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5. Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend.
- LINCOLN: Letter to General Grant, Jan. 19, 1865.
6. If I was sure of thee ... I should never think again of trifles.
– EMERSON: Essay on Friendship.
7. Being unaware that the letter is not in his possession, he will proceed with his exactions as if it was.
- PoE: The Purloined Letter.
8. There's hundreds that I could lay my hand on if I was in India.
- KIPLING: The Man Who Would Be King.
9. Altogether, it seems as if there wasn't any place for me in this world.
- SIDNEY LANIER: Letters.
10. Nor could any other local standard be substituted for that of London without manifest danger - even if the acceptance of such a standard was possible.
- BRANDER MATTHEWS : Parts of Speech.
VOICE AND VERB PHRASES
The Two Voices (Chapter XLVIII).
We have already learned that there are two voices, the active and the passive; that the active voice represents the subject as acting, while the passive represents the subject as acted upon. Knowing the uses of the two voices, let us compare their forms.
The Forms of the Two Voices Compared.
The passive voice has the same six tenses that the active voice has, but in the passive all of the tenses are phrasal. In other words, every predicate in the passive is made up of some tense of the verb to be joined to a past participle. The passive has also the three moods of the active, but the passive imperative is rarely used.
From the following outline of the active and passive voices in the first person singular, the other forms may easily be supplied :
FUTURE PERFECT TENSE I shall have chosen
I shall have been chosen
Our study of the verb has shown us that the English language is peculiarly dependent upon verb phrases. With the exception of the present and past tenses of the active voice, every tense in both voices is composed of a verb phrase, that is, of a principal verb preceded by a helping verb. And even the present and past tenses of the active voice are phrasal when they denote progressive action :
1. He is doing his best.
These helping or auxiliary verbs are be, have, do, may, can, must, ought, shall, and will. Notice that the auxiliaries are all one-syllabled words.
An auxiliary verb is one that helps the principal verb in forming tense, mood, or voice.
Principal Parts of the Auxiliaries.
Most of the auxiliaries are defective, or lacking in one or more of the three principal parts:
The past tenses might, could, should, and would are past only in form. “I might go " is no more past in meaning than “I may go.” Ι
We can modify each predicate by“ now (present) or "to-morrow" (future), but not by “yesterday (past). There was a time, however, when might, could, would, and should denoted past time as truly as was, had, and did. Their last letters, t and d, are the same t and d found in the past tense of other weak verbs.
May ” and “ Can."
Can implies that the subject is able to do something:
I. He can ride bareback. 2. Can
It is not often that a person has occasion to say “Can I?” A patient might say to the doctor, “Can I [Shall I be able to] sit up to-morrow?” But the doctor would be certain to think that he meant “May I?”
May should be used instead of can in asking or granting permission, but not in refusing it:
3. May I go home?
sit with you.
Might” and “ Could.”
These two words follow the rules for
may After the past tense of a verb of saying or asking, may becomes might and can becomes could :
1. Mother said we might go.
2. They asked their teacher if they might go out for a few minutes.
3. She told them that they couldn't go yet but might go later.
4. We were told that we might desk together if we wouldn't talk.
There are many grown persons who have never once said I shall or we shall. They use only I will and we will, or I'll and we'll. But I shall and we shall ought to be used far oftener than I will and we will. The distinction between shall and will with the first personal pronoun is not a difficult distinction, but it is one that requires practice to make it habitual. I will and we will ought to be used only when you wish to