consonant sound, I incline to think the article in this case ought to conform to the general principle: Within two lines of this quotation, the biographer speaks of "an heroic multitude! An should be used before words beginning with any of these letters, or with a silent h.
If these rules were believed and followed, they would greatly multiply errors. This, if it be worth the search, must be settled by consulting some genuine writings of the twelfth century. In the pure Saxon of an earlier date, the words seldom occur; and in that ancient dialect an, I believe, is used only as a declinable numerical adjective, and a only as a preposition.
In the thirteenth century, both forms were in common use, in the sense now given them, as may be seen in the writings of Robert of Gloucester; though some writers of a much later date--or, at any rate, one, the celebrated Gawin Douglas, a Scottish bishop, who died of the plague in London, in constantly wrote ane for both an and a: Gower and Chaucer used an and a as we now use them. M'Culloch, in an English grammar published lately in Edinburgh, says, "A and an were originally ae and ane, and were probably used at first simply to convey the idea of unity; as, ae man, ane ox.
For this idea, and indeed for a great part of his book, he is indebted to Dr. Crombie; who says, "To signify unity, or one of a class, our forefathers employed ae or ane; as, ae man, ane ox. These authors, like Webster, will have a and an to be adjectives. Johnson says, "A, an article set before nouns of the singular number; as, a man, a tree. This article has no plural signification. Before a word beginning with a vowel, it is written an; as, an ox, an egg; of which a is the contraction.
Webster says, "A is also an abbreviation of the Saxon an or ane, one, used before words beginning with an articulation; as, a table, instead of an table, or one table. This is a modern change; for, in Saxon, an was used before articulations as well as vowels; as, an tid, a time, an gear, a year. A modern change, indeed! By his own showing in other works, it was made long before the English language existed!
He says, "An, therefore, is the original English adjective or ordinal number one; and was never written a until after the Conquest. This author has long been idly contending, that an or a is not an article, but an adjective; and that it is not properly distinguished by the term "indefinite. If a and one were equal, we could not say, "Such a one,"--"What a one,"--"Many a one,"--"This one thing;" and surely these are all good English, though a and one here admit no interchange.
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Nay, a is sometimes found before one when the latter is used adjectively; as, "There is no record in Holy Writ of the institution of a one all-controlling monarchy. Alger, the improver of Murray's Grammar, and editor of the Pronouncing Bible, taking this an to be the indefinite article, and perceiving that the h is sounded in hungered, changed the particle to a in all these passages; as, "And his disciples were a hungered.
The Greek text, rendered word for word, is simply this: An, as I apprehend, is here a mere prefix, which has somehow been mistaken in form, and erroneously disjoined from the following word.
If so, the correction ought to be made after the fashion of the following passage from Bishop M'Ilvaine: He that died a Wednesday. That is, on Wednesday. So sometimes before plurals; as, "He carves a Sundays. That is, on Sundays. That is, on nights--like the following example: That is, in pieces, or to pieces. Compounds of this kind, in most instances, follow verbs, and are consequently reckoned adverbs; as, To go astray,--To turn aside,--To soar aloft,--To fall asleep.
But sometimes the antecedent term is a noun or a pronoun, and then they are as clearly adjectives; as, "Imagination is like to work better upon sleeping men, than men awake. For example, "You have set the cask a leaking," and, "You have set the cask to leaking," are exactly equivalent, both in meaning and construction. Building is not here a noun, but a participle; and in is here better than a, only because the phrase, a building, might be taken for an article and a noun, meaning an edifice.
In the last six sentences, a seems more suitable than any other preposition would be: Alexander Murray says, "To be a-seeking, is the relic of the Saxon to be on or an seeking. What are you a-seeking? It means more fully the going on with the process. I dissent also from Dr. Murray, concerning the use of the preposition or prefix a, in examples like that which he has here chosen.
After a neuter verb, this particle is unnecessary to the sense, and, I think, injurious to the construction. Except in poetry, which is measured by syllables, it may be omitted without any substitute; as, "I am a walking. Say--"be wandering elsewhere;" and omit the a, in all such cases.
Thus we say, The landlord hath a hundred a year; the ship's crew gained a thousand pounds a man. Whether a in this construction is the article or the preposition, seems to be questionable.
It is to be observed that an, as well as a, is used in this manner; as, "The price is one dollar an ounce. Modern merchants, in stead of accenting the a, commonly turn the end of it back; as. That the article relates not to the plural noun, but to the numerical word only, is very evident; but whether, in these instances, the words few, many, dozen, hundred, and thousand, are to be called nouns or adjectives, is matter of dispute.
Lowth, Murray, and many others, call them adjectives, and suppose a peculiarity of construction in the article;--like that of the singular adjectives every and one in the phrases, "Every ten days,"--"One seven times more.
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Churchill and others call them nouns, and suppose the plurals which follow, to be always in the objective case governed by of, understood: Neither solution is free from difficulty.
Now, if many is here a singular nominative, and the only subject of the verb, what shall we do with are? Taken in either of these ways, the construction is anomalous. One can hardly think the word "adjectives" to be here in the objective case, because the supposed ellipsis of the word of cannot be proved; and if many is a noun, the two words are perhaps in apposition, in the nominative.
If I say, "A thousand men are on their way," the men are the thousand, and the thousand is nothing but the men; so that I see not why the relation of the terms may not be that of apposition. But if authorities are to decide the question, doubtless we must yield it to those who suppose the whole numeral phrase to be taken adjectively; as, "Most young Christians have, in the course of half a dozen years, time to read a great many pages.
Dozen, or hundred, or thousand, when taken abstractly, is unquestionably a noun; for we often speak of dozens, hundreds, and thousands. Few and many never assume the plural form, because they have naturally a plural signification; and a few or a great many is not a collection so definite that we can well conceive of fews and manies; but both are sometimes construed substantively, though in modern English it seems to be mostly by ellipsis of the noun.
Johnson says, the word many is remarkable in Saxon for its frequent use. The following are some of the examples in which he calls it a substantive, or noun: In saying, 'A few of his adherents remained with him;' we insinuate, that they constituted a number sufficiently important to be formed into an aggregate: A similar difference occurs between the phrases: The word little, in its most proper construction, is an adjective, signifying small; as, "He was little of stature.
And in sentences like the following, it is also reckoned an adjective, though the article seems to relate to it, rather than to the subsequent noun; or perhaps it may be taken as relating to them both: But by a common ellipsis, it is used as a noun, both with and without the article; as, "A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked.
It is also used adverbially, both alone and with the article a; as, "The poor sleep little. It is not vaguely therefore, but on fixed principles, that the article is omitted, or inserted, in such phrases as the following: Hence, while some have objected to the peculiar distinction bestowed upon these little words, firmly insisting on throwing them in among the common mass of adjectives; others have taught, that the definitive adjectives--I know not how many--such as, this, that, these, those, any, other, some, all, both, each, every, either, neither--"are much more properly articles than any thing else.
But, in spite of this opinion, it has somehow happened, that these definitive adjectives have very generally, and very absurdly, acquired the name of pronouns. Hence, we find Booth, who certainly excelled most other grammarians in learning and acuteness, marvelling that the articles "were ever separated from the class of pronouns.
Whereas the other definitives above mentioned are very often used to supply the place of their nouns; that is, to represent them understood. For, in general, it is only by ellipsis of the noun after it, and not as the representative of a noun going before, that any one of these words assumes the appearance of a pronoun. Hence, they are not pronouns, but adjectives. Nor are they "more properly articles than any thing else;" for, "if the essence of an article be to define and ascertain" the meaning of a noun, this very conception of the thing necessarily supposes the noun to be used with it.
Let the general term be man, the plural of which is men: A man--one unknown or indefinite; The man--one known or particular; The men--some particular ones; Any man--one indefinitely; A certain man--one definitely; This man--one near; That man--one distant; These men--several near; Those men--several distant; Such a man--one like some other; Such men--some like others; Many a man--a multitude taken singly; Many men--an indefinite multitude taken plurally; A thousand men--a definite multitude; Every man--all or each without exception; Each man--both or all taken separately; Some man--one, as opposed to none; Some men--an indefinite number or part; All men--the whole taken plurally; No men--none of the sex; No man--never one of the race.
The definitions to be given in the Second Praxis, are two for an article, and one for a noun, an adjective, a pronoun, a verb, a participle, an adverb, a conjunction, a preposition, or an interjection.
The is the definite article. The definite article is the, which denotes some particular thing or things. Task is a noun. A is the indefinite article. The indefinite article is an or a, which denotes one thing of a kind, but not any particular one.
Schoolmaster is a noun. Laboriously is an adverb. Prompting is a participle. Urging is a participle.
- The Grammar of English Grammars/Part II
An is the indefinite article. Indolent is an adjective. Class is a noun. Is is a verb.Iran's Revolutions: Crash Course World History 226
Worse is an adjective. Than is a conjunction. He is a pronoun. A pronoun is a word used in stead of a noun. Who is a pronoun.