First, a note to Queequeg
's example #9: in British English
, the verb to dive
, rather than strong
, and consequently the dove dived
into the bushes.
That said, although English is rich in curious homonyms and synonyms, it is, broadly speaking, regular. The verbs have at most five forms each, except for the verb to be
, which is the most commonly irregular verb in all languages. There are some 214 'irregular' verbs, but those are mostly, if not all, simply strong verbs, and there is only one conjugation of weak verb. The nouns fall into five or six categories, of which one (the -s ending group) is huge, each with one distinctive mutation and one subsidiary one. All adjectives (except, possibly, blond
) are invariant.
verbs, for comparison, have about 120 forms, and Chippewa
ones may possess as many as 6000. Admittedly, English is rich in modal verbs, but then so is Swedish
, which retains separate meanings for the verbs equating to the English will
And just for entertainment, here are some problems:
The past participle
of to beget
, whereas in British English get
goes to got
. Is the British English imperfect of beget begat
What is the distinction between will
"Shall" is only supposed to be used in the first person (I, we) and "Will" is supposed to be for 2nd/3rd.
would like to add that this is a quaint grammarian rule, but it is sensibly derived from the Nordic
roots of the language. It's acceptable for me to say that I shall do something (which derives from a usage meaning that it's certain that the thing mentioned is going to occur) but presumptive to say that someone else is certain to do something, so we say that they will do it (it is their apparent intention to do so).
says: "shall" is often used in the emphatic sense, as apposed to a vaguer "will". But that's only in the North and Scotland, I suspect...and only, I suspect, idiomatically. Bah.
Does any other language have a form, modal or proper, directly equivalent to the 'used to' construction?
tells me that the imperfect
of the Swedish
verb 'bruka' - 'brukade' - carries the same meaning as 'used to', while the present is used for 'usually'.
says that in Finnish verb "tapaa" + a verb in the infinitive corresponds to the Swedish 'brukar', the present-tense form of the English 'used to', which is sometimes referred to as a frequensive
form. 'Kirjottelen juttuja' (freq.) = 'tapaan kirjoitella juttuja' (inf. + freq.) = 'tapaan kirjottaa juttuja' (inf.) "I write stories" or "I usually write stories".