Mr. Herz's English Page

Sentence Basics:

Action:Most English sentences follow the same basic pattern:
Subject — helping verb — verb form
There are three helping verbs: do, does, did (to do), am, is, are, was. were (to be),have, has, had (to have). Each of these has an independent meaning and can appear as either verb or helper. Each of these carries a different partnering Verb Form:

Declarative Sentences (Statements)
Name Subject Helper negation Verb Form
Simple S do/does (not) V1
V/Vs/V2 (usually Ved)
Progressive S am/is/are (not) Ving
Perfect S have/has (not) V3

But English, like Hebrew, has defective forms, which in English are at the same time rare and extremely common. They are rare in that they occur only in Simple positive (except with to be) forms, but common in that we use them a lot. When the defective form is used, the helper AND THE “not” is dropped and the helper's ending passes to the verb; thus, the V1 in the table above becomes Vs or V2.

In other words, there is no defective negative form. If the do, or does or did is dropped, the not can not be used.

Questions of State:When we are talking about the state of a matter, we use to be (am, is, are, was, were) and a complement, which could be any word or phrase that describes the state of the subject.

Matters of State
Subject am/is/are/was/were (not) noun, adjective, adverb, V3.

Just as in the present, we have a defective form in the Simple positive. When the defective form is used, the helper AND THE “not” is dropped and the helper’s ending passes to the verb; thus, the V1 in the table above becomes V2. In other words, there is no defective negative form.

If there is no did, the not can not be used. In the Simple form of to be (was, were), the Verb form is dropped and the helper becomes the verb.

Question Basics:

For questions the order of the subject and helping verb is simply reversed, thus:
Helping verb — subject — verb form — ?

Interrogative Sentences (Questions)
Name Helper neg. Subject neg. Verb Form ?
Simple Do/Does/Did (not) s (not) V1 ?
Simple (to be) Am/Is/Are/Was/Were (not) s (not) - ?
Progressive Am/Is/Are/Was/Were (not) s (not) Ving ?
Perfect Have/Has/Had (not) s (not) V3 ?

The key feature that distinguishes the Question from the Statement is the order. This is not the only accepted form for a question, but is by far the most common.

The important point here is that the do/does/did is obligatory in the present simple.

The not here is entirely optional, relatively uncommon, and if used, is an either or. While there are rare cases in which you could use both, there are always better ways to say the same thing without double nots.

Questions of Matters of State
Am/Is/Are/Was/Were (not) s (not) noun, adjective, adverb, V3 ?

The other form of question most often seen simply replaces the subject with “who” or “what,” as in:

Who took my pencil?
What came between us?

I have at this point left out the perfect progressive. It is simply the grafting of the progressive on to the perfect. Once these are known, that graft is easy enough for the student to make. Likewise the passive. It is simply the use of a past participle with a “to be” verb, which can conveniently be taught with the present participle if desired.

Modalities (including the future)

The modals are can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will (the future), and would.

Some Linguists prefer to view the future as a modality. This works well for simplifying what we need to know, and the convention is adopted here. The key feature to the modals is that they just eat up any conjugation of the helping verb.

Declarative Sentences (Statements)
Name Subject Modality neg. Helper Verb Form
Simple S m (not) - V1
Simple (to be) S m (not) be -
Progressive S m (not) be Ving
Perfect S m (not) have V3
Matters of State
Subject m (not) be/have been noun, adjective, adverb, V3.
Interrogative Sentences (Questions)
Name Modality neg. Subject neg. Helper Verb Form ?
Simple M (n't) s (not) - V1 ?
Simple (to be) M (n't) s (not) be - ?
Progressive M (n't) s (not) be Ving ?
Perfect M (n't) s (not) have V3 ?
Questions of State
M (n't) s (not) be noun, adjective, adverb, V3 ?

Again, the n't or not here is entirely optional, but each has a subtlely different meaning.

Should I go to the store? simply asks for a recommendation.
Shouldn't I go to the store? typically implies that the speaker thinks or thought it was advisable, but now realizes the person he is talking to might have a different idea.
Shouldn't he not go to the store? suggests that the speaker thinks the idea is ill-advised and is asking another to rethink his position.

Typically the not is used when the speaker believes that the opposite is or should be the case, or is surprised that it is not so.

© 2013-2019 David R. Herz