Monday, November 12, 2007

Back to Basics: Verbs

Unlike nouns, which are relatively easy to define, verbs complicate grammar by taking dozens of different forms, depending on how many nouns are being discussed, when the action took (or will take) place, and who is narrating. Check out Interlink's ESL site and their page on verbs for a thorough exploration.


For our purposes, let's assume that you've refreshed your memory with that page or already have a firm grasp on tenses and number agreement. You have another set of forms to worry about, beyond simple present, past, and future.


The more ornate forms have better names, too, like future perfect and (my favorite) pluperfect. These instruments shape garbled events into a clear time line by indicating just when an action occurs and whether it continues.


Most of these forms include a helping verb that tells your reader which period of time you mean. Between the two words, you form a verb with both tense—present, past, future—and aspect. The aspect shows readers an approximate time and duration. That's a lot of weight for “had” to carry!


For a really thorough review of tenses, aspect, and other verb complications, visit the University of Ottawa's page on using verbs.


You may notice that the word pluperfect appears nowhere on that page. If not, I noticed for you. In fact, many of the verb pages I visited neglected this word. You need to understand it, however, even if you don't remember the name. You use the pluperfect not just to indicate when an event occurred but that something happened before something else. Try the Ultralingua explanation of pluperfect for examples and a more specific definition.


I've heard the word pluperfect used as an adjective, usually in place of the phrase “the epitome of” or “the ultimate”. Calling your situation a “pluperfect hell” doesn't make sense. It's a great word, and fun to say, but it already has a meaning.


3 comments:








Deborah

said...

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BipolarLawyerCook

said...

"Calling your situation a “pluperfect hell” doesn't make sense. It's a great word, and fun to say, but it already has a meaning."

Indeed-- to every word, there is a meaning-- to every verb, a tense, tense, tense. : )





Sarah

said...

"Calling your situation a “pluperfect hell” doesn't make sense. It's a great word, and fun to say, but it already has a meaning."

It makes sense because there is a second definition of the word:
"More than perfect; supremely accomplished; ideal: "He has won a reputation as [a] pluperfect bureaucrat" (New York Times)."