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Wednesday, 23 January 2013


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Part 3.




These sort, all manner of, etc.

427. The statement that adjectives agree with their nouns in number is restricted to the words this and that (with these and those), as these are the only adjectives that have separate forms for singular and plural; and it is only in one set of expressions that the concord seems to be violated,-in such as "these sort of books," "those kind of trees," "all manner of men;" the nouns being singular, the adjectives plural. These expressions are all but universal in spoken English, and may be found not infrequently in literary English; for example,-
These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness
Harbor more craft, etc.

All these sort of things. -Sheridan.

I hoped we had done with those sort of things. -Muloch.

You have been so used to those sort of impertinences. -Sydney Smith.

Whitefield or Wesley, or some other such great man as a bishop, or those sort of people. -Fielding.

I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes. -Austen.

There are women as well as men who can thoroughly enjoy those sort of romantic spots.- Saturday Review, London.

The library was open, with all manner of amusing books. -Ruskin.

According to the approved usage of Modern English, each one of the above adjectives would have to be changed to the singular, or the nouns to the plural.

History of this construction. The reason for the prevalence of these expressions must be sought in the history of the language: it cannot be found in the statement that the adjective is made plural by the attraction of a noun following.

At the source. In Old and Middle English, in keeping with the custom of looking at things concretely rather than in the abstract, they said, not "all kinds of wild animals," but "alles cunnes wilde deor" (wild animals of-every-kind). This the modern expression reverses.

Later form. But in early Middle English the modern way of regarding such expressions also appeared, gradually displacing the old.

The result. Consequently we have a confused expression. We keep the form of logical agreement in standard English, such as, "This sort of trees should be planted;" but at the same time the noun following kind of is felt to be the real subject, and the adjective is, in spoken English, made to agree with it, which accounts for the construction, "These kind of trees are best."

A question. The inconvenience of the logical construction is seen when we wish to use a predicate with number forms. Should we say, "This kind of rules are the best," or "This kind of rules is the best?"Kind or sort may be treated as a collective noun, and in this way may take a plural verb; for example, Burke's sentence, "A sort of uncertain sounds are, when the necessary dispositions concur, more alarming than a total silence."


428. The comparative degree of the adjective (or adverb) is used when we wish to compare two objects or sets of objects, or one object with a class of objects, to express a higher degree of quality; as,-
Which is the better able to defend himself,-a strong man with nothing but his fists, or a paralytic cripple encumbered with a sword which he cannot lift? -Macaulay.
Of two such lessons, why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?

We may well doubt which has the stronger claim to civilization, the victor or the vanquished. -Prescott.
A braver ne'er to battle rode. -Scott.
He is taller, by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court. -Swift.
429. When an object is compared with the class to which it belongs, it is regularly excluded from that class by the word other; if not, the object would really be compared with itself: thus,-
The character of Lady Castlewood has required more delicacy in its manipulation than perhaps any other which Thackeray has drawn. -Trollope.
I used to watch this patriarchal personage with livelier curiosity than any other form of humanity. -Hawthorne.


See if the word other should be inserted in the following sentences:-
1. There was no man who could make a more graceful bow than Mr. Henry. -Wirt.

2. I am concerned to see that Mr. Gary, to whom Dante owes more than ever poet owed to translator, has sanctioned, etc. -Macaulay.

3. There is no country in which wealth is so sensible of its obligations as our own. -Lowell.

4. This is more sincerely done in the Scandinavian than in any mythology I know. -Carlyle.

5. In "Thaddeus of Warsaw" there is more crying than in any novel I remember to have read. -Thackeray.

6. The heroes of another writer [Cooper] are quite the equals of Scott's men; perhaps Leather-stocking is better than any one in "Scott's lot."- Id.

430. The superlative degree of the adjective (or adverb) is used regularly in comparing more than two things, but is also frequently used in comparing only two things.
Examples of superlative with several objects:-
It is a case of which the simplest statement is the strongest. -Macaulay.

Even Dodd himself, who was one of the greatest humbugs who ever lived, would not have had the face. -Thackeray.

To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid. -Huxley.

Compare the first three sentences in Sec. 428 with the following:-

Which do you love best to behold, the lamb or the lion? -Thackeray.

Which of these methods has the best effect? Both of them are the same to the sense, and differ only in form. -Dr Blair.

Rip was one of those ... who eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got easiest. -Irving.

It is hard to say whether the man of wisdom or the man of folly contributed most to the amusement of the party. -Scott.

There was an interval of three years between Mary and Anne. The eldest, Mary, was like the Stuarts-the younger was a fair English child. -Mrs. Oliphant.

Of the two great parties which at this hour almost share the nation between them, I should say that one has the best cause, and the other contains the best men. -Emerson.

In all disputes between States, though the strongest is nearly always mainly in the wrong, the weaker is often so in a minor degree. -Ruskin.

She thought him and Olivia extremely of a size, and would bid both to stand up to see which was the tallest. -Goldsmith.

These two properties seem essential to wit, more particularly the last of them. -Addison.

"Ha, ha, ha!" roared Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him. "Let us see which will laugh loudest." -Hawthorne.

431. In Shakespeare's time it was quite common to use a double comparative and superlative by using more or most before the word already having -er or -est. Examples from Shakespeare are,-
How much more elder art thou than thy looks!- Merchant of Venice.

Nor that I am more better than Prospero.- Tempest.

Come you more nearer. - Hamlet.

With the most boldest and best hearts of Rome.- J. Cæsar.

Also from the same period,-

Imitating the manner of the most ancientest and finest Grecians. -Ben Jonson.

After the most straitest sect of our religion.- Bible, 1611.
Such expressions are now heard only in vulgar English. The following examples are used purposely, to represent the characters as ignorant persons:-

The artful saddler persuaded the young traveler to look at "the most convenientest and handsomest saddle that ever was seen." -Bulwer.

"There's nothing comes out but the most lowest stuff in nature; not a bit of high life among them." -Goldsmith.


432. As to these two expressions, over which a little war has so long been buzzing, we think it not necessary to say more than that both are in good use; not only so in popular speech, but in literary English. Instances of both are given below.

The meaning intended is the same, and the reader gets the same idea from both: hence there is properly a perfect liberty in the use of either or both.

For Carlyle, and Secretary Walsingham also, have been helping them heart and soul for the last two years. -Kingsley.

The delay in the first three lines, and conceit in the last, jar upon us constantly. -Ruskin.

The last dozen miles before you reach the suburbs. -De Quincey.

Mankind for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw. -Lamb.

The first twenty numbers were expressed by a corresponding number of dots. The first five had specific names. -Prescott.

These are the three first needs of civilized life. -Ruskin.

He has already finished the three first sticks of it. -Addison.

In my two last you had so much of Lismahago that I suppose you are glad he is gone. -Smollett.

I have not numbered the lines except of the four first books. -Cowper.

The seven first centuries were filled with a succession of triumphs. -Gibbon.


An English Grammar 1896 by W. M. Baskervill & J. W. Sewell

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