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Vulgarisms. Some blunders in the use of verbs are, or should be, confined to the illiterate.
I should be delighted to go to
the World's Fair.
I should admire to go to the World's Fair.
Admire in this sense is sometimes heard in the United States, but is not in good use.
Clothes are "hung" on the line; men are "hanged" on the gallows.
I'll teach a man the river.
I'll learn a man the river.
"Teach," says Mark Twain, "is not in the river [the Mississippi] vocabulary."
He would n't let me go.
At the gate I alighted from my horse.
I shall lend you one hundred dollars only.
Detectives, after months of searching, found out that the daughter and her husband were in Jane County.
The old man pleaded so hard that I let him off.
She showed me the road to town.
Darcy had been used to having every attention shown him.
It snowed yesterday.
They passed through the old rickety gate which swung at the entrance of the place.
It is said privately that the road will declare a dividend.
You looked as if you had taken root there.
If it had been a hard case, I would have gone.
As the storm was increasing, I lay down in the corner and fell asleep.
As Gulliver could not see his way, he lay down and fell into a heavy sleep.
He would n't leave me go.
At the gate I lit from my horse.
I shall loan you only one hundred dollars.
Detectives, after months of searching, located the daughter and her husband in Jane County.
The old man plead so hard that I let him off.
She shew me the road to town.
Darcy had been used to having every attention showed him. It snew yesterday.
They passed through the old rickety gate which swang at the entrance of the place.
It is talked privately that the road will declare a dividend. You looked as if you had took root there.
If it had been a hard case, I would have went.
As the storm was increasing, I lied down in the corner and fell asleep.
As Gulliver could not see his way, he laid down and fell into a heavy sleep.
I recalled all the times I had lain awake.
Orlando laid Adam down carefully, and told him that he would soon return with food.
Scott often gives us a picture of some old ruined abbey, lying cold and deserted in the moonlight.
I recalled all the times I had laid awake.
Orlando lay Adam down carefully, and told him that he would soon return with food.
Scott often gives us a picture of some old ruined abbey, laying cold and deserted in the moonlight.
"There let him lay" deforms Byron's magnificent apostrophe to the ocean in "Childe Harold."
If you had a strong fire, and your steam were inclined to rise, what should you do?
How values have risen on
If you had a strong fire, and your steam was inclined to raise, what would you do?
How values have raised on Boylston Street!
The distinction between "raise" and "rise" is well brought out by Goldsmith in "The Deserted Village,"
"More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise."
Papa seated her in a big chair.
You aren't so fleshy as you
used to be, are you?
As it doesn't suit you to call,
send me ten dollars.
Papa sat her in a big chair. She set down before the fire. Why don't you set still? You ain't so fleshy as you used to be, be you?
As it don't suit you to call, send me ten dollars.
It may seem needless to record a vulgarism so gross as ain't; but the expression is sometimes on the lips of boys and girls who ought to know better, of men and women who have had a good education, and even of teachers in their
The better class of those who say ain't or he don't have no patience with those who say hadn't ought; but even this vulgarism is not confined to the illiterate.
You were well then, weren't
You was well then, was n't you?
"You was," which is now a badge of vulgarity, was once good English. Horace Walpole, for instance, writes, "How infinitely good you was to poor Mrs. Goldsworthy!" and again: "Sir,' said the king, 'was it not when you was opposing me?""1
May or Can."Can" is often used in place of "may," and "may" sometimes in place of "can."
May I give you a slice of beef?
If an author's ideas are original, he may safely fail in all other respects.
Can I give you a slice of beef?
If an author's ideas are original he can safely fail in all other requirements.
"Can" signifies that a thing is possible; "may," that it is permitted. The distinction is well brought out in the following quotations: the first from a recent English novel, the second from an American newspaper :
1 Other examples from various authors (from Henry More, 1651, to Dugald Stewart, 1819) are given by Mr. Fitzedward Hall (in "The Nation," March 10, 1892).
You will all like him. I shall bring him over to the manor if I
LITTLE TOMMY. Can I eat another piece of pie?
MAMMA (who is something of a purist). I suppose you can.
MAMMA. No, dear, you may not.
Few of those who observe the distinction between "may" and "can" would say, with Tommy's mamma, "may not; for, important as the distinction is, it usually disappears when "may" or "can" is coupled with "not" in a decla rative sentence.
Use CAN in speaking of what is possible, MAY in speaking of what is permissible.
Must."Must" presents a troublesome question.
In this law, Mr. Adonis encountered a new obstacle which had to be overcome.
Their ammunition ran low, and one of them was obliged to return to the settlements to replenish the stock.
In this law Mr. Adonis encountered a new obstacle which must be overcome.
Their ammunition ran low, and one of them must return to the settlements to replenish the stock.
It cannot be said that "must" should never be used to refer to past time; but in sentences like the foregoing it is objectionable, because it creates a temporary obscurity.
Be cautious about using MUST to refer to past time.
Will or Shall. A person who has not been trained to observe the proper distinctions between "will" and "shall," can never be sure of using them correctly; but he will make few mistakes if he fixes firmly in his mind that “I (or we) shall," "you will," "he (or they) will" express simple