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  1. #1
    lefthandedscrewdriver is offline Newbie
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    [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    I have searched high and low for a rule or set of rules that specifically addresses a couple grammar issues I have seen.

    My question is with regard to the negation of a verb, typically transitive and intransitive verbs.

    The dispute:

    Side 1 believes that negating a verb also negates the action, the other side believes negation does not negate the action.

    as an example; talking v not talking, thinking v not thinking, believing v disbelieving, or believing v not believing.

    Side 2 believes they are all verbs therefore in every case describe a negative or positive action, but an action nonetheless.

    Side 1 believes that, for instance, 'not believing/belief' (negating believing/belief) has three modes a negative such as disbelieving, a positive such as believing, and a null belief.


    So that set me on a mission to try and find a rule or devise a rule that specifically applies to get to the bottom of it all and googled my fingers raw and turned up nothing substantial.

    Is there an applicable rule or understanding that would iron this out?

    --------------------------------------------------

    Then lastly, part 2, I read this and my mind instantly crashed turning into a pretzel;
    "Inanimate objects such as stones are able to not talk despite their inability to talk."

    "stones are able to not talk"? This strikes me as a contradiction how does it look to you folks? Is that kind of sentence structure valid construction?

    Maybe more rules? I'd be very interested in knowing the rules that cover especially problem one and also opinions or rules regarding problem two would be nice as well.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    Quote Originally Posted by lefthandedscrewdriver View Post
    Then lastly, part 2, I read this and my mind instantly crashed turning into a pretzel;
    "Inanimate objects such as stones are able to not talk despite their inability to talk."

    "stones are able to not talk"? This strikes me as a contradiction how does it look to you folks? Is that kind of sentence structure valid construction?
    It's a valid construction as there is nothing wrong with it grammatically. It's a question of whether the sentence is making a point. It seems to be suggesting that the inability to talk is distinct from the ability to not talk, a distinction that doesn't advance my understanding of negation much.

  3. #3
    Rover_KE is online now Moderator
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    Welcome to the forum, lefthandedscrewdriver.

    Are you sure you're in Cambodia?

  4. #4
    jutfrank's Avatar
    jutfrank is online now VIP Member
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    I think there may be an interesting question somewhere in your post, but I can't quite find it.

    Quote Originally Posted by lefthandedscrewdriver View Post
    Side 1 believes that negating a verb also negates the action, the other side believes negation does not negate the action.
    It's not clear to me what this means. Are we talking about grammar or meaning?

    as an example; talking v not talking, thinking v not thinking
    Yes.

    believing v disbelieving, or believing v not believing.
    The negation of believe is not believe and the negation of disbelieve is not disbelieve.

    Side 2 believes they are all verbs therefore in every case describe a negative or positive action, but an action nonetheless.
    Yes, that's right. But that's not controversial.

    Side 1 believes that, for instance, 'not believing/belief' (negating believing/belief) has three modes a negative such as disbelieving, a positive such as believing, and a null belief.
    I'm not sure I follow. The verb disbelieve has a sense of negativity, yes, but the grammatical negation is not disbelieve. I think you may be confusing grammar (negation) with meaning (positivity/negativity). Some words can have negative meaning (such as those with negative prefixes) and some word can have positive/negative connotation, but that's nothing to do with any grammatical rule. The grammar rule is very simple—just put not before the verb phrase.

    "Inanimate objects such as stones are able to not talk despite their inability to talk."
    The negation here is not talk. The sentence is saying that inanimate objects have an an ability, which is 'not talk'. If something is unable to cease talking, then it is unable to not talk. This is a very dubious sentence, by the way. It doesn't make sense because it is contradictory, as you say, if we suppose that having an ability to do something necessarily means that you have an ability not to do it. We wouldn't say that something has the 'ability' to be itself if it cannot do otherwise.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    I'm disabled and cannot run, but I find it hard to believe that I can (not run).

  6. #6
    lefthandedscrewdriver is offline Newbie
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    It seems to be suggesting that the inability to talk is distinct from the ability to not talk, a distinction that doesn't advance my understanding of negation much.
    Yes, thats where I ran into a problem as well. The problem I have is that a stone for instance would not be 'able' to do anything with regard to an action even if that action is to not think. Humans on the other hand would be able to not think, by blanking their mind. So in this case I think I would be talking about conveying the correct picture of what a stone can and cant do. Able as it is used would suggest to me that the stone can choose, rather than being impossible. Compare that to the glass is able to hold 10 ounces. So unlike the glass where a condition is being described the stone example seems to suggest the stone has the capacity to control not thinking. Does that sound reasonable?

  7. #7
    lefthandedscrewdriver is offline Newbie
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    It's not clear to me what this means. Are we talking about grammar or meaning?
    I think both.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Yes, that's right. But that's not controversial.
    I think it is for one person. They seem to be suggesting that it is controversial, that if no action can be seen, like not traveling, then its no longer an action because the person is standing still for instance, or if you have several sense verbs that its no longer an action.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I think there may be an interesting question somewhere in your post, but I can't quite find it.

    It's not clear to me what this means. Are we talking about grammar or meaning?

    Yes.

    The negation of believe is not believe and the negation of disbelieve is not disbelieve.
    That an interesting point. So is not believe and disbelieve equivalent in meaning? Likewise not disbelieve and believe?

    I think one person is trying to argue a null condition for not believe if no physical action can be seen. Something along the lines of disbelieve < null < believe which does not seem to be a legitimate understanding to me?


    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'm not sure I follow. The verb disbelieve has a sense of negativity, yes, but the grammatical negation is not disbelieve. I think you may be confusing grammar (negation) with meaning (positivity/negativity). Some words can have negative meaning (such as those with negative prefixes) and some word can have positive/negative connotation, but that's nothing to do with any grammatical rule. The grammar rule is very simple—just put not before the verb phrase.
    I guess what I am trying to sort out here is, since both believe and disbelieve are verbs in both cases an action is expressed and taking place regardless which direction?

    Then secondly if a negation is applied say not believe or not disbelieve it would seem 'not' only creates an inversion, and in both cases an action is still taking place. I think you confirmed it only creates an inversion?

    I was using positive with respect to an affirmation.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The negation here is not talk. The sentence is saying that inanimate objects have an an ability, which is 'not talk'. If something is unable to cease talking, then it is unable to not talk. This is a very dubious sentence, by the way. It doesn't make sense because it is contradictory, as you say, if we suppose that having an ability to do something necessarily means that you have an ability not to do it. We wouldn't say that something has the 'ability' to be itself if it cannot do otherwise.
    Thats what I was thinking too, that its simply word salad that not only contradicts itself, but also implies that the inanimate object has some control over talking or not talking, rather than directly saying its impossible which clearly identifies the condition of inanimate objects.

  8. #8
    Rover_KE is online now Moderator
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    What's the weather like in Cambodia—if that's where you really are?

  9. #9
    lefthandedscrewdriver is offline Newbie
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    What's the weather like in Cambodia—if that's where you really are?
    just visiting, a pretty long visit actually, will change it when I get back :)

  10. #10
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: [Grammar] There has to be a rule?

    Quote Originally Posted by lefthandedscrewdriver View Post
    just visiting, a pretty long visit actually, will change it when I get back :)
    Out of curiosity, which VPN do you use?
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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