Jan. 29, 2019

Sentence 029 Let the cat out of the bag.

029 Have you a car?

029 I have a car.

029 I haven’t a motorcycle.

029 I used to be a firefighter.

029 I usedn’t to be a policeman.

029 Used you to be a firefighter?

029 Water is boiling at 100 Degrees Centigrade.

029 Water is to boil at 100 Degrees Centigrade.

Leslie: Which Sentences are incorrect?

Bogi: The first Sentence, ’Have you a car?’ seems to be corrupt, in other words totally ungrammatical.

L: I don’t agree with you. If you go to the British Library and dig up a coursebook that was printed in the 1970s, you’ll find that a few decades ago that was the standard and the norm.

B: Does it mean that the English language changes so quickly? That within a mere four decades, it can change into its own opposite?

L: To be able to give a correct answer, let’s see the three related Sentences together.

B: OK.

L: The Sentences are: ’I have a car.’, ’Have you got a car?’ and ’I haven’t a motorcycle.’

B: The first, ’I have a car.’ seems to be all right. I wouldn’t use it too often but it’s fully understandable.

L: I agree with you. However, the problem started here in the mid-70s – early 80s, and it started in the US.

B: Why in the US?

L: Simply because the development of American English is different from the development of British English both in its trends and its speed. Americans seem to be more rational in their thinking and they try to get rid of irrational routines.

This is what happened with the Verb ’have’. In British English, ’have’ was, and in other functions it still is, one of the 24 Anomalous Finites, i. e. a Jump Word, and in a Question it could jump out of its place without leaving anything behind.

So the standard question was ’Have you a car?’ Americans changed this and started to ask with ’do’. If we ask with ’do’ for almost all other Verbs, why should ’have’ be unique in this respect?

So their question was ’Do you have a car?’, and almost immediately the Negative Sentence was formed as ’I don’t have a car.’

In American English ’have’ became one of the main Verbs and it needs an Anomalous Finite to raise a Question or to make a Negative Sentence.

British English also develops but its development took a different turn. The British English question became ’Have you got a car?’ and the Negative Sentence ’I haven’t got a car.’ Soon, the Positive [Affirmative] Sentence also became ’I have got a car.’

Here, the Verb ’have’ is still an Anomalous Finite and the word ’got’ is just a meaningless filler. This structure is unique because most of the Anomalous Finites leave an Infinitive behind when they jump but ’got’ is not an Infinitive.

B: Isn’t it chaotic to have two totally different solutions to the same problem?

L: I don’t think so. British English and American English act upon each other and very soon both forms were present in both places.

Language is an economical creature, read we cannot have these two structures present with exactly the same meaning. So users of the language started to give the two structures meanings with a nuance difference.

’I have a car.’ has a meaning in All-Inclusive Time, while the meaning of ’I have got a car.’ is more like Here-and-Now.

As a matter of course, the differences are very similar in the related Questions and Negative Sentences as well.

B: Is there a similar story about ’used’, as in ’I used to be a firefighter.’?

L: Sure, but it is a British affair rather than a British – American co-production.

All in all, the form ’used’ is all right for a Positive Sentence, but in the Question and in the Negative Sentence, the use of ’did’ became the norm, although ’used’ is not the Past Tense of ’use’.

We ended up in using the linguistically corrupr form all over and see the linguistically correct forms as funny or sub-standard.

B: What about the last two Sentences?

L: Let’s see them one by one. ’Water is boiling at 100 Degrees Centigrade.’ is grammatically correct but situationally incorrect. It is about Here-and-Now and the boiling point of water doesn’t depend on Time.

B: What about the last? ’Water is to boil at 100 Degrees Centigrade.’

L: It is also a correct Sentence from the point of view of Grammar. Here, the problem is that the boiling point of water doesn’t depend on logics, so it is situationally incorrect.