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Give me a books, it is easily perceived, would be improper.
The definite article is applied indifferently to either the singular or plural number; bat it limits its subject, by designating the particular thing or things meant. Give me the book, or the apples, i. e. some particular book, or particular apples referred to It does not leave it at the option of the person who is bidden, to bring any book or apples he may choose, but the direction is limited to particulars by the force of the article.
A substantive without any article to limit it, is generally taken in its widest sense; as. A candid temper is proper for man; that is, for all mankind.
The peculiar use and importance of the articles, will be seen in the following examples: The son of a king-the son of the king-a son of the king. Each of these three phrases has an entirely different meaning, through the different application of the articles a and the.
Thou art a man, is a very general and harmless position; but, Thou art the man, (as Nathan said to David) is an assertion capable of striking terror and remorse into the heart.
stantives, yet admit of the singular article a; as, a few men; a great many neu.
The reason of it is manifest, from the effect which the article has on these phrases; it means a small or great number, collectively taken, and therefore gives the idea of a whole, that is, of unity. Thus likewise, a dozen, a score, a hundred, or a thousand, is one whole number, an aggregate of many, collectively taken; and therefore still retains the article a. though joined as an adjective to a plural substantive; as, a hundred years, &c.
The article is omitted before nouns that imply the different virtues, vices, passions, qualities, sciences, arts, metals, herbs, &c.; as, Prudence is commendable: falsehood is odious: anger ought to be avoided; &c. It is not perfixed to a proper name, as Alexander, (because that of itself denotes a determinate individual, or particular thing,) except for the sake of distinguishing a particular family; as, He is a Howard, or of the family of the Howards: or, by way of eminence; as, Every man is not a Newton. He has the courage of an Achilles : or when some noun is understood; as, He sailed down the (river) Thames, in the (ship) Britannia.
When an adjective is used with the noun to which the article relates, it is placed between the article and the noun; as, A good man, an agreeable woman; the best friend. On some occasions, however, the adjective precedes a or an; as, Such a shame. As great a man as Alexander: Too careless an author.
The definite article the is frequently applied to adverbs in the comparative or superlative degree; and its effect is, to mark the degree more strongly, and to define it more precisely : as, The more I examine it, the better I like it; I like this the least of any.
An adjective is a word added to a substantive to qualify it. The adjective qualifies the noun in different ways. Sometimes it is used to point out its kind; as, An industrious man: a
=virtuous woman : a benevolent mind. The adIjective here expresses the kind or quality of the person or thing to which it refers. Sometimes it expresses a mere circumstance; as, Distant trees; yonder summit. Here the kind or quality of the objects referred to, is not expressed; but merely the circumstance of their being at a distance. Sometimes the adjective is used to give emphasis to the noun; as, You are the particular person meant. The office here performed by the adjective particular, is more emphatically to point out the noun person; and it is in this sense, it qualifies it.
The pronoun that, when prefixed to a substan tive, performs a similar office; as, That man is industrious. That, as here used, has the situation and force of an adjective; and may be called a pronominal adjective. It is "a word added to a substantive, to qualify it," by pointing it out, and fitting it to sustain, in a proper manner, its office in the sentence. [See note to the definition of "qualify," Part I.]
To adjectives, there are commonly ascribed three degrees of comparison; the positive, the comparative, and the superlative.*
*Grammarians have generally enumerated these three degrees of comparison; but the first of them has been thought by some writers to be improperly termed a degree of comparison; as it seems to be nothing more than the simple form of the adjective, and not to imply either comparison or degree. This opinion may be well founded, unless the adjective be supposed to imply comparison or degree, by containing a secret or general reference to other things: as, when we say. He is a tall man; this is a fair day, we make some reference to the ordinary size of men, and to different kinds of weather.
The positive degree presents the adjective in its simplest state; as, Good, wise, great.
The comparative degree increases or lessens the positive in signification; as, Wiser, greater, less wise.
The superlative degree increases or lessens the signification of the positive, to the highest or lowest degree; as, Wisest, greatest. less wise.
The simple word, or positive, becomes the comparative, by adding r or er; and the superlative, by adding st or est to the end of it; as, Wise, wiser, wisest: great, greater, greatest.The adverbs more and most, placed before the adjective, have the same effect; as, Wise, more wise, most wise.
The termination ish may be accounted in some sort a degree of comparison, by which the signification is diminished below the positive; as, Black, blackish, or tending to blackness: salt, saltish, or having a little taste of salt. The word rather, is very properly used to expres a small degree of excess of a quality; as, She is rather profuse in her expenses.
Monosyllables, for the most part, are com pared by er and est; and dissyllables by more and most; as, Mild, milder, mildest frugal, more frugal, most frugal. Dissyllables ending in y, as, happy, lovely; and in le after a mute, as, able, ample; or accented on the last syllable, as, discreet, polite; easily admit of er and est; as, Happier, happiest abler, ablest: politer, politest. Words of more than two syllables hardly ever admit of these termina.
cttions. In some words the superlative is formed by adding the adverb most to the end of them; le as, nethermost, uttermost, or utmost, undermost, uppermost, foremost.
The comparative may be so employed, as tó express the same pre-eminence or inferiority as the superlative. Thus the sentence, Of all acquirements, virtue is the most valuable, conveys the same sentiment as the following: Vire tue is more valuable than every other acquire¿ment. In English, as in most languages, there
are some words of very common use that are #irregular in respect to comparison; as, Good,
better, best: bad. worse, worst little, less,
least much or many, more, most: near, nearno er, nearest or next late, later, latest or last : old. older or elder, oldest or eldest; and a few others.
An adjective put without a substantive, with the definite article before it, becomes a substantive in sense and meaning, and is written as a substantive; as, Providence rewards the good, and punishes the bad.
Various nous, placed before other nouns, assume the nature of adjectives; as, Sea fish, wine vessel, corn field, meadow ground, &c.
Numeral adjectives are either cardinal, or ordinal; cardinal, as, one, two, three, &c. ; ørdinal, as, first, second, third, &c.
A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun, to avoid the too frequent repetition of the same