H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Some Intransitive Verbs are used to link the Subject and some Adjective or Noun. These Verbs are called Copulative Verbs, and the Adjective or Noun is called the Attribute.
The Attribute always describes or denotes the person or thing denoted by the Subject.
Verbals are words that are derived from Verbs and express action or being without asserting it. Infinitives and Participles are Verbals.
And so on. Smith, in his preface, says that his book is intended, not so much to cover# the subject of grammar, as to teach it, and calls attention to the fact, somewhat proudly, that he has omitted the rather hard subject of gerunds, all mention of conjunctive adverbs, and even the conjugation of verbs. Nevertheless, he immerses himself in the mythical objective case of nouns on page 108, and does not emerge until the end.11 The New-Webster-Cooley Course in English,12 another popular text, carries reform a step further. The subject of case is approached through the personal pronouns, where it retains its only surviving intelligibility, and the more lucid object form is used in place of objective case. Moreover, the pupil is plainly informed, later on, that a noun has in reality but two case-forms: a possessive and a common case-form. This is the best concession to the facts yet made by a text-book grammarian. But no one familiar with the habits of the pedagogical mind need be told that its interior pull is against even such mild and obvious reforms. Defenders of the old order are by no means silent; a fear seems to prevail that grammar, robbed of its imbecile classifications, may collapse entirely. Wilcox records how the Council of English Teachers of New Jersey, but a few years ago, spoke out boldly for the recognition of no less than five cases in English. Why five? asks Wilcox. Why not eight, or ten, or even thirteen? Undoubtedly because there are five cases in Latin.13 Most of the current efforts at improvement, in fact, tend toward a mere revision and multiplication of classifications; the pedant is eternally
Note 11. Even Sweet, though he bases his New English Grammar upon the spoken language and thus sets the purists at defiance, quickly succumbs to the labelling mania. Thus his classification of tenses includes such fabulous monsters as these: continuous, recurrent, neutral, definite, indefinite, secondary, incomplete, inchoate, short and long. [back]
Note 12. By W. F. Webster and Alice Woodworth Cooley; Boston, 1903; rev. eds., 1905 and 1909. The authors are Minneapolis teachers. [back]