Re: Present tence copulative verbs

From: G. Ross (
Date: Sun Sep 06 1998 - 02:52:34 EDT

Dan-Ake said --

>>Dear Ben and all others with an English intuition,


There is room in any language for individual expression, but there are also
clauses which by the majority are viewed as ungrammatical, and other
clauses which are on the border of getting this stamp. I would appreciate
it if some list-memebers would express their opinion as to whether or not
the following sentences are ungrammatical or are border cases (the
judgement should be based on one`s intuition and/or similar examples from
English prose texts without using special cases such as historical

Gordon Ross replies --

I hope this (second) reply of mine to the message list formats correctly
this time. I apologize if it does not. I am still learning how to use
Microsoft's email program, Outlook Express, which automatically uses the
same format (usually Rich Text HTML) as the message to which I am replying
but which does not have a "Paste as Quote" option. I have therefore placed
quoted portions in >> << brackets, hoping this will suffice to
distinguish my comments from the original message.

A brief introduction first --

I am 61 years of age and for the last 17 years an instructor of English at
City College of San Francisco, a two-year or community college. I have also
taught courses in ESL (this country), EFL (overseas), French, comparative
literature, and general linguistics but now teach primarily courses that
prepare students for first-year college English. I received B.A. and M.A.
degrees in general linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley
and studied three years toward an unfinished doctorate in French and
comparative literature (the first two years at Catholic U. of America, the
third at U.C., Berkeley). I studied biblical Hebrew for two quarters and
biblical Aramaic for one quarter at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
(Berkeley, Calif.) many years ago (1960-61). Although I studied elementary
and intermediate classical Greek (the latter including Plato, Xenophon, and
Aeschylus), my knowledge of NT Greek comes from my own reading. Several
years of college classical Latin have helped me find my way around in the
Biblia Vulgata. However, I am very rusty in all of these languages.

I am no longer a Christian. Well, some people say, "Once a Christian,
always a Christian," an assertion (or sentiment) with which I respectfully
disagree. When I say that I am no longer a Christian, I mean that I no
longer accept the traditional creeds as truth, or, what is more important, I
suppose, for evangelical Christians, I no longer accept Jesus Christ as my
Lord and Savior.

Nonetheless, spiritual growth remains of the highest importance in my life.
I began meditating in 1971 and now meditate several hours a day (not all at
once) and have a very meaningful relationship with what I will call Divine
Love and Wisdom and Her / His / Its expression in various nonphysical forms.

Therefore, my interest in the Bible, and specifically for the purposes of
the "B-Greek Community" in the NT, is not apologetic but analytical or
critical, as defined by Stevan Davies in his book _New Testament
Fundamentals_, rev. ed. (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 1994).

I discovered the B-Greek message list a few days ago as a result of visiting
Jonathan's web site.

My interest in the Bible and its languages was reawakened when my sister,
with whom I had lost touch for many years and who had recently found my
email address on the Internet and reestablished contact, sent me some
Jehovah's Witness materials, including the New World Translation of the
Bible. I learned that she had been a JW for some ten years. I knew little
of the JWs, so I decided to read about them. I know much more now. Since
this is not the place to discuss their theology, organization, or practices,
let me just say that I am preparing myself for a future discussion with her
of these matters, at what I hope will be a gentle, sensitive, prolonged
pace. I thought that improving my knowledge of NT Greek would help me
evaluate the translation of the NWT more accurately, affording me a sounder
academic basis for discussion. I hope that some of you can be of help in
answering questions that arise from my studies of what the JWs call the
"Christian Greek scriptures." And perhaps I can contribute in my own small
way by offering in return what little I know of English grammar,
linguistics, and translation. In any case, I am happy to meet you all.

Enough of myself. Now, on to Dan-Ake's request for responses from those of
us with "English intuition."

>>A mother speaks about her firstborn child:

(1) "Before his birth I love him."
(2) "From before his birth I love him."
(3) "Before his birth, I have loved him."
(3) "From before his birth, I have loved him."
(4) "Before his birth, I loved him."
(5) "From before his birth, I loved him."<<

Only the second #3 and #4 are grammatical. There are no borderline cases.

>>The clauses being judged as grammatical, do they adequately express that
the love of the mother extended from some time before the birth of the
child and until speach time?<<

Only the second #3 expresses this idea.

The introductory prepositional phrase (if one can call it such) is unusual
in structure, consisting as it does of a preposition ("from") followed by a
prepositional phrase ("before his birth") as the object of the preposition.
Normally nouns, noun phrases, noun clauses, pronouns, pronoun phrases,
gerunds, and gerund phrases function as objects of prepositions.

The function of the introductory phrase is adverbial; it modifies the main
verb, answering an implied question like "How long (have you loved him)?"

The normal placement of adverbials in clauses is after the verb, e.g., "I
have loved him from before his birth." Placement elsewhere emphasizes the
adverbial, drawing the reader's attention to it.

The collocation of preposition + prepostion appears (sounds) awkward to me,
possibly because it occurs so seldom. I would avoid it in writing, if
possible, selecting an alternative that is aesthetically more pleasant
(often called "smoother" by English critics), perhaps something like "From
the time before he was born, I have loved him" or even "From the time before
his birth, I have loved him."

Wishing you all divine love and peace,

Gordon Ross

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