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  1. #91
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Is the point I'm trying to make clear, at all?
    I'm not sure. Both of these sound OK to me, but then again that's just me.

    The book reads poorly.
    The book reads well.

  2. #92
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    By the way, did you know the following verbs are used as tests to see if a word is an adjective?

    It looks bad.
    It seems bad.

    Cf.
    You look well. <adjective>
    You seem well. <adjective>

    Well is also an adjective. It's a synonym for healthy and an antonym for sick, also unwell.

  3. #93
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    By the way, did you know the following verbs are used as tests to see if a word is an adjective?
    Yes, I did. It's why I chose them for my question.

    Well
    is also an adjective. It's a synonym for healthy and an antonym for sick, also unwell.
    Which brings us to the sentence: "The book looks well." Syntactically correct, but semantically odd.

  4. #94
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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      • Other
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      • English
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      • England
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      • England
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    The book is a text; you pick it up, you read it, you put it down, and the text is exactly the same as it was before you picked it up. You have changed though. You hadn't read the text but now you have. You didn't know what ideas the text contained but now you do.
    We use the phrase "The book reads well" to express our evaluation of the text: i.e. our opinion that the book has a particular quality.

    Note the point I made earlier: the phrase requires an adverbial, if it is to be comprehensible. We don't therefore say:

    1. *The book reads.

    This adverbial must relate to the quality of the text; not e.g.

    2. *The book reads minutely.
    therefore, but e.g.

    3. The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    "Our garden is putting in order by a man..."
    This is a writers device, that is common now and has been through recorded history. It basically involves using a grammatically suspect construction to attract attention. Dylan Thomas was good at this, and there are some good examples in his wonderful magnus opus "Under Milkwood" - 'pelicaned his food' for example. For this technique to work well, the ideas have to be congruent even though the grammar isn't.
    The relatively recent development (18th-19th centuries) of the passive present progressive is well attested.

    Among readily available introductory texts on the history of English, David Crystal's "The Stories of English" has a section on the phenomenon.

    If you don't have access to a copy, there are several online discussions of the subject: here, for instance (see section 5, which interestingly includes the Austen example).

    Before the arrival of the p.p.p., the active construction was used. For instance, Nesbit's 1898 grammar gives the example "The house is building", in the section "Verbs Active in form, but Passive in sense" (we would now say "The house is being built").

    That's the construction Jane Austen uses, in the letter in question. You can find another case in Mansfield Park, Ch. XIV:

    3. An enormous roll of green baize had arrived from Northampton...and was actually forming into a curtain by the housemaids...

    The presence of the agent ("by the housemaids") confirms that a passive sense is intended here.

    Nesbit does not regard the active construction as "suspect", by the way, or a literary novelty: indeed, the p.p.p. was the "suspect" form, as the new arrival, in the early to mid 19th century.

    MrP

  5. #95
    svartnik is offline Banned
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    Even a middle verb has to relate to its subject. The construction might be the same:

    Glass breaks easily
    The book reads well

    but there is a difference: glass can break, but books can't read.
    "Some verbs have both ergative and non-ergative senses. For example, in the sentence "She reads the sentence," "reads" is an active, transitive verb. In the sentence "She reads," "reads" is an active, intransitive verb. "Read" would be used as an ergative verb in the sentence “The sentence would read better with this correction.”

    READ:
    30. to admit of being read, esp. properly or well.

    Read definition | Dictionary.com

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