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Lecture 8. The Categories of Verbs

The Grammatical Category of Mood

The problem of the category of mood i.e., the distinction, between the real and unreal expressed by the corresponding forms of the verb is one of the most controversial problems of English theoretical grammar.

In linguistics, grammatical mood (also mode) is a grammatical (usually morphologically marked) feature of verbs, used for signaling modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections—known as grammatical conjugation—that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying (e.g. a statement of fact, of desire, of command, etc.). Less commonly, the term is used more broadly to allow for the syntactic expression of modality — that is, the use of non-inflectional phrases.

Mood is distinct from grammatical tense or grammatical aspect, although the same word patterns are used for expressing more than one of these meanings at the same time in many languages, including English and most other modern Indo-European languages. (See tense–aspect–mood for a discussion of this.)

English moods (imperative, indicative, and subjunctive)

In a sentence, the grammatical mood conveys the speaker’s attitude about the state of being of what the sentence describes. This may sound a little complicated, but it’s simple enough: In the indicative mood, for instance, the speaker is sure that something is the case, while in the imperative mood the speaker desires that something should happen.

Mood is only one of many verb properties, others being tense, aspect, and voice. It is expressed through the sentence’s verbs and grammatical structure. For example, a sentence that lacks a subject and begins with a present-tense verb is likely imperative, and a sentence that begins with if and uses past-tense verbs is likely subjunctive.

Linguists have defined dozens of moods used in languages throughout the world, but English only uses three.

Indicative mood

The indicative mood is used to make factual statements, ask questions, or express opinions as if they were facts. Any verb tense may be deployed in the indicative mood.

The following sentences are statements of fact or belief, so they are in the indicative mood:

• I saw something today that really annoyed me.

• He lives most of the year in Spain but returns regularly to visit his ailing mother.

• Vikings will be the new vampires.

• Prosecutors have not said whether they will appeal the decision.

Imperative mood

A sentence in the imperative mood expresses commands or requests. It indicates that the speaker desires for the action expressed in the sentence to take place. In most imperative sentences, there’s an implied you. These sentences are in the imperative mood:

• Sit on the sofa.

• Let me go to bed

• Keep reading.

Subjunctive mood

The subjunctive mood is complicated. There are two entirely different kinds of subjunctive forms: the old simple subjunctive and newer forms consisting of a modal auxiliary and a dependent infinitive of the verb to be used. The function of the Subjunctive is to represent something not as an actual reality, but as formed in the mind of the speaker as a desire, wish, volition, plan, conception, thought, sometimes with more or less hope of realization. The present subjunctive is associated with the idea of hopeless, likelihood, while the past subjunctive indicates doubt, unlikelihood:

• I desire that he go at once.

• I fear he may come too late.

• I would have bought it if I had had money

The Category of Voice

The verbal category of voice shows the direction of the process regarding the participants of the situation. It is expressed by the opposition of the passive form of the verb (strong member) to the active form of the verb. The passive form expresses reception of the action by the subject of the syntactic construction. The category of voice (which is found both with finite ad non-finite forms) is one of the most formal grammatical categories, because the category doesn’t reflect any fragment of reality-it is a way of describing a certain fragment of reality. The category of voice deals with the participants of a happening (doer, action, object) and how they are represented in the sentence (subject, predicate, object). The Active Voice shows that the grammatical subject of the sentence is the doer of the action, denoted by the verb, the Passive Voice shows that the subject or the subjectival is an object of the action. The category of voice is realized through the opposition Active voice::Passive voice. The realization of the voice category is restricted because of the implicit grammatical meaning of transitivity/intransitivity. In accordance with this meaning, all English verbs should fall into transitive and intransitive. However, the classification turns out to be more complex and comprises 6 groups:

1. Verbs used only transitively: to mark, to raise;

2. Verbs with the main transitive meaning: to see, to make, to build;

3. Verbs of intransitive meaning and secondary transitive meaning. A lot of intransitive verbs may develop a secondary transitive meaning: They laughed me into agreement; He danced the girl out of the room;

4. Verbs of a double nature, neither of the meanings are the leading one, the verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively: to drive home - to drive a car;

5. Verbs that are never used in the Passive Voice: to seem, to become;

6. Verbs that realize their passive meaning only in special contexts: to live, to sleep, to sit, to walk, to jump.

Three types of passive constructions can be differentiated: 1) direct primary passive; 2) indirect secondary passive; 3) prepositional tertiary passive. Some English verbs can admit only one object – the direct one: e.g. Mary saw him. When such an object becomes the subject of a passive construction, the latter is called direct primary passive: e.g. He was seen by Mary. There are many verbs in English that take two objects in the active construction (direct and indirect): e.g. I gave him a book. She told the story to her sister. These verbs admit of two passive constructions: a) A book was given to him. The story was told to her sister. (the direct primary passive) b) He was given a book. Her sister was told the story. (the indirect secondary passive)

The indirect (secondary) passive is not infrequent in verb-phrases with the verb to give, such as: to give credit, to give command, to give a chance, to give a choice, to give an explanation, to give an opportunity, to give orders, to give shelter, and the like.e.g. He was given a good to chance to argue.However, many verbs in English may take a direct and an indirect object in the active construction but admit only one passive construction — the direct passive, e.g.: to bring, to do, to play, to telegraph and many others.

The frequency of occurrence of the English Passive Voice is great, greater than in Russian. One of the reasons is that the number of verbs capable of forming the Passive Voice is greater in English than in Russian. In many languages passive voice is expressed only by transitive verbs, in English-by any object verb. The Russian sentences (types of sentences), which correspond to the English sentence with the Passive Voice: 1. Indefinite-personal: Ему сказали

2. The Russian sentence with the analytical or the synthetic passive: Дом был построен. Дом строится.

3. Russian sentences with the Active Voice, with the subject-predicate inversion: Это сделал мой брат. (It was done by my brother).

4. Russian impersonal sentences: Крышу унесло ветром.

The idea of the Passive Voice is expressed not only by means of “to be + P2”. In colloquial speech the role of the passive auxiliary can occasionally be performed by the verbs get, come, become, go+P2 and get + passive infinitive (ingressive meaning): He got involved. He got to be respected. There are several verbs that can’t be used in passive voice: to rain, to snow etc.


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