Re: Translating and Inclusive Language

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Mon Sep 08 1997 - 14:36:06 EDT

Jim Vellenga wrote the following:

Edward Hobbs wrote:
>My response (Edward now) is that this isn't literal at all, for the
>central issue in the Greek is that it is a 3rd person imperative, something
>we don't have in English. Tony has changed this to a standard English 2nd
>person imperative. The traditional way of translating Greek 3person-imp's
>is to use "Let him/them ... " I don't like this, for it suggests
>"Permit him to do thus", whereas the Greek is a command to someone other
>than the speaker or the addressee. Circumlocutions are necessary in
>English, since we lack this grammatical construction; but turning the
>sentence into a second person direct command may not be the best way to do
>I consider Jonathan's proposal quite clever; whether I would use it, I'm
>not sure, but my sole reason for not doing so would be my discomfort with
>the "Let..." construction, for which I have no alternative!

Let me once more advocate the position that modern English
_does_ have an equivalent for the third person imperative
in the form of "Have him/her/them do whatever!" as in
"Have your secretary call me" or "Have Mr. Vellenga contact
the clinic directly."

This does not have the flavor of permission, nor does it
have the sense of mere duty ("should") or constraint ("must").

But since my suggestion has so far remained unresponded too
in previous postings, I guess I have to ask if I'm really
out to lunch on this. Does

  "Whoever has (the) ears to hear (with), have them listen!"

or more dramatically

  "Whoever has (the) ears to hear (with), have them listen up!"

really represent the nuances less accurately than the other
forms? And if so, what's the difference?


While Jim's suggestion ("Have X do whatever") for an English 3rd person
imperative is interesting, it is still a circumlocution, which in fact is a
2nd person imperative: "(You) have X do whatever." It is a command to the
hearer/reader/addressee to do something ("You are ordered to ..."),
which may include passing along another command to a third party.

I still think that, while we find ways in English to get at the main point
of a 3rd person imperative, we in fact lack it. Not every language does
everything, and this is one thing English does not do. Hence, we can
understand such sentences; but we cannot translate them in any literal way.

Edward Hobbs

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