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  1. #11
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    Default Re: May Might Can Could

    Quote Originally Posted by mykwyner View Post
    A sentence like, "We ain't never done seen nothing like that there," is not ungrammatical because every native English speaker knows exactly what it means.
    Be careful of overgeneralisations. Many native speakers would have difficulty unravelling such a sentence (and you can count me in that group), although most would eventually arrive at the intended meaning -- this is, however, despite the unorthodox grammar.

    On the other hand, a sentence like "Post office, you please say me where is" would be considered ungrammatical in any English dialect, yet if a foreigner uttered this phrase to you, I'm certain you'd immediately understand the intended message.

    I think your definition of "grammatical" is unhelpful, because actually it's very rare that anyone utters complete gibberish, unless they are suffering from certain forms of aphasia. The problem is that there are many, many different dialects of English (as there are of any language), and these dialects all have different grammar rules. Many sentences may be ungrammatical in some dialects but not in others.

    For example, in most dialects of English, "do" is conjugated the same irrespective of whether it is used as a main verb ("I did my homework") or an auxiliary verb ("I did see the film"). However, in Cockney (and some other dialects), "do" is conjugated differently as a main verb ("I done my homework") and an auxiliary ("I did see the film").

    When we as teachers say "This sentence is ungrammatical", that's really an abbreviation for "This sentence is considered ungrammatical by most speakers of Oxford English" (or "...General American" for American English).

    Paradoxically, while grammar rules are (or should be) arrived at by observation and describe how native speakers actually use the language, we do need standards and conventions so that we can communicate meaningfully -- just as we find it convenient to have a "lingua franca" we can use to communicate to people on an international level.

    Consider this: In some dialects of English, a double negative is used to emphasise the "negativity" of a sentence (as in: "I ain't got none"), while in others, a the second negative cancels out the first to make a positive (as in: "He can't not come", to mean that it would be impossible for him to stay away). Now, suppose you came across this sentence in a technical manual:

    You shouldn't never supply hydrogen gas to this inlet.

    Is the author saying that under no circumstances should hydrogen be supplied to this inlet, or that supplying hydrogen to this inlet is not completely inadvisable? Considering that hydrogen is a highly explosive gas when mixed with oxygen, this type of confusion could cost lives.

    So here we have an example of a sentence which is grammatically correct in many dialects of English, but can be interpreted in two completely opposite ways.

    To facilitate communication, then, we use an agreed standard, and as part of that standard we agree not to use double negatives at all. This is an artificial grammar, of course, arrived at pretty arbitrarily, but serves a purpose; and so this is what we normally teach in schools.

    Of course, many native speakers who have had this standard grammar drummed into them are then inclined to view other dialects as somehow inferior or "incorrect", which, of course, simply isn't true. They're incorrect according to the prescriptive grammar rules agreed upon for the purposes of communication, but those prescriptive grammar rules don't apply to any variation of English except the artificial standards we've created ourselves.

    The conflict is usually characterised as an intellectual war between "prescriptivists" and "descriptivists", which over-simplifies the whole issue greatly. Prescriptive grammar has its uses, but those uses do not include a Yorkshireman speaking to his mother, or a Kentucky farmer speaking to his sister. We prefer to teach students standard dialects on the grounds that standard dialects are pretty much universally understood and used in the mass media.

  2. #12
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: May Might Can Could

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    Be careful of overgeneralisations. Many native speakers would have difficulty unravelling such a sentence (and you can count me in that group), although most would eventually arrive at the intended meaning -- this is, however, despite the unorthodox grammar.

    I can't imagine anyone with a NaE background would have any trouble with that sentence, Rewboss. There are cross pond differences where both sides do have difficulties.

    I think your definition of "grammatical" is unhelpful, because actually it's very rare that anyone utters complete gibberish, unless they are suffering from certain forms of aphasia. The problem is that there are many, many different dialects of English (as there are of any language), and these dialects all have different grammar rules. Many sentences may be ungrammatical in some dialects but not in others.

    I'd say that Mike's definition has been the first helpful definition we've seen here at UsingEng in a good long time. His definition is precisely what The Grammar Book, a respected ESL grammar uses. His definition is remarkably close to the definition adopted by language science. Not surprisingly, it isn't how prescription deals with it.


    Paradoxically, while grammar rules are (or should be) arrived at by observation and describe how native speakers actually use the language, we do need standards and conventions so that we can communicate meaningfully -- just as we find it convenient to have a "lingua franca" we can use to communicate to people on an international level.

    Consider this: In some dialects of English, a double negative is used to emphasise the "negativity" of a sentence (as in: "I ain't got none"), while in others, a the second negative cancels out the first to make a positive (as in: "He can't not come", to mean that it would be impossible for him to stay away).

    In all dialects of English there are certain circumstances and instances where a double negative can be interpreted as a positive. But that is a function of emphasis and intonation.

    I'm not aware of any dialect of English that actually has a rule, a real rule that is, where double negatives cancel each other out to form a positive. Perhaps you could point one out for us?


    Now, suppose you came across this sentence in a technical manual:

    You shouldn't never supply hydrogen gas to this inlet.

    Is the author saying that under no circumstances should hydrogen be supplied to this inlet, or that supplying hydrogen to this inlet is not completely inadvisable? Considering that hydrogen is a highly explosive gas when mixed with oxygen, this type of confusion could cost lives.

    So here we have an example of a sentence which is grammatically correct in many dialects of English, but can be interpreted in two completely opposite ways.

    This is a red herring, Rewboss. If this was to appear in a technical manual, every native speaker of English would know that it was a typo and I can't imagine any person, even the most prescriptive, thinking that the two negatives mean that a person should supply hydrogen gas to the outlet.

    These unhelpful statements have been repeated for so lomg by prescriptivists that they have, for some, taken on the qualities of a mantra.


    "A tin ear for stress and melody, and an obliviousness to the principles of discourse and rhetoric, are important tools of the trade for the language maven." Steven Pinker - Grammar Puss

    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articl...wrepublic.html



    To facilitate communication, then, we use an agreed standard, and as part of that standard we agree not to use double negatives at all. This is an artificial grammar, of course, arrived at pretty arbitrarily, but serves a purpose; and so this is what we normally teach in schools.

    Of course, many native speakers who have had this standard grammar drummed into them are then inclined to view other dialects as somehow inferior or "incorrect", which, of course, simply isn't true. They're incorrect according to the prescriptive grammar rules agreed upon for the purposes of communication, but those prescriptive grammar rules don't apply to any variation of English except the artificial standards we've created ourselves.

    That Standard English better facilitates communication is a complete falsehood, Rewboss. People communicate perfectly well in their dialects, at least as well, if not better using nonstandard forms.

    People who have not been raised on prescriptions still use Standard English for writing and for formal speech. They use it not to communicate any more effectively but simply because that is what we use.


    The conflict is usually characterised as an intellectual war between "prescriptivists" and "descriptivists", which over-simplifies the whole issue greatly. Prescriptive grammar has its uses, but those uses do not include a Yorkshireman speaking to his mother, or a Kentucky farmer speaking to his sister. We prefer to teach students standard dialects on the grounds that standard dialects are pretty much universally understood and used in the mass media.
    Prescriptive grammar has gotten so much, so wrong, for so long that, as Professor Bailey says, "... what is available on the shelves has fallen into sufficient discredit for grammar to have forfeited its place in the curriculum, unrespected and little heeded by the brighter students".

    Again, there is no need for prescriptive grammar; there actually isn't any need for prescriptive grammar for descriptive grammar accurately describes how language is used in all registers.

    Prescriptive grammar, in the past and still to this day, has dismally failed to make these important distinctions as to register use. How can, why would anyone trust such dismal failure?

  3. #13
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    Default Re: May Might Can Could

    riverkid, why do you have to turn everything into a battle about prescriptivism versus descriptivism?
    His definition is precisely what The Grammar Book, a respected ESL grammar uses.
    Well, I disagree with The Grammar Book. I've pointed out what I believe to be a weakness in that definition: it's far too simplistic and simply doesn't match reality. You haven't addressed that with anything more than appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy and always a very weak argument.

    I'm not aware of any dialect of English that actually has a rule, a real rule that is, where double negatives cancel each other out to form a positive. Perhaps you could point one out for us?
    How can you, who claims to believe in descriptivism, demand to see "a rule", and then qualify that by saying "a real rule"? What do you regard as "a real rule"? For a huge number of speakers, a double negative is generally a positive, such as the dialects spoken in southeast England, on which RP is partly based. In a large number of dialects, speakers do not use double negatives, or use them only as negated negatives (slightly different from a straight positive, of course, but I was simplifying for clarity).

    If this was to appear in a technical manual, every native speaker of English would know that it was a typo
    How would they know if it's perfectly grammatically correct? Are you saying that technical manuals follow different rules of grammar? If so, why are you even arguing with me?

    I can't imagine any person, even the most prescriptive, thinking that the two negatives mean that a person should supply hydrogen gas to the outlet
    Perhaps that's because such a construction doesn't exist in your dialect. Maybe it exists in mine. Do you know all English dialects? I mean, do you really?

    These unhelpful statements have been repeated for so lomg by prescriptivists that they have, for some, taken on the qualities of a mantra.
    No, this is your mantra; it has become so because every time somebody says something you personally disagree with, you claim that it's "prescriptivist" and therefore "wrong". It is by way of a knee-jerk reaction with you: "This is a silly prescriptivism", "Prescriptivists have always claimed this, but they're wrong" -- and yet the fact remains that for a large number of native speakers of English, a double negative is not a negative. There's no "right" or "wrong" here; there are dialects of English that treat double negatives differently. The error would be to suggest that one way is "correct" and the other is "incorrect" -- that is the fallacy. They are all correct within their own dialects.

    A tin ear for stress and melody...
    I'd like to see Pinker use that argument for written English. Punctuation and italics can only give a rough clue as to intonation, stress and melody.

    That Standard English better facilitates communication is a complete falsehood, Rewboss. People communicate perfectly well in their dialects, at least as well, if not better using nonstandard forms.
    People communicate perfectly well within their dialects, but between dialects is an entirely different matter. I would be very surprised indeed if you could understand a broad Geordie dialect, as spoken in the Tyneside area of northeast England. Even most British people have trouble with it. It may well be that "yakkin Geordie is mint", but you'd never write a technical manual or even a novel in Geordie. (You might write a novel in standard English with some well-known Geordie dialect words and a few spellings to indicate a Geordie accent, but that's not the same.)

    And why wouldn't you write a book in real Geordie? Not because there's anything inferior about Geordie, but because people in Cleveland, Auckland or even Birmingham, England would have difficulty understanding it. Write it standard English, or even standard English with variations, and it instantly becomes accessible to all. I hope it is not your contention that someone from Newcastle can make himself better understood by a New Yorker if he spoke Geordie instead of Oxford English.

    People who have not been raised on prescriptions still use Standard English for writing and for formal speech. They use it not to communicate any more effectively but simply because that is what we use.
    That depends on the person. Skilled speakers use standard English in formal settings precisely because they wish to be understood by a wider audience. When Trainspotting was released in the US, the actors dubbed their lines into a more US-friendly dialect so that Americans could actually understand what was being said. They retained some Scottish speech patterns, but moderated their accent to something very much closer to Oxford English -- a sort of "The engines canna take it, Cap'n" dialect. If Billy Connolly were to perform in his native Glaswegian accent, I confidently predict you would not understand half his jokes. My wife speaks the Kahlgrund dialect with family and neighbours, and High German with everybody else (including me), and will happily tell you that she deliberately speaks High German to me for my benefit: like most people, she is bilingual within her own language.

    Indeed, before the mass media "ironed out" some of the most obvious differences between dialects, the situation was even worse: even neighbouring dialects could be mutually unintelligible. When radio first brought American English to the ears of ordinary Brits, many hardly recognised it as English at all, let alone understood what was said.

    Again, there is no need for prescriptive grammar; there actually isn't any need for prescriptive grammar for descriptive grammar accurately describes how language is used in all registers.
    I'm not using prescriptive grammar to describe how language is used. Indeed, I expressly made the point that prescriptive grammar is nothing but an artificial set of agreed standards. You're falling into the trap of thinking that there is a war between prescriptive and descriptive grammar (a trap that an awful lot of self-styled "grammarians" on both sides of the argument fall into), when in fact it's a case of different tools for different jobs.

  4. #14
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: May Might Can Could

    [Riverkid: my comments are direct and frank but they are in no way intended to be disrespectful] My new comments are in red.

    RB wrote: riverkid, why do you have to turn everything into a battle about prescriptivism versus descriptivism?

    That is the central issue, RB. You raised it yourself. You pointed out, correct me if I'm wrong, how artificial these prescriptions are. Why would anyone want to use artificial rules for language when language has all the real rules it needs to do the job. Why not use accurate descriptions of language instead of artificial prescriptions, which are after all, mere opinions of how some people want to see language.


    RK wrote: His definition is precisely what The Grammar Book, a respected ESL grammar uses.


    RB wrote: Well, I disagree with The Grammar Book. I've pointed out what I believe to be a weakness in that definition: it's far too simplistic and simply doesn't match reality. You haven't addressed that with anything more than appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy and always a very weak argument.

    You chide me for "an appeal to authority" yet you offer nothing more than "Rewboss".. These are people who have studied language and found prescriptivism to be sadly lacking. And it is and has been sadly lacking.

    RK wrote:
    I'm not aware of any dialect of English that actually has a rule, a real rule that is, where double negatives cancel each other out to form a positive. Perhaps you could point one out for us?


    RB wrote:
    How can you, who claims to believe in descriptivism, demand to see "a rule", and then qualify that by saying "a real rule"? What do you regard as "a real rule"?

    A real rule is one that describes how language is actually used.

    RB wrote:
    For a huge number of speakers, a double negative is generally a positive, such as the dialects spoken in southeast England, on which RP is partly based. In a large number of dialects, speakers do not use double negatives, or use them only as negated negatives (slightly different from a straight positive, of course, but I was simplifying for clarity).

    I would truly like to see some proof for this contention.


    RK wrote:
    If this was to appear in a technical manual, every native speaker of English would know that it was a typo


    RB wrote:
    How would they know if it's perfectly grammatically correct? Are you saying that technical manuals follow different rules of grammar? If so, why are you even arguing with me?

    I think you missed a negative somewhere in there, but I believe I get your point. Because I disagree, vehemently, with your example.

    RK wrote:
    I can't imagine any person, even the most prescriptive, thinking that the two negatives mean that a person should supply hydrogen gas to the outlet.


    RB wrote:
    Perhaps that's because such a construction doesn't exist in your dialect. Maybe it exists in mine. Do you know all English dialects? I mean, do you really?

    Let's get rid of the maybe's and deal in facts. Do all double negatives mean a positive in your dialect of English, Rewboss? What is your dialect of English?

    RK wrote:
    These unhelpful statements have been repeated for so long by prescriptivists that they have, for some, taken on the qualities of a mantra.


    RB wrote:
    No, this is your mantra; it has become so because every time somebody says something you personally disagree with, you claim that it's "prescriptivist" and therefore "wrong". It is by way of a knee-jerk reaction with you: "This is a silly prescriptivism", "Prescriptivists have always claimed this, but they're wrong" -- and yet the fact remains that for a large number of native speakers of English, a double negative is not a negative. There's no "right" or "wrong" here; there are dialects of English that treat double negatives differently. The error would be to suggest that one way is "correct" and the other is "incorrect" -- that is the fallacy. They are all correct within their own dialects.

    I've never said that one way it correct and others incorrect. I'm merely questioning your contention that there are dialects of English where a double negative equals a positive. So don't just tell me, prove it to me for I simply don't believe that what you've said, above, is an accurate representation even of BrE. I may well be mistaken but I need proof, not opinions.

    Steven Pinker quoted:
    A tin ear for stress and melody...



    RB wrote:
    I'd like to see Pinker use that argument for written English. Punctuation and italics can only give a rough clue as to intonation, stress and melody.

    I'd like to see you address the issue, Rewboss. Professor Pinker was quite obviously addressing the spoken language.

    RK wrote:
    That Standard English better facilitates communication is a complete falsehood, Rewboss. People communicate perfectly well in their dialects, at least as well, if not better using nonstandard forms.



    RB wrote:
    People communicate perfectly well within their dialects, but between dialects is an entirely different matter. I would be very surprised indeed if you could understand a broad Geordie dialect, as spoken in the Tyneside area of northeast England. Even most British people have trouble with it. It may well be that "yakkin Geordie is mint", but you'd never write a technical manual or even a novel in Geordie. (You might write a novel in standard English with some well-known Geordie dialect words and a few spellings to indicate a Geordie accent, but that's not the same.)

    And why wouldn't you write a book in real Geordie? Not because there's anything inferior about Geordie, but because people in Cleveland, Auckland or even Birmingham, England would have difficulty understanding it. Write it standard English, or even standard English with variations, and it instantly becomes accessible to all. I hope it is not your contention that someone from Newcastle can make himself better understood by a New Yorker if he spoke Geordie instead of Oxford English.

    Please, Rewboss, let's do focus. You clearly understand that description does not deny that there are times appropriate to Standard English. But Standard English is hardly guided by prescriptions. SWE is guided by the language we all use.

    RK wrote:
    People who have not been raised on prescriptions still use Standard English for writing and for formal speech. They use it not to communicate any more effectively but simply because that is what we use.


    RK wrote:
    Again, there is no need for prescriptive grammar; there actually isn't any need for prescriptive grammar for descriptive grammar accurately describes how language is used in all registers.


    RB wrote:
    I'm not using prescriptive grammar to describe how language is used. Indeed, I expressly made the point that prescriptive grammar is nothing but an artificial set of agreed standards. You're falling into the trap of thinking that there is a war between prescriptive and descriptive grammar (a trap that an awful lot of self-styled "grammarians" on both sides of the argument fall into), when in fact it's a case of different tools for different jobs.

    Nobody, using language naturally, ever uses prescriptions because as Professor Pinker says, prescriptions are alien to the natural workings of language. The trouble comes when people pass on to ESLs and ENLs these artificial "rules".

    Take one prescription, just one prescription and show us how it is a "different tool for a different job".
    Last edited by riverkid; 20-Jan-2008 at 01:32.

  5. #15
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    Default Re: May Might Can Could

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    You pointed out, correct me if I'm wrong, how artificial these prescriptions are. Why would anyone want to use artificial rules for language when language has all the real rules it needs to do the job.
    To communicate across dialectical boundaries.

    For example, spelling is prescription pure and simple: it wasn't fixed until the likes of Samuel Johnson and William Shakespeare came along and imposed their personal preferences on us. Why do we write "deign" but "disdain"? Because Johnson wasn't paying attention when he wrote his dictionary, that's why. Why do we write "build" with a U? Because in Johnson's day, English dialects were divided into two broad groups (east and west), and Johnson wanted to reflect both.

    Batt knsiddr wotud happn iff wi riternd tu the daze ov raiting az wi pleezd. It wasn't a huge problem when most people were illiterate and official records were kept in Latin, but it would seriously hamper written communication now.

    So that's one prescription we would be lost without.

    Why not use accurate descriptions of language instead of artificial prescriptions, which are after all, mere opinions of how some people want to see language.
    I use descriptions of language use to understand how people communicate, and prescriptions to tell students how to impress prospective employers at job interviews.

    You chide me for "an appeal to authority" yet you offer nothing more than "Rewboss".. These are people who have studied language and found prescriptivism to be sadly lacking. And it is and has been sadly lacking.
    The problem is that there are many very well-respected authorities who believe very firmly that prescriptivism is not sadly lacking. They may be wrong, but so might the people on your side of the argument. The appeal to authority is a logical fallacy because you have to prove the authority is actually correct.

    And the definition of "grammatical" which was offered doesn't match what I have observed in real life. What I offered was not "rewboss" -- I do not consider myself an authority -- but an observation which has yet to be challenged.

    According to mykwyner, "a sentence like, 'We ain't never done seen nothing like that there,' is not ungrammatical because every native English speaker knows exactly what it means". I wouldn't argue with that, but in the same post he said that "Shoes myself tied I by" is definitely ungrammatical. But I understood what that sentence means, and I expect you did, too.

    Therefore, I suggest that this isn't a helpful distinction. Only complete gibberish (like Foul Ole Ron's catchphrase "Millennium hand and shrimp" in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels) could be described as "ungrammatical".

    A real rule is one that describes how language is actually used.
    And large numbers of speakers use double negatives in the way I describe. You can't have not noticed this, surely.

    I would truly like to see some proof for this contention.
    Travel a bit, and take a notebook and tape recorder with you.

    RB wrote:
    How would they know if it's perfectly grammatically correct? Are you saying that technical manuals follow different rules of grammar? If so, why are you even arguing with me?

    I think you missed a negative somewhere in there, but I believe I get your point. Because I disagree, vehemently, with your example.
    What I missed was a comma, which is a pure prescription (what is punctuation if not completely abstract, artificial and arbitrary?); but this caused you to slightly misunderstand my sentence. Let me rephrase:

    If it's perfectly grammatically correct, how would they know it was a typo?

    Now let me expand. You contend that nobody uses a double negative to mean a positive. Therefore, by your own reasoning, a sentence like "You should not never..." must be a negative, and can only be interpreted one way. Yet when presented with this sentence, your immediate assumption is that it must be a typo. Why would this be? How, in your opinion, should the sentence be corrected? And why? You seem to be holding two completely contradictory opinions, here: on the one hand, the double negative is perfectly grammatical and has only one possible interpretation; on the other hand, the double negative must have been written in error. Why in error? What's wrong with it? Why can't it stand as it does? Why can't we have double negatives in technical manuals?

    Let's get rid of the maybe's and deal in facts. Do all double negatives mean a positive in your dialect of English, Rewboss? What is your dialect of English?
    My dialect is mainly Oxford English, with some influence from Westcountry and a small helping of Bristolian (a.k.a. "Bristle"). I have often negated negatives, but only ever used double negatives as negatives when imitating certain dialects, such as Mockney. Of course, Westcountry does use double negatives, but it's completely unnatural to me. It was never a part of my idiolect.

    I've never said that one way it correct and others incorrect.
    On the contrary: you have frequently said that rules you happen to disagree with are flat out incorrect.

    So don't just tell me, prove it to me for I simply don't believe that what you've said, above, is an accurate representation even of BrE. I may well be mistaken but I need proof, not opinions.
    Why lump BrE as one dialect? How's that a reflection of reality?

    And what "proof" are you looking for? Since about the only thing that might convince you would be something written by Steven Pinker's own hand to the effect of "I was wrong all along, please forgive me", I'm really at a loss here.

    Incidentally, the use of a double negative resolving to a positive is so common, there's even a special name for it: litotes.

    I'd like to see you address the issue, Rewboss. Professor Pinker was quite obviously addressing the spoken language.
    I know. So why quote him in this context?

    But Standard English is hardly guided by prescriptions.
    Standard English is all prescriptions. It is based on certain dialects, but is essentially a completely artificial creation. Standard British English is based on dialects spoken in Oxford and parts of London, where the governing classes were educated, lived and worked. But it is a synthesis of various dialects, primarily Oxford, and is, according to Peter Trudgill, outside of the dialect continuum. That can't have happened by any natural process.

    RP and General American accents are even more obviously artificial. RP particularly was made for the early days of radio, hence the exaggerated vowels.

    Nobody, using language naturally, ever uses prescriptions because as Professor Pinker says, prescriptions are alien to the natural workings of language.
    This is true in a purely psychological sense. However, many dialects have rules which happen to conform to "prescriptive" rules.

    But what makes a prescriptive rule? If I say to my students that the third-person singular form of a regular verb in the present tense takes an S, am I not articulating this rule as a prescription?

    The trouble comes when people pass on to ESLs and ENLs these artificial "rules".
    So when your students have to write job applications (or technical manuals), what advice do you give them about double negatives?

    Take one prescription, just one prescription and show us how it is a "different tool for a different job".
    You don't understand, do you? It's not so much the rules themselves, it's the approach you use.

    Descriptive approach: "Hmm, that's interesting. Most verbs seem to form the past tense by adding -ed. But there are some other, different, markers used by some of the more common verbs. Ooh, look at 'go': its past tense form seems to have a completely different etymology. And what about these verbs which display no past tense markers at all, like 'set". I suppose native speakers must use other cues. Well, obviously context, but perhaps we should check this out. I wonder if we could devise some sort of test..."

    Prescriptive approach: "OK, folks, listen up. To make the past tense of a regular verb, you just add -ed. But I'm afraid there are some irregular verbs you'll have to learn."

  6. #16
    smsm_1985 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: May Might Can Could

    Quote Originally Posted by louhevly View Post
    I agree with everything you say except that I don't think "It can rain tonight" is proper English, except in the very unusual context offered by cclaff.

    Lou
    yea, i agree with u on that. it may/might/couldnt/could. but it can rain. not proper.

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