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My native language is English. My second-best language used to be German (though you need not know German to answer, for my questions are about English), so I am now noticing what seems to be a weird pattern.

In English, one can say either of these:

  • The day has come.
  • The day is come.

In English, the "has" form of the present perfect would probably be the more common, but both are recognized. In German, the "is" form of the present perfect would be the more common for "to come," and indeed is mandatory for "to come" as far as I remember.

My first question: In English, can one optionally use the "is" form of the present perfect for any intransitive verb? Or does there exist there a list of specific, recognized verbs for which the "is" form is recognized? (Or am I confused? Is the "is" form in English not even a present perfect?)

So far, so good. I do not yet know the answer to the first question (one hopes that you can explain), but, meanwhile, try this:

  • The attack has failed. [right]
  • The attack is failed. [wrong? unidiomatic?]
  • The failing attack had been planned by the division's staff. [right]
  • The failed attack had been planned by the division's staff. [right!?]

My second question: What is going on here? Normally, only transitive verbs are inflected as participles for use as adjectives, are they not? Is not the reason for this rule (for I believe that it is a rule) that only transitive verbs have objects, as

  • The lifeguard saved the swimmer.
  • The saved swimmer thanked the lifeguard.

But the aforementioned "failed" is intransitive. So, how can "failed" possibly work as an adjective?

And does this have something to do with the earlier mentioned present-perfect pattern of "The day is come"?

  • In its original form, probably among other errors, my question said "past perfect" when it mean "present perfect." Thanks to the advice of an answerer below, at least this error is now corrected. – thb Apr 16 '16 at 15:24
  • The day is come is not standard modern English. Not really. Also, it is not present perfect. Present perfect is the verb have + past participle. That is the only definition of it in English: have come, have gone, have been, have walked. Also, /the attack is failed/ is not really grammatical in English. /The attack failed/ is grammatical, as is the /failed attack/. I am not familiar with those rules, but I am sure of what I have just said. – Lambie Apr 16 '16 at 16:07
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The past perfect is formed with the auxiliary had to indicate time preceding a fixed point in the past:

I had come to that conclusion before you called.

Likely you're talking about the present perfect, which is formed with has and have.

In English, can one optionally use the "is" form of the past [sic] perfect for any intransitive verb? Assuming that you're talking about the present perfect, no. Is was once used to form the present perfect, but it has been mostly supplanted by has. Per the OED, is is

retained only with come, go, rise, set, fall, arrive, depart, grow and the like when we express the condition or state now attained, rather than the action of reaching it....

Or does there exist there a list of specific, recognized verbs for which the "is" form is recognized? See above.

Is the "is" form in English not even a past perfect? Present perfect with the list above.

Normally, only transitive verbs are declined as participles for use as adjectives, are they not? Verbs aren't declined at all; some languages have declensions for nouns, but English isn't one of them. Finite verbs may be conjugated, that is, presented with all the forms of their tenses, but participles are non-finite verb forms. If you mean that only participles of transitive verbs may modify nouns, then that assertion is wrong as your failed example shows. Here's another: feel as in having a mental state, not in touching something, is intransitive: I feel strongly. Here's the participle in action:

He holds a strongly felt conviction about non-violence.

And does this have something to do with the earlier mentioned past-perfect [sic] pattern of "The day is come"? No.

  • You know, this is actually a very good answer. The question may arguably be a duplicate of this or that is risen or is (be)come question, but this answer is is useful. Bonus points for fixing the declension matter, which is properly a matter of case inflections of noun, pronouns, adjectives, articles, determiners, and other such nominative (no pun intended) elements --- so NP bits not VP bits. – tchrist Apr 16 '16 at 4:17
  • Your several corrections are appreciated and accepted, if I understand correctly that one inflects (rather than conjugates) "fail" to get "failed." Of course you are quite right regarding the present perfect. – thb Apr 16 '16 at 15:22
  • @thb One inflects a noun to get different forms for number and different grammatical roles called cases. For English nouns, that's restricted to plurals and possessives. For languages with many cases, the table of forms for nouns is called its declension. One inflects a verb in the same way for things like number, tense, mood, and person. English also indicates some verb roles not by inflection but by the addition of auxiliary verbs. The table of forms for a verb is called its conjugation. It's just terminology, but keeping it straight avoids confusion. – deadrat Apr 16 '16 at 16:20

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