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  1. #1
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Verbs and how we explain them

    Okay, so I have been studying parts of speech and all the different stuff they explain. Well, I understand that verbs are not nouns, and don't name things. However, why is it that many times we explain verbs as stating a thing.

    EXAMPLE: IF I were to read the sentence "Karen is running." someone might explain the verb as "When you hear the verb running, you think about fast walking."

    This confuses me becuase they are saying it like running is to be thought of as something. I thought verbs were their own part and are not just a thing. Or is it just sometimes that we explain it out of context like this to get the idea across, it is not meant to be literal.

    Please help. thanks

  2. #2
    The French is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    Quote Originally Posted by alkaspeltzar View Post
    Okay, so I have been studying parts of speech and all the different stuff they explain. Well, I understand that verbs are not nouns, and don't name things. However, why is it that many times we explain verbs as stating a thing.

    EXAMPLE: IF I were to read the sentence "Karen is running." someone might explain the verb as "When you hear the verb running, you think about fast walking."

    This confuses me becuase they are saying it like running is to be thought of as something. I thought verbs were their own part and are not just a thing. Or is it just sometimes that we explain it out of context like this to get the idea across, it is not meant to be literal.

    Please help. thanks

    Hello, I'm 'The French' (I'm not a teacher but I try to help you) I don't understand why you are confuse.

    You have learn the eight or nine parts of speech, and for me it's clear.

    I try to explain what I have learn:

    Nouns are things animate or unnanimate (table,dog, cat, horse, chair, sofa, bed) or people (Susan, Bill..).

    Verbs show us what the subject is doing or it state.

    I give you my example:

    I am running. (you have the subject I, and a main verb that show the action of the subject I; the subject is running now).

    I am tired. (The same I subject, verb tired, that show the state of I).

    Perhaps is it the progressive form that blocks you?

    Have a nice day.

  3. #3
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    I guess i'm confused becuase I know nouns and verbs are completely different. One names things while the other expalins "doing something".
    I can't understand why when we explain what a verb means, why many times we explain it like a thing/noun, when it really isn't

    For example: " I was running"

    If I were to be asked, what is running, I might say 'Running means to walk fast'- sounds like we are talking abuot the verb now as a thing, how does that work? Is it just how we expalin it and it is understood based on the context of the sentence?

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    I think you are touching on some very interesting questions here.

    It is useful to remember, first, that the traditional division of words into parts of speech is not "given" but the result of linguistic reflection (in this case going back a long way). One consequence of this is that "rules" such as "nouns denote things" and "verbs describe actions" are really only rules of thumb - useful because we have to start somewhere, but inadequate if you try to push them too far. All we can say is that languages have a strong tendency to operate in this way as far as their basic vocabulary is concerned. However, most languages have tricks for converting words from one part of speech to another, often without much change to the root meaning. In the case of the words that result, the neat rules for defining parts of speech in terms of meaning are already messed up.

    In the case of your example, "running" is a gerund, which is a kind of hybrid of noun and verb. (Unfortunately noouns and verbs are not completely different in this sense.) It can be manipulated here as a noun, and in particular can be referenced by pronouns like "it" as if it was a thing. The philosophical term for this is "reification". It is often linguistically a big convenience, and something that is very common.

    I think there may be something else involved in your example as well, but I will have to think about that overnight - the difference between using a word to refer to its normal meaning, and referring to the word itself as a word. It is natural enough to want refer to a word as a "thing". There is often then an ambivalence as to whether we are referring to the English word "run(ning)", which is conceptually a "thing", or to its meaning, which is let's say an activity.

    Hope this helps a little, and sorry for rambling. It is quite a big topic.
    Last edited by orangutan; 25-Jun-2009 at 19:06.

  5. #5
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    okay, I think I get what you are saying.

    First, there are rules that keep a noun and verb seperate. Nouns name people, places and thing while verbs explain the "what is going on" action.

    And what happens, is sometimes, in order to explain something such as a verb whose meaning is to do, or run etc, which is hard to put into words, when generalize it as a thing. This goes back to my orginal example. But since that thing and the context of the sentence is really just explaining the meaning, it is understood that running is not literally a thing, but well, running.

    That is why in the sentence " Bob is running" I think about a person(bob) running(doing something)., not the 2 things. Right?

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    Quote Originally Posted by alkaspeltzar View Post
    okay, I think I get what you are saying.

    First, there are rules that keep a noun and verb seperate. Nouns name people, places and thing while verbs explain the "what is going on" action.
    I don't think anybody is questioning the difference between nouns and verbs. But characterizing the difference is not so straightforward.

    And what happens, is sometimes, in order to explain something such as a verb whose meaning is to do, or run etc, which is hard to put into words, when generalize it as a thing. This goes back to my orginal example. But since that thing and the context of the sentence is really just explaining the meaning, it is understood that running is not literally a thing, but well, running.


    That is why in the sentence " Bob is running" I think about a person(bob) running(doing something)., not the 2 things. Right?
    Right. A verb or other predicate does not usually refer to an entity, but to what is sometimes described as a relation between entities, or a type of situation in which entities can participate.

    But language is good at presenting all kinds of things as entities (usually by making them nouns). For example "Bob is running", but compare "running is good for you", or "Bob goes for at least one run a day", or "running, which is something Bob is good at".

    Whether this is just part of our linguistic and cognitive apparatus or reflects something about the real world is a big question - one which you are touching on by asking whether running is "literally a thing".
    Last edited by orangutan; 26-Jun-2009 at 12:58. Reason: emphasis

  7. #7
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    I got you. What you are saying is exactly true below

    "But language is good at presenting all kinds of things as entities (usually by making them nouns). For example "Bob is running", but compare "running is good for you", or "Bob goes for at least one run a day", or "running, which is something Bob is good at"."

    I mean, sometimes we talk about things differently just depending on the context of the sentence and what is being referred too. So don't get confused, it is just languauge and how we speak. Normally, verbs are doing words while nouns are things, but sometimes, their roles swtich and it can be confusing.

    And you know I have realized that this question is bigger than what I should probably tackle and that everyone has learned it the same as me. So it is not that critical to figure out, I was just curious.

    Thanks for the help as alwasy

  8. #8
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verbs and how we explain them

    Quote Originally Posted by alkaspeltzar View Post
    And you know I have realized that this question is bigger than what I should probably tackle and that everyone has learned it the same as me. So it is not that critical to figure out, I was just curious.
    Too big for me to tackle as well, though I don't see why that should stop us thinking about it.

    To give perhaps a more helpful answer to your original question, I would say that there are three main ways that I know of to define parts of speech:

    (i) semantic (as in your original post).

    (ii) inflectional (for languages that have inflection): nouns tend to inflect for things like case, verbs for things like tense - etc.

    (iii) distributional: anything that can come after "the" (or let's say between "the" and the end of a sentence) is likely to be a noun - etc.

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