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To find the subject or actor, ask who did the action? who strikes? Answer. He or John strikes. To find the object, place the word what or whom after the verb: strikes what or whom? Answer. Strikes Thomas or him.
204. Other verbs are called intransitive, because it is supposed by the learned writers and teachers of language, that they have no objective words.
With most of the verbs, set down in grammars and dictionaries as having no objects, the mistake may be seen at once.
To dream, is a standard word, selected by the writers, as an example of intransitive or neuter verbs; but the man who dreams, always dreams some thing ; even though, as, with Nebuchadnezzar, the particular “thing should be gone from him," and he can only remember that he “ dreamed a dream." The word fight, has a long series of definitions, as a neuter verb; but St. Paul, while he disclaimed all other warfare, " fought the good fight."
205. Omissions in language commonly result from convenience and propriety. They are too numerous to be reduced to rule; but are learned by practice, through the whole course of life.
For omitting the objects of verbs, in numerous instances, several reasons may be offered, which need only be mentioned to produce a ready conviction of their truth and force.
First. It often happens that the object of a verb is not a single word; but includes a long statement; as, “Xenophon says that the ten thousand Greeks retreated,' &c. that is, he says that whole book of sayings, which details this historical event.
Secondly. Many verbs admit very little variety in their application to objects, which are therefore necessarily understood, with sufficient clearness for all the purposes of ordinary communication. The person sleeps, either the ordinary sleep of the night, or he sleeps a short nap; and this dormant action is not conceived of under any other variety, till he shall“ sleep the sleep of death.”
206. Thirdly. An other reason, nearly allied to the last mentioned, often leads to the omission of the objective word: that is, to avoid apparent repetition. The phrase to dream a dream, though perfectly correct, has a solemn stiffness, unsuited to polite conversation, or elegant literature. Το avoid this form, speakers omit the verbal or derivative noun,
after its own verb; or resort to circumlocution. In the second chapter of Daniel, before referred to, as in various other places, we find “to tell," " to show," “ to make known," - to declare, ,”
to interpret a dream ;" where this noun, to avoid monotony, becomes the object of various transitive verbs, without the least appearance of impropriety.
To fly a flight, is not a common phrase; for it sounds like tautology or pleonasm: but that “the eagle's flight is out of sight,” is a piece of information familiar to primer readers.
No polite French scholar would say, voLER un vol: but “ Elle descendit d'un vol rapide, tout aupres de moi," is from the pen of the elegant Fenelon, for the very purpose of embellishing a fine descriptive narration.
Language is full of constructive objects, for this imaginary class of intransitive verbs : but any person, inclined to pursue the investigation, may find the thickening proofs," in the first form of language, from Greek to Tuscarora, to which he chooses to refer.
Rex et regina regunt regnum, is perfectly correct Latin; but would not be used by a good writer; because its repetition of similar words makes it unpleasant.
207. Fourthly. The last class of supposed intransitive verbs, necessary to mention, are reflected verbs, with the personal objective word understood. This set of words appears to include the chief secret respecting intransitive or neuter verbs.
“ Warning was therefore given to Lady Jane to prepare for death.”—Hume's History of England. That is, to prepare herself. I must dress ) and get
) ready for the ball. " He retired (
) from the field :" that is, he retired or drew back himself: from retirer, French: or re and tiro Latin. Το fall one's self, is no longer used; yet this is the original expression: we still say, to fall trees. “ Cast thyself down," is a perfectly analogous form of speech. So in French, s'abattre ; and the same idiom running through the different languages of Europe, showing the general principle, beyond all possibility of doubt. * To repent one's self," was the original form in English, and it still is in other, languages. It was sometimes used as an impersonal verb: as, “ It repented him that he had threatened to destroy Nineveh." “No man repented him of his wickedness;" Jeremiah viii.; which form answers to the Latin poenitet. The phrase, as given by the translators, is perfectly good English; and is the exact rendition of the Hebrew original.
In explaining the adjective, some notice was taken of the different kinds and degrees of relation, which are often concealed under the same apparent
grammatical form. Similar principles extend to verbs and other parts of speech.
The groom and bride marry each other; and the priest marries them both, to each other. It is also said by Engligh writers, that the father marries his daughter, to the husband whom he selects for her.
In Dr. Goldsmith's song of Miss Hardcastle in the comedy “ She stoops to conquer.”
"O when shall I marry me ?" that is, marry myself to a husband.
208. This class of reflected verbs may be subdivided into three kinds.
1. Simple reflected verbs representing actions recurring singly upon the actors, through the different persons, moods, and tenses.
" Cornaro confined himself to the most temperate course of life.”
2. Reciprocal verbs, are the actions of different persons, mutually exercised: “They ruined each other by litigation.”
3. Verbs used only in the third person singular are called impersonal ; implying that they are not conjugated with different persons. Of this kind are the common phrases, it rains, it hails, freezes,
In this form the idea is general ; the snow snows : the frost freezes whatever freezable thing is in its way,
As an evidence that this is the general philosophie principle, the same idiom appears to prevail with the same class of actions, in all known languages.
209. It is no valid objection to say, like Mr. Murray and others, that cold is a quality, and frosi is an effect and not an active cause. This and other əxpressions, which form the main structure of language, are not modelled by the modern refinements in grammar. The speech of different nations is
full of examples, where these qualities and effects are considered operative principles. The “bitter” "bitëng frost" kills tender plants and fruit; benumbs the limbs, and stops the raging pestilence. “ Jack Frost makes bridges" over the streams. third day comes a frost, a killing frost ; nips his shoot; and then he falls."
The rain pours down in torrents; that is, pours itself down; and the reason why the objective word is not used, is that the rain is not conceived of as pouring down any thing else but itself.
210. The principle of natural and mental philosophy, as connected with this idiom of speech, seems easily to devolve itself, and is curiously interesting. The rain rains rain. It is not the idea of one thing acting on an
other. According to the obvious conception of unlettered people, as well as of enlightened philosophers, it is the substance rain, generating action, within itself, and that action, by a consequent influence, affecting the agent which produced it. "A little leven leveneth the whole lump, ,” which, by levening, becomes leven. So we say carbonates effervesce (
) with acids. Cider works itself clear by fermentation. How differently does the following sentence present itself to the mind ! " Then the Lord rained upon Sodom, and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire, from the Lord, out of Heaven."
211. The erroneous opinions respecting the verbs, called intransitive or neuter, will be farther seen in the definitions given by the ablest lexicographers to explain them, under this supposed character. Take for instance the familiar neuter verb to act, as it stands in the last London edition of Todd's Johnson.