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Perhaps I'm just overlooking the explanation in grammar references (and questions on ELU), but I haven't found a discussion of this construction (or its advisability): a verb is omitted after a modal, but the verb form omitted differs from the verb form after the conjunction.

Standard:

Cutting for sectioning can be and has been done very effectively by conventional gas and oxy-arc techniques. Coast Guard Engineer's Digest, Issues 205-211, p.20 (1980)

On a more specific level, relevance can be and has been considered in relation to specific types of knowledge communications. K. Sparck Jones and ‎P. Willett; Readings in Information Retrieval (1997)

or "You can and should say something."

Versus:

It is here that H. Richard Niebuhr argues that religion can act not only as a function of dominant culture but that religion can and has developed its own initiative that can move us toward good sense. Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre et al.; Common Goods: Economy, Ecology, and Political Theology (2015)

Much can and has been said about Lincoln's word choice ..., such as his decision to use the noun expiration in relation to a quantum of time in the context of war, but what captures my attention is... Beate Hampe; From Perception to Meaning (2008)

Dear Kenneth,

... I'm pleased, nach (natch), that you like the mutifenestrated house. You pick out the pieces that interest me most (though as I should have but didn't say in a footnote to the Whitman piece, the attention to his ... Paul Jay (ed.); The Selected Correspondence of Kenneth Burke and Malcom Cowley, 1915–1981 (1988)

"... When Larry (a recently discharged patient on her unit, with whom she had been quite friendly) left last week, I didn't feel anything either. I should have, but didn't and he had nowheres to go." Michael Stone; The Borderlines Syndromes (1980)


Early examples:

The most eminent and sober Nonconformists, as it can and has been proved, have own'd Her to be a true Church; ... John Harrison; The Minister of Cirencester's Address to the Dissenters of his Parish (1698)

And I must take the Freedom to tell my Author, that it both can, and has been shown before ever he was born, That there was more than an Occasional Submission, by the Congregation at Antioch, unto the Apostles and Elders of the Congregation in Jerusalem. Thomas Aiton; The Original Constitution of the Christian Church (1730)

Is there a term for this construction or general phenomenon?

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  • Heh, isn't this a "single-word request"? :) Meanwhile: Is there a term even for the "standard" version of this construction, of splitting a single verb into two tenses? Mar 4, 2022 at 18:10
  • @AndyBonner You can have dibs on that one, Andy :-)
    – DjinTonic
    Mar 4, 2022 at 18:11
  • 1
    I find Cutting for sectioning can be and has been done weird. Punctuated, it improves greatly: Cutting for sectioning can be, and has been, done. -- "and has been" is clearly in parenthesis - it is an aside.
    – Greybeard
    Mar 4, 2022 at 18:13
  • 2
    This issue has been asked about before, e.g. here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/48165/…. One term that was mentioned was "non-parallel ellipsis." Mar 4, 2022 at 21:34
  • @MarcInManhattan Thank you.
    – DjinTonic
    Mar 4, 2022 at 21:49

1 Answer 1

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I've come across this phenomenon before; it seems to be a mistaken conjunction reduction with auxiliaries, showing once again how languages change. As far as I know, there is no general term for this. It takes advantage of various random facts about English syntax to allow new constructions.

  • can and has been said comes from can be said and has been said
  • can and has developed comes from can develop and has developed
  • should have but didn't say comes from should have said but didn't say
  • should have, but didn't [feel] comes from should have felt but didn't feel

In each case, the two boldfaced verbs targeted by conjunction reduction are untensed -- there is an infinitive (be, develop, say, feel) in one clause (the first clause for the first two examples, the second clause for the last two), and a past participle (been, developed, said, felt) in the other clause.

It's normal to have untensed verbs at the end of constructions, but conjunction reduction normally requires that the deleted words be identical not only in lexeme but also in form. You can't usually delete two verbs that are different, in form or meaning.

  • He has gone before and he is going now.
  • He has gone before and is going now. (identical he deleted)
  • *He has gone before and going now. (non-identical is also deleted)

Notice that in each case, the last clause is the important one, and the deleted word can be predicted, even though not by the usual rules of conjunction reduction. That seems to be enough, in speech; as long as you get to where you want to go, it's unlikely anybody will notice which auxiliary verbs you deleted. The deletion rule appears to be stretching to accommodate new environments. As it ought to; after all, language is alive.

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  • "can and has been said" is acceptable? I think I'd write: This can be and has been said to be a new phenomenon. Also, the passive changes it: This can be and has been done to early examples of these paintings.
    – Lambie
    Mar 4, 2022 at 21:47
  • It's acceptable if you think it is. Acceptability is a personal matter. But it does seem that these divergences from the usual conjunction reduction script are becoming more common and less surprising. Ask yourself when you encounter one - how would you say it? And say is the important word -- this doesn't look so good when you're reading (if you're a certain kind of reader, at least), but in speech, it's something one could zoom over fast and no one would likely wonder about the auxiliary verbs. Mar 5, 2022 at 2:23
  • I zoomed over this construction so fast that I don't remember having ever noticed it until today, when I had a "wait a second--is that right?" moment, aka "Huh?" Nor can I remember any style guide voicing an opinion about it. It seems that it passes muster with at least some editors, too.
    – DjinTonic
    Mar 5, 2022 at 2:35
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    I just don't think one would write "can and has been said", and that would only be heard in fast, connected speech.
    – Lambie
    Mar 5, 2022 at 17:50
  • Clearly, one would write it, but not everybody. Like almost everything in language, it's a matter of personal choice, for whatever reasons the speaker has. Certainly stuff like that, without time to check the customs declarations of deleted auxiliaries, happens all the time in speech. And since spoken language is the real language, we can see the way that writing will eventually go. If we remain a literate culture, of course. Mar 21, 2022 at 14:09

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