1 of 2
1
Auxiliary verbs
Posted: 26 June 2010 05:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  267
Joined  2007-02-20

The auxiliary verbs to be and to have obviously possess an infinitive while the auxiliary verbs can, may, shall, and will do not. In German and the Scandinavian languages, also the latter four auxiliary verbs possess infinitives. Is there anything known about the history of these differences?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 26 June 2010 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

You can add “must” to that list. Doesn’t have a past form, either.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  407
Joined  2007-02-14

One place to start might be David Lightfoot, ed. The Diachronic Analysis of English Modals. I’m sure the bibliographies there will provide some good reading. The other thing about English modal auxiliary verbs is that historically they belonged to a small set of verbs called the preterite-present verbs, that were preterite in form, but present in meaning. For example, the third person singular present of these verbs lacks the -s. As for infinitives, , they existed in Old and Middle English, so it was something that happened in Early Modern English. Another Lighfoot book that discusses this is Diachronic Syntax.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

To be is not an auxiliary verb.

The use of to have as an auxiliary verb to form the perfect tenses stems the verb’s primary sense of possession, so it retains the infinitive form. The other auxiliaries do not have primary senses and are defective (i.e., they lack complete conjugation).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  267
Joined  2007-02-20
Dave Wilton - 27 June 2010 06:18 AM

To be is not an auxiliary verb.

The use of to have as an auxiliary verb to form the perfect tenses stems the verb’s primary sense of possession, so it retains the infinitive form. The other auxiliaries do not have primary senses and are defective (i.e., they lack complete conjugation).

In school I learned that auxiliary verbs can be recognized by not being able to stand alone. Thus, sentences like ‘I have’, ‘I am’ (apart from Descartes’s famous saying cogito ergo sum), ‘I must’, etc. have no meaning. Could you expand on your opinion that to be and to have basically are not auxiliary verbs?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

An auxiliary verb requires another verb, in English usually a participle.

Am is the only verb in these sentences:

Are you a graduate student?
I am [a graduate student].

Have is the only verb in these sentences and is not being used in its auxiliary sense:

Do you have the book?
Yes, I have [the book].

Here have is used in its auxiliary role to form the present perfect tense, complementing the verb to be, which may be implicit:

Have you been to England?
Yes, I have [been to England].

I will amend my previous statement about to be. It, like to have, does have auxiliary senses, but also like to have, it also has primary senses and is not defective.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  267
Joined  2007-02-20
Dave Wilton - 27 June 2010 07:17 AM

An auxiliary verb requires another verb, in English usually a participle.

Am is the only verb in these sentences:

Are you a graduate student?
I am [a graduate student].

Have is the only verb in these sentences and is not being used in its auxiliary sense:

Do you have the book?
Yes, I have [the book].

Here have is used in its auxiliary role to form the present perfect tense, complementing the verb to be, which may be implicit:

Have you been to England?
Yes, I have [been to England].

I will amend my previous statement about to be. It, like to have, does have auxiliary senses, but also like to have, it also has primary senses and is not defective.

I do not think your examples are fair. Your sentences only make sense in direct connection with the preceding question. They do not invalidate my examples.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

The point is not whether or not a sentence makes sense when removed from its context. (Which is why I included a context and placed the implicit phrases in brackets.) The point is what is the definition of an auxiliary verb? It is not that auxiliary verbs “cannot stand alone.” Rather, auxiliary verbs require another, primary verb.

To wit, the sentences “I possess” and “I exist” make every bit as much sense as “I have” and “I am.” Yet would you consider to possess and to exist to be auxiliary verbs? Don’t confuse confusion due to lack of context with grammatical incompleteness.

[ Edited: 27 June 2010 07:38 AM by Dave Wilton ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  267
Joined  2007-02-20
Dave Wilton - 27 June 2010 07:26 AM

The point is not whether or not a sentence makes sense when removed from its context. (Which is why I included a context and placed the implicit phrases in brackets.) The point is what is the definition of an auxiliary verb? It is not that auxiliary verbs “cannot stand alone.” Rather, auxiliary verbs require another, primary verb.

The fact remains that Wikipedia calls them auxiliary verbs. Unfortunately, Merriam-Webster does not seem to discern auxiliary verbs as a special class. Thus, both to be and shall are called verbs in M-W. There are also differences between otherwise related languages. The German words haben (to have) and sein (to be) are definitely auxiliary verbs. The sentences you use as evidence to the contrary are impossible in German.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

A. Wikipedia is not an authoritative linguistic source.

B. What German does with its auxiliaries is irrelevant. We’re talking about English. And besides, the German haben has exactly the same sense of possession as the English to have.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3537
Joined  2007-01-29

I would like to second both of Dave’s points, especially this:

Wikipedia is not an authoritative linguistic source.

You really should stop quoting Wikipedia as an authority; it is useful only as a pointer to better sources (if, of course, the article includes a set of references, which many don’t).  As you must be aware, anyone can write anything they like on Wikipedia.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  267
Joined  2007-02-20

I assume the verb to do belongs in the same category as the verbs to be and to have.

Maybe the question is not whether a verb is auxiliary or not, but rather whether it, maybe sometimes, but not always, is used in an auxiliary function.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

"To be is not an auxiliary verb. “

This surprises me. I would (in my ignorance) have thought to be was acting as an auxiliary verb when it is used to form tense, as in “I am going.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2010 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2860
Joined  2007-01-31

And also (somewhat archaically) with come, e.g., “the Lord is come”.  I think it is indisputably an auxiliary verb there.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 June 2010 05:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

Ahem:

I will amend my previous statement about to be. It, like to have, does have auxiliary senses, but also like to have, it also has primary senses and is not defective.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 June 2010 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  267
Joined  2007-02-20

I am not sure about the fine print, but the auxiliary verbs have a sister category called modal verbs. Maybe the latter should also be considered in the present discussion.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1
 
‹‹ Cannot      us instead of our ››