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101

What is a tense? In linguistic terminology, "tense" is a part of verbal paradigm that refers specifically to the time of an utterance. It is impossible for any language to have more than three tenses in this sense, since any action is either past, present, or future. In English, we do the basic tenses this way: Present: I walk to the store. Past: I ...


78

Interesting! I suspected the reason was that the character s used to be written somewhat like the present-day f. (It would look like s only when it was the last character of a word.) I looked at some of the OCRed documents that Google Ngrams links to. That only strengthened my suspicion. Look at this plot (also below). I have plotted for ...


54

Etymonline says: c.1400, from can (v.) + not. O.E. expressed the notion by ne cunnan. This doesn't really help, but it is a good starting point. The OED supplies the 1400 cite as follows: Cursor M. (add. to Cott.) p. 959. 105 And þou þat he deed fore cannot sorus be. It also defines cannot as: the ordinary modern way of writing can not ...


37

This is a complicated issue, and one that is still not fully understood by linguists, or so I believe. In short: there is a tendency in many languages for words to shift in meaning between probability and desirability. This tendency is apparently strongest in certain verbs that are used without specifying who the judge is, which includes passive verb forms. ...


37

This was a problem with Google's optical character recognition (OCR) mistaking the long s (ſ) as an f. However, Google has since improved their OCR: When we generated the original Ngram Viewer corpora in 2009, our OCR wasn't as good as it is today. This was especially obvious in pre-19th century English, where the elongated medial-s (ſ) was often ...


31

Is "ought to" still used in modern English? Yes, it is. Quite a bit, in fact. If yes, in what contexts is it used, and is it used more in formal or informal cases? That’s an interesting question, because it turns out that ought can sometimes be quite formal, but it can sometimes be quite informal. It just depends how it’s used. Here are two ...


28

This is a construction that is restricted to certain dialects of US English. In Standard English, it is not grammatical. (This construction is also often stigmatized, which means you would want to be especially careful before using it — you could be judged!) However, this construction is used systematically in certain dialects of American English. To ...


27

Rarely, must is used as a past tense. Belshazzar, by H. Rider Haggard, has we went because we must, in a prose style which is perhaps deliberately archaic to reflect the ancient Egyptian context. In this odd snippet, If Thoreau went because he would, Hawthorne went because he must, one might say the author is "playing with language". But here's Ralph Waldo ...


26

The word "can," meaning to put in a can, has the infinitive "to can." The modal verb "can," meaning to be able, is invariable and defective, the latter meaning it has no infinitive or participle forms.


23

As I learned it, "may" is about permission while "can" is about ability. "May we borrow your car?" "Can you say 'Irish wristwatch'?" So your mother was correcting "Do I have the ability to go to the store with Joe" to "Do I have permission to go to the store..."


21

I think that there is possibly confusion here between may, can and would. It is possible that she once used to say expressions like: Can I have ... Can I get ... and was taught that it was more polite to use may rather than can in that context. Although strictly, can relates to the ability to do something, whereas may concerns permission to do ...


20

If you are issuing this statement as a warning or confrontation then the only acceptable formulation is How dare you For example: "How dare you go behind my back and talk to my boss without telling me." How do you dare is asking a question- essentially How is it possible that you dare to ... For example: "How do you dare do that? Aren't you afraid ...


17

should is the preterite form of the modal verb whose present form is shall. As such, should can be (and is still) used in the past tense, in places where shall would be used in the present tense. Two examples: “It is time, we shall proceed” can be reported as “he said it was time, we should proceed”. “I think it shall be okay” and “I thought it should be ...


17

Need and dare are the English semi-modal verbs, which means that need and dare can behave like a modal (no inflections, negative contractions needn't, dassn't, subject-auxiliary inversion, to-less infinitives) only in negative contexts. The modalactivity of need and dare is a Negative Polarity Item, and operates only within the scope of a Negative Polarity ...


17

The appropriate answer to this question depends a little on your purpose, and in any case there's no single, consensually agreed upon answer. If you don't mean "tense" to have a very strict theoretical interpretation, and just want "a list of the combinations of auxiliaries/verb forms", then pretty much all logical combinations that you can make from ...


16

Almost all grammarians recognize only two tenses in English, present and past. That is because only they require a change in the finite form of the verb. Constructions such as the present progressive or past perfect are analysed in terms of aspect, although the present and past tenses express aspect too. For example, regular verbs have four forms. In the ...


16

The rule you have been told has some validity, but is too general. English speakers don't use a will with simple future meaning after if: If the plan succeeds, I will come. not *If the plan will succeed, I will come. But will can also convey intention or willingness, so with an animate subject (especially second person) will can work If ...


15

The phrase "I can't hardly wait" is incorrect. I suspect it is the result of a confusion between: I can't wait and I can hardly wait which are both correct. The phrase I can't hardly wait doesn't make sense: it would mean "I don't find it hard to wait", which is probably not what is meant. Probably adding to the confusion is the ...


15

Not all verbs have infinitives. From Wikipedia: Defective verbs The modal auxiliary verbs, can, may, shall, will and must are defective in that they do not have infinitives; so, one cannot say, *I want him to can do it, but rather must say, I want him to be able to do it. The periphrases to be able to, to have to and to be going to are generally ...


14

They could have the same meaning depending on the context. The second sentence is in the simple past. He did it; it's done; you are left wondering why he did it. The first sentence, could mean he did it and now you're wondering why he would have done such a thing. However, the first sentence could also mean that you anticipate that he is going to do ...


14

It is always interesting to read what individual native speakers of different English dialects think of this or that word or construction. However, even an educated native speaker with some background in linguistics can share his or her opinion that does not necessarily coincide with observable general trends/rules. To answer a question like this, one needs ...


14

See meaning 4 of may at dictionary.com (used to express wish or prayer): May you live to an old age. It follows the same grammatical pattern as let (and is almost a synonym). Let their children grow up happy! May their children grow up happy! The usage of may in this sense is not restricted to prayers, although one could say that it's ...


14

Putting "May" first changes the sentence from a command to a request. Rather than instructing God to bless someone, the speaker is rather hoping that God will do so.


14

This may seem flippant, but: This question was not to be closed. = Spoken by Gandalf. This question shouldn't have been closed. = Spoken by everybody else.


13

No, they're not the same thing. Will be able to obviously talks about a future event, while can talks about the present. I can swim, so we should go to the pool. Means I can swim already, I learned it before and I'm capable of doing it now. I will be able to swim sometime in the future, as long as I take swimming lessons. Means I cannot ...


13

The question is to some extent a matter of opinion. However, I would say that your examples are not examples which are widely considered outdated, especially in written English. We must is used in formal speech and in writing. In informal speech, it has been largely replaced by we need to, we have to and we've got to. Gotta is slang for have got to, and ...


13

SUPPLEMENTARY to Colin Fine's answer: Colin Fine explains the most common use of will in if clauses, which is the use in your example. There are other such situations: when will is used emphatically in its habitual/insistent sense: If you will keep bothering me with questions you must expect some answers you don't like. when will is used in the ...



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