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  1. #1
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default "Let" imperative

    This is an offshoot of another thread (subjunctive or not). I might be a good idea to post it on diagramming sentences forum but I know nothing about diagramming sentences...

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I recently read somewhere (probably on this forum) that let in let's dance was an auxiliary verb. It was stated as if it were a scientific fact and I believed it was. But now I think it's exactly a case of using one's feelings (created by knowledge of etymology) to determine the word class a word belongs to. I will have to resort to my native language now. Let's take an example of an English third-person imperative sentence:

    Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

    In Polish:

    Niech ten, który jest bez grzechu, rzuci pierwszy kamień.

    The pair of sentences have a very nice feature: they mean exactly the same and they employ exactly the same word order. (The Polish sentence is one word shorter, which is because there are no articles in Polish. "The" is omitted.)

    Let and niech both introduce the imperative mood. Him and ten are both subjects. Cast and rzuci are both something I don't know the English term for, but their function is clear. The rest is not important.

    Since let and niech have exactly the same functions it would be natural to demand that they be in the same word class I think. But I have never heard of anybody saying that niech is an auxiliary verb. And I think the different approaches of Polish and English grammarians to exactly the same thing might be caused by the different feelings they have about the words let and niech respectively. Let is mainly a verb in English which, I guess, makes English grammarians call it a verb in this context too. Niech has no other function than this, so nothing makes Polish grammarians feel it's a verb. (Even though its origin is verbal. It happened too long ago to influence our thinking.)

    I think, if my interpretation is correct, this could prove that linguists do not base entirely on syntax and morphology. If that's how it should be or not is another matter, which I would love to hear from you about.
    Quote Originally Posted by lauralie2 View Post
    It's a verb to me. (See here. Scroll down to When the pronoun is the object of one verb and the object of another.)
    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Do you accept that "you" is the subject of this sentence then?
    Quote Originally Posted by lauralie2 View Post
    That topic is worthy of its own thread.
    So here it is.

  2. #2
    Johnson_F's Avatar
    Johnson_F is offline Member
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    Well, Birdeen’s call, you have introduced a nice one here.

    I think is that this is similar to the ‘come’ discussion on the other thread. It should produce an lively discussion. There is little doubt in my mind that ‘let’ in your sentence was originally a verb (I’ll ignore the ‘auxiliary’ for the moment). What it is now will, I hope, lead to some interesting points.

    I will restrict myself in this response to questioning a couple of points you made. I look forward to reading your responses.

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Let's take an example of an English third-person imperative sentence: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

    Is ‘let’ imperative? It is in ‘let him go’ = ‘allow him to go’, but I am not sure about it in your sentence.

    Let and niech both introduce the imperative mood.

    ?It might be possible to argue that ‘let’ is an imperative form, but ‘introduce the imperative mood’?

    Cast and rzuci are both something I don't know the English term for, but their function is clear.
    ‘Cast’ is surely the bare infinitive of the verb – at least it is if ‘let’ is a verb.

    Since ‘let’ and ‘niech’ have exactly the same functions it would be natural to demand that they be in the same word class I think.
    It is dangerous to use one language to justify an explanation for another, don't you think?.

  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    BC - your '"you" is the subject of this sentence' is right; but it is used rhetorically - no one is being allowed to do anything. It means 'Before you pick up a stone to throw, ask yourself 'Am I without sin?'

    b

  4. #4
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    Johnson F:
    I'm not sure if it's imperative. In several places on the internet, I read it was and my feeling is that it is in this sentence. And the Polish structure is called imperative by Polish grammarians (it was at least).

    As for 'introduce the imerative mood', I'm not sure what you don't like about it. I may not be using proper terminology because I don't know it. I'd rather leave the proper wording to you, specialists.

    As for the bare infinitive point. A great part of my knowledge about grammar comes from school, quite a long time ago. The understanding of grammar has seemingly changed since then and I'm struggling to understand some things. I was taught to distinguish between words and their inflected forms standing alone and their functions in sentences. To me, a bare infinitive is just a name of a certain form of a verb. Isn't there any other name for it when it's in a sentence?

    As for comparing languages, I thought it might be controversial but I can't see any danger in this case. What is it (in this case)?

  5. #5
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    BC - your '"you" is the subject of this sentence' is right; but it is used rhetorically - no one is being allowed to do anything. It means 'Before you pick up a stone to throw, ask yourself 'Am I without sin?'

    b
    Does it explain this quotation from the American Heritage Dictionary?
    b. Used as an auxiliary in the imperative to express a warning or threat: Just let her try!
    Is "you" the subject here too?

  6. #6
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    ...

    Is "you" the subject here too?
    I would say not.

    I|t is worth remembering that 'let you...' used to be a clear imperative. The Pilgrim Fathers at the first Thanksgiving dinner might have said 'Let you pass the salt'. As a result, there are contexts where 'let' is grammatically contentious.

    But in 'Let her try' I don't think the subject is 'you'.

    b

  7. #7
    Johnson_F's Avatar
    Johnson_F is offline Member
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    As for 'introduce the imperative mood', I'm not sure what you don't like about it. I may not be using proper terminology because I don't know it. I'd rather leave the proper wording to you, specialists.
    I understood this to mean that 'let' introduced the imperative mood - presumably in 'cast'. This seemed to me, intitially at least, wrong. However, if 'let him who is without sin' means effectively 'if any of you are without sin', then 'cast' may indeed be an imperative.

    To me, a bare infinitive is just a name of a certain form of a verb. Isn't there any other name for it when it's in a sentence?
    I use the expression 'bare' infinitive of one when it is in a sentence. Thus 'see' is a bare infinitive in, 'I can see you tomorrow'.

    As for comparing languages, I thought it might be controversial but I can't see any danger in this case. What is it (in this case)?
    Simply that making any analogy between 'niech' and 'let' is pointless, because they exist in different situations (i.e. different languages). I think it can be very helpful for someone like you (with knowledge of how 'niech' functions) to look at 'let' in a different way from the way I (with no knowledge about 'liech') do, and I readily concede that this may give you an insight that I cannot have.
    However, to suggest, "Since let and niech have exactly the same functions it would be natural to demand that they be in the same word class I think
    ", is a step too far for me.
    Johnson

  8. #8
    Johnson_F's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    As a complete aside to the main discussion:
    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    A great part of my knowledge about grammar comes from school, quite a long time ago. The understanding of grammar has seemingly changed since then and I'm struggling to understand some things.
    If some of the 'teachers of English' I have met over the years had half the feel for English grammar that you have shown in this forum, we would have far fewer confused learners writing in to UE.

    However, that is not going to stop me questioning some of your statements from time to time!

  9. #9
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    This is an offshoot of another thread (subjunctive or not). I might be a good idea to post it on diagramming sentences forum but I know nothing about diagramming sentences...





    So here it is.
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Birdeen's call,

    My only contribution is an analysis of "Let's dance." I shall

    credit at the end of my post the books used.

    (1) Apparently, many (many!!!) years ago, that sentence would

    have used the subjunctive: Dance we.

    An example from the famous English writer Samuel Coleridge

    (1772 - 1834): Climb we not too high, Lest we should fall

    too low. Presumably, today we would say: Let us/let's not

    climb ....

    (2) Fast forwarding to modern English:

    (a) Let/ let's dance:

    (i) This is an imperative.

    (ii) let = an introductory particle/ modal auxiliary

    (iii) the subject is we.

    (a) The tag question is the "proof":

    Let us/let's dance, shall we?

    (b) Let us dance (NEVER: Let's dance).

    (i) This is the transitive verb.

    (ii) The subject is you.

    (iii) The tag question "proves" this:

    Let us dance, will you!!! (What some children yell after their parents

    have just told them that they may not dance.)

    Sources:

    A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Professors Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, Svartvik).

    Essentials of English Grammar (Professor Otto Jespersen).

    A Grammar of the English Language (Professor George O. Curme).

    P.S. One modern linguist (Professor Rodney Huddleston) in his

    Introduction to the Grammar of English says "[L]et's is probably to be

    analyzed as a single word rather than verb + pronoun."


    Thank you & Happy New Year
    Last edited by TheParser; 14-Dec-2010 at 20:55.

  10. #10
    Johnson_F's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Let" imperative

    For those interested, Huddleston & Palmer devote pps 934-937 of their Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002) to this. It's unfortunately too dense to summarise here.

    They do consider the sentence Let anyone who thinks they can do better stand for office at the next election, which seems to me to be pretty similar in structure and implied meaning to Birdeen's Call's sentence. H & P consider that it is 'roughly paraphrasable with should: "Anyone who thinks they can do better should stand for office." '

    I don't know if that helps us particularly.

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