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  1. #1
    Theo Book is offline Newbie
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    Default equative verbs effected by tense?

    I understand an equative verb to be a verb that suggests equality between nouns of comparative meaning. I also understand "is" to be the "equative" form of the verb "To Be."

    Question: are other tenses of the verb "To Be" considered "equative?" Or does the change in tense effect the equative quality of the verb?

    Example: Joe is a boy = equative "is."
    Example: Joe was a boy = equative ?

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    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    Equative verbs are more commonly known as copular or copulative verbs or copulas.

    It is the verb in all its forms that is equative, so we cannot say that is is the equative form of BE. In the following sentences, the underlined forms are part of the equative verb BE:

    I am a teacher. They are teachers. She is a teacher,
    He was a teacher. They were teachers.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Equative verbs are more commonly known as copular or copulative verbs or copulas.
    You missed one: linking verb.

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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    You missed one: linking verb.
    On your head be it!

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    I seem to be reading from a different script here, as I wouldn't call this use of "is" equative at all. Equative to me gives a meaning like "X = Y", whereas the example here simply applies the predicate "boy" to "Joe".

    Equative
    Venus is the morning star
    Mr. Obama is the president of the United States

    Predicative
    Joe is a boy
    Moscow is cold

    Words like "copula" and "linking verb" can be used for both these uses of the verb "to be" in English (as opposed, for example, to its use as an auxiliary).

    This is just my understanding of the terminology - as often in linguistics, usage varies with different writers, and I am just trying to alert people to these pitfalls.

    In any case, to go back to the original question, none of this is affected by tense, as far as I can think.
    Last edited by orangutan; 06-Jan-2011 at 09:35. Reason: minor corrections

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    Theo Book is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    Perhaps I have not been clear as to the problem I am having with this use of "is."

    I understand "is" to mean one thing "is equal" to another thing.

    But does the use of "was" imply that same equality? "Was" implies change in at least one side of this 'equa'tion, which would have to be universal for the use of "was" to apply to both sides.

    Or am I just mudying the effort?

  7. #7
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    Hi, welcome, and note that I've moved the thread to linguistics.

    You're going to be discussing the nature of the word and its uses, not how to use it, and I thought we shouldn't make things more confusing for our English learners on the site by leaving it in the "Ask a Teacher" forum.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Theo Book View Post
    Perhaps I have not been clear as to the problem I am having with this use of "is."

    I understand "is" to mean one thing "is equal" to another thing.
    OK, thanks for the explanation. But I still think that your example is not actually "equative" in this sense.

    But does the use of "was" imply that same equality? "Was" implies change in at least one side of this 'equa'tion, which would have to be universal for the use of "was" to apply to both sides.

    Or am I just mudying the effort?
    Now I see what you mean, I hope.

    There can be a bit of ambiguity once we start involving tense (also modals, though they were not part of your question).

    I will substitute my own example, which I think is genuinely equative:

    (1) Mr. Obama is the president of the United States.
    (2) Mr. Clinton was the president of the United States. [in 2002, say]

    In (2), we have an ambiguity, depending on what time the phrase "the president of the United States" refers to. If it refers to the time when Clinton was president, then it would be true ("in 2002, it was the case that Bill Clinton was equal to the individual who at that time was described as the president of the United States"). It could also mean (in principle) that Clinton was equal to the man now described as president of the United States, namely Obama (which would of course be false).

    Nonetheless the copula is still trying to make an equative claim, so I wouldn't say that its equative nature is affected by involving tense. It is just that evaluating the truth or falsity of the sentence becomes more complicated.

    I hope I have understood you correctly now.

    If you (or anybody else reading this) is interested in reading more about this, it is often called the issue of "intensionality" (and no, that isn't a spelling mistake :) ).

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    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    I would be inclined to agree with orangutan. Thus "X equates to Y", "2 + 2 = 5", and "Ted is Alice" present equations, irrespective of whether those equations are true or false.

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: equative verbs effected by tense?

    People taking part in this discussion might be interested in:
    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...eing-verb.html ,
    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...eing-verb.html and
    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/ask-teacher/133026-linking-verb-state-being.html

    Those threads are about 'linking' rather than 'equative' verbs, but some consider them to be two different names for the same thing.

    For what it's worth, I think that the writers who coined the names for this small group of verbs were not really concerned with 'equativeness' in the way a philosopher would be.


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