Jane Austen's peculiarity

Paul Looney simplsol at aol.com
Sat Aug 8 15:56:58 EDT 2015


The key here is the “if” - which creates a conditional clause - which requires the past plural of the verb (in this case “were”). This is similar to the “wenn" clause in German (Deutsch) and the “ut” clause in Latin.
If I were able, I’d thank you in person for mentioning this.

Paul Looney

> On Aug 8, 2015, at 9:42 AM, Richmond <richmondmathewson at gmail.com> wrote:
> Jane Austen [amongst others] uses an interesting type of grammatical construction of this sort:
> After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr. Wickham
> _were returned_, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball.
> Pride and Prejudice.
> I would like to analyse a million word corpus that I have been granted access to for this type of construction.
> However, I don't want to find examples of only 'were returned', but all examples of
> were + infinitive / preterite / past participle
> and, presumably for that I shall have to use wildcards . . .
> OR ???
> Richmond.
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