Basic qualities of the perfect forms — страница 5

  • Просмотров 385
  • Скачиваний 9
  • Размер файла 29

speaker could not possibly point at it with his finger. Still less could he do that if the action he spoke about was in the future, and the future perfect (again, together with all those factors) denoted a result that would be there in the future only (that is, it would only be an expected result). 1 All this has to be carefully gone into, if we are to achieve really objective conclusions and if we are to avoid unfounded generalisations and haphazard assertions which may be disproved by examining an example or two which did not happen to be at our disposal at the moment of writing. (3) The syntactical context in which a perfect form is used is occasionally a factor of the highest importance in determining the ultimate meaning of the sentence. To illustrate this point, let us

consider a few examples: There was a half-hearted attempt at a maintenance of the properties, and then Wilbraham Hall rang with the laughter of a joke which the next day had become the common precious property of the Five Towns. (BENNETT) Overton waited quietly till he had finished. (LINDSAY) But before he had answered, she made a grimace which Mark understood. (R. WEST) The action denoted by the past perfect in these sentences is not thought of as preceding the action denoted by the past tense. Another possibility of the context influencing the actual meaning of the sentence will be seen in the following examples. The question, How long have you been here? of course implies that the person addressed still is in the place meant by the adverb here. An answer like I have been here

for half an hour would then practically mean, 'I have been here for half an hour and I still am here and may stay here for some time to come'. On the other hand, when, in G. B. Shaw's play, "Mrs Warren's Profession" (Act I), Vivie comes into the room and Mrs Warren asks her, "Where have you been, Vivie?" it is quite evident that Vivie no longer is in the place about 1 See also below (p. 111) on the modal shades of the future. Uses of the Perfect Forms 97 which Mrs Warren is inquiring; now she is in the room with her mother and it would be pointless for Mrs Warren to ask any question about that. These two uses of the present perfect (and similar uses of the past perfect, too) have sometimes been classed under the headings "present (or past) perfect

inclusive" and "present (or past) perfect exclusive". This terminology cannot be recommended, because it suggests the idea that there are two different meanings of the present (or past) perfect, which is surely wrong. The difference does not lie in the meanings of the perfect form, but depends on the situation in which the sentence is used. The same consideration applies to the present (or past) perfect continuous, which is also occasionally classified into present (or past) perfect continuous inclusive and present (or past) perfect continuous exclusive. The difference in the meaning of sentences is a very real one, as will be seen from the following examples. "Sam, you know everybody," she said, "who is that terrible man I've been talking to? His

name is Campofiore." (R. WEST) I have been saving money these many months. (THACKERAY, quoted by Poutsma) Do you mean to say that lack has been playing with me all the time? That he has been urging me not to marry you because he intends to marry you himself? (SHAW) However, this is not a difference in the meaning of the verbal form itself, which is the same in all cases, but a difference depending on the situation or context. If we were to ascribe the two meanings to the form as such, we should be losing its grammatical invariable, which we are trying to determine. Of course it cannot be said that the analysis here given exhausts all possible uses and applications of the perfect forms in Modern English. We should always bear in mind that extensions of uses are possible which

may sometimes go beyond the strict limits of the system. Thus, we occasionally find the present perfect used in complex sentences both in the main and in the subordinate clause — a use which does not quite fit in with the definition of the meaning of the form. E. g. I've sometimes wondered if I haven't seemed a little too frank and free with you, if you might not have thought I had "gone gay", considering our friendship was so far from intimate. (R. WEST) We shall best understand this use if we substitute the past tense for the present perfect. The sentence then would run like this: I have sometimes wondered if I hadn't seemed a little too frank and free with you... An important shade of meaning of the original sentence has been lost in this variant, viz. that of an