previous next

ARTICLE. The before verbals

The frequently precedes a verbal that is followed by an object:

“Whose state so many had the managing.

“You need not fear the having any of these lords.

The seeing these effects will be
Both noisome and infectious.

P. Pray, sir, in what?
D. In the delaying death.

“Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it.

“The locking up the spirits.

So Lear, iv. 4. 9; Hen. VIII. iii. 2. 347; M. for M. iii. 2. 126; M. of V. iv. 1. 309; M. Ado, ii. 2. 53; O. iii. 4. 22; T. N. i. 5. 84.

The question naturally arises, are these verbals, "locking," &c. nouns? and, if so, why are they not followed by "of,"--e.g. "the locking of the spirits"? Or are they parts of verbs? and in that case, why are they preceded by the article? The fact that a verb in E. E. had an abstract noun in -ing (A.-S. -ung)--e.g. "slaeten," to hunt; "slaeting," hunting--renders it a priori probable that these words in -ing are nouns. Very early, however, the termination -ng was confused with, and finally supplanted, the present participle termination in -nde. Thus in the earlier text of Layamon (iii. 72) we have "heo riden singinge," i.e. "they rode singing;" and in the later text the proper participial form "singende." An additional element of confusion was introduced by the gerundial inflection enne, e.g. "singenne," used after the preposition "to." As early as the twelfth century "to singenne" (Morris, E. E. Specimens, p. 53) became "to singende," and hence (by the corruption above mentioned) "to singinge." Hence, when Layamon writes that the king went out "an-slaeting" (ii. 88), or "a-slatinge" (iii. 168), it is not easy to prove that the verbal noun is here used: for the form may represent the corruption of the gerund used with the preposition "an" instead of with "to." And as early as Layamon we find the infinitive "to kumen" side by side with the present participle "to comende" (i. 49); and the gerund "cumene" side by side with the verbal "coming" (iii. 231); and the noun "tiding(s)" spelt in the earlier text "tidind" or "tidinde," the present participle (i. 59). The conclusion is, that although "locking" is a noun, and therefore preceded by "the," yet it is so far confused with the gerund as to be allowed the privilege of governing a direct object. The "of" was omitted partly for shortness, as well as owing to the confusion above mentioned.

It is easy to trace a process of abridgment from

“For the repealing of my banish'd brother,

to (2)

“Punish my life for (89) tainting of my love,

down to our modern (3) "for tainting my love." And hence the E. E. (William of Palerne, edit. Skeat), "for drede of descuverynge of that was do," l. 1024, "of kastyng of lokes," l. 942, are abbreviated in modern English into "disclosing that which was done" and "casting looks." This abbreviation is also remarkably illustrated by Bacon in his third Essay. He first uses the abbreviated form, and then, with a verbal noun that could not so easily have a verbal force, he adopts the full form: "Concerning the Means of procuring Unity. Men must beware that in the Procuring or Muniting of Religious Unity, they do not dissolve and deface the Laws of Charity." It is perhaps this feeling that the verbal was an ordinary noun, which allows Shakespeare to make an adjective qualify it even though of is omitted after it.

“He shall have old turning the key.

The substantival use of the verbal with "the" before it and "of" after it seems to have been regarded as colloquial. Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Touchstone:

“I remember the kissing of her batlet and . . . the wooing of
a peascod instead of her.

“Did these bones cost no more (in) the breeding?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: