Jane Austen's peculiarity

Paul Looney simplsol at aol.com
Sat Aug 8 22:23:20 CEST 2015


In your last example:

"Mr. Rushworth _was returned_”

“was returned” (singular, past tense, passive) is correct (although a simple “returned” would have been more powerful). There is no conditional, no “if”; as in your first example:

"to inquire if Mr. Wickham_were returned_,"

Haven’t had this much fun with the language in a long time…


> On Aug 8, 2015, at 1:07 PM, Richmond <richmondmathewson at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> On 08/08/15 22:56, Paul Looney wrote:
>> Richmond,
>> 
>> 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
> 
> I'm not sure anent that:
> 
> "He had been visiting a friend in the neighbouring county, and that
> friend having recently had his grounds laid out by an improver, Mr.
> Rushworth _was returned_ with his head full of the subject, and very eager
> to be improving his own place in the same way; and though not saying
> much to the purpose, could talk of nothing else."
> 
> Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"
> 
> Richmond.
>> 
>>> 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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