the most important verb
Hi!I want to ask You can you give me with details, the most important verb in english language
Re: the most important verb
To BE or not to BE
The most important verb no doubt is To BE. It occupies a central position among the verbs. It involves identity, expresses something about a person, thing, a state (gives: age, condition, date, position, price, size, time, weight) or refers to temporary and permanent states. It is taken for granted and left out (Arabic and Russian) in abbreviated styles.This is perhaps the reason why it is so short and its conjugation is so odd and most irregular. After all its meaning denotes existence which is basic in human life. It expresses questions and answers about existence: there is/are; is there? Compare the popular line in Shakespeare's Hamlet "To be or not to be". However it can have a variety of meanings: two plus two is (equals) four.
Regular verbs, also called weak verbs, stick to a pattern. Irreguar verbs i.e strong verbs live up to their name and follow different patterns and might be a pitfall even for writers. Verb "to be" is indeed an exception. It has neither the regularity of regular verbs nor is subject to one of the patterns of conjugation as with irregular verbs. In addition, it has a very high frequecy. It can be a main verb: I am happy or can help to form a compound tense as an auxilliary as with continuous forms: She is writing. Like other helping verbs it helps to make questions or question tags: are you interested? Furthermore, although "to be " is mostly used in a stative sense it can be used dynamically: He is being nasty to her. It is a linking verb (copular verb) as well because it takes an adjective and not an adverb: She is tidy. Verb "to be" helps to form the passive voice: The window was broken.
"Be"combined with other words makes phrases and idiomatic expressions. Most idioms with "be" contain nouns and adjectives. With "used to" it can even change the meaning and the infinitive to gerund compare: I used to smoke - with - I am used to smoking. It can join "able" to make up for the deficieny of "can": I will be able to do it. "Be to" conveys a plan, gives orders, it can be an obligation or refers to destiny: Students are to be here by 8 O'clock. "Be" used as a prefix (although a bit old) in certain words has the meaning to make or treat sb/sth i.e. make intransitive verbs (without object) transitive (with object: belittle, befriend, bemoan your lot - or used in past participles: bespectacled, bejewelled . Perhaps a variety of words which start with "be" now lexicalized, were coined with the help of "to be". "Be" is often used with "it" as an impersonal object: it was very noisy there. Just consult any good dictionary to find out how versatile and crucial this verb is.
In translations verb "to be" can be rendered by "to have" depending upon the language translated into:
English "be"-------------------------German "have"
It's my bitrthday today--------------Ich habe heute Geburtstag
You are right------------------------Du hast Recht
What's the date today?--------------Den wievielten haben wir heute?
What's wrong with you?--------------Was hast Du?
"To BE" as a Shortcut
In spite of the importance of "verb to be" it can be substituted by other verbs: I am Tom - my parents named me Tom. This made followers of E Prime (English Prime: based on General Semantics) plead for abolishing or eliminating it altogether and calling for semantic hygiene. They claim that the ideas of identity and predication (attributes) associated with "to be" are misleading, vague, objective, absolute, abbreviated and therefore controversial because like present simple verbs they imply no time, space but absolute truth:
"John is sad" can imply John is always sad, John was always sad. John will be sad and he can do nothing about it. They suggest replacing or translating such "be sentences" into E Prime: John appears to be sad here today. Other examples:
Standard English-----English Prime
I am an engineer - ---I have a degree in engineering
That is a sexist film --That seemed like a sexist film to me.
This vagueness they claim is detrimental to our way of thinking and perception basing their ideas on linguistic determinism (Sapir-Whorf-Korzybski-Hypothesis). However, this type of thinking seems to ignore pragmatics. If I say "I am sad" people usually know what's meant by it depending upon its context i.e. the situation in which it was said. Ambiguity can only arise when a statement is removed from its social, spatial and temporal background. In addition, not all "be sentences" are ambiguous: This is female/male - is crystal clear. "To be" 's power and beauty lie its brevity and in the fact it is a shortcut which avoids long and boring sentences suggested by E Prime followers. Precise language is after all boring, direct and mathematical. Just imagine no more: playing on words, poetry, saying something but meaning something else. Ambiguity in language is its beauty and power.
Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 04-Oct-2005 at 09:31.
Re: the most important verb
What is the rule to use 'is/are to be' and 'has/have to be'?
I always find myself biased to use 'has/have to be' and not 'is/are to be'.
Could someone help me, please?
Thanks in advance for your replies.
Re: the most important verb
I think nobody is biased but interact according to their cultures, values and needs. Some cultures tend to use the verb "to be" more often than "to have". In some other cultures the verb "to be" is even not expressed in the present but implied as with Arabic and Russian Whereas "to have" is expressed with the help of prepositions like "with". In English, French or German you need "to have" not only to express possession but also to form the tenses:I have eaten.
According to psychology and Saphir-Whorf hypothesis (language and thought are not separable) the excessive use of "to have" might reflect the original cultural thinking as being "possessive" (see Erich Fromm: to be and to have) but this is now no more valid. No doubt the two verbs occupy a central role in many languages but at the same time the verb "to be" is very subjective. THE IS BEAUTIFUL doesn't show a fact but the speaker's emotions and subjective view. So it would more correct if you said: THE HOUSE SEEMS TO ME TO BE BEAUTIFUL and drop "to be" from the sentence.
There is some evidence that the two verbs "to be" and "to have" might have been originally one verb. See the similarity in English between: there and their; its and it's. In German and French you sometimes need "to be" and sometimes "to have" to form the perfect tenses: Je suis allé, Ich bin gegangen
J'ai acheté, Ich habe gekauft.
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