Actually I was looking for the Association of Underwater Explorers, but while I'm here I'd like to submit a grammar question to the boffins. You have got boffins here, haven't you? Or have I been misinformed again?
My question is about passive participles those epicene grammatical entities seldom mentioned (though often heard) in the best houses.
I understand that the passive participle is considered by grammarians to share attributes of both verbs and adjectives. (I'm trying to suppress my feelings of disgust.)
Am I justified in claiming to see a significant difference between these two verb structures (other than the present/past difference):
a) I was flummoxed by her question.
b) It's two days later and I'm still flummoxed.
And also between these two:
a) This morning he was injured in a fall.
b) He is injured.
It seems to me that in both cases the 'a)' usage
is solidly in the verb camp. These sentences describe actions or events. It seems to me also that in both cases the 'b)' usage is brazenly adjectival.
Am I in agreement with grammarians on this question, and therefore making a big flap over nothing? Or am I correct in claiming that many grammar handbooks fail to address this distinction and treat all four usages above as cases of a verb being used as an adjective?

Regards to all. Now, where's my other flipper?

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
1 2
Actually I was looking for the Association of Underwater Explorers, but while I'm here I'd like to submit a grammar question to the boffins. You have got boffins here, haven't you? Or have I been misinformed again?

We got Murricans, and Murricans love boffin'. Is that close enough?
My question is about passive participles those epicene grammatical entities seldom mentioned (though often heard) in the best houses.

Well, okay, I'm willing to look ignorant. I don't think English has such a thing as a passive participle. (Try Russian, or Bulgarian.)
I understand that the passive participle is considered by grammarians to share attributes of both verbs and adjectives. (I'm trying to suppress my feelings of disgust.)

I think you mean the plain old past participle, which is used to form passive verb phrases. It can be part of a passive verb phrase: "I was confused about participles" or it can be used as an adjective: "He is one confused puppy."
Am I justified in claiming to see a significant difference between these two verb structures (other than the present/past difference): a) I was flummoxed by her question. b) It's two days later and I'm still flummoxed.

"Significant"? I don't think so. In both examples the verb phrase is a variant of "be flummoxed." In one sentence the phrase is in the past tense and the participle follows the "be" form immediately, and in the other the phrase is in the present tense, the "be" form is disguised in a contraction, and the two verbs are separated by an adverb ("still"). But the underlying syntax is the same.

It's true that some sentences feel more like a "be" form followed by a past participle functioning as an adjective than they do like one using a passive verb phrase, and syntactically it probably doesn't matter which
label you use. I don't see any real difference, and the meaning is rarely affected. Where you do get clarity is in a sentence like my earlier example: "He is one confused puppy." Although there's an "is" in the sentence, it's clear that "confused" is acting as an adjective modifying "puppy." The key is that the adjective precedes the noun it modifies. Compare: "That puppy is very confused." That one gives you your choice; passive verb phrase or copulative (linking) verb with adjective. The meaning stays the same no matter which way you describe it.
And also between these two: a) This morning he was injured in a fall. b) He is injured.

More of the same. Compare "The Jets have one injured quarterback." Hasta be an adjective there.
It seems to me that in both cases the 'a)' usage is solidly in the verb camp. These sentences describe actions or events. It seems to me also that in both cases the 'b)' usage is brazenly adjectival.

It may "feel" that way, but there's no rule requiring you to describe it that way or not to, for that matter.
Am I in agreement with grammarians on this question, and therefore making a big flap over nothing? Or am I ... to address this distinction and treat all four usages above as cases of a verb being used as an adjective?

There's plainly more to it than just saying "verb phrase." I recall reading something about the issue in a usage book or two back when I were young, but I can't give you a quick citation. It's obviously time to put out a call for John Lawler, whose meat and potatoes this is.
Regards to all. Now, where's my other flipper?

Why not head on over to New Zealand and ride a whale or two?

Bob Lieblich
Piqued
Actually I was looking for the Association of Underwater Explorers, but while I'm here I'd like to submit a grammar question to the boffins. You have got boffins here, haven't you? Or have I been misinformed again?

There are boffins here, but what why would you expect them to be experts on grammar?
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Actually I was looking for the Association of Underwater Explorers, ... boffins here, haven't you? Or have I been misinformed again?

There are boffins here, but what why would you expect them to be experts on grammar?

You can't help me then? I was of the opinion
that there was no subject too esoteric, no
field of inquiry too arcane, no matter on which
someone here could not expound with erudition
and trenchant wit. Surely a mere grammatical
question would not tax the awesome intellectual
resources assembled here.
It would? Bugger.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
"I'll have just the one kudo, thanks."
Dennis Callegari
Grammarians are in agreement that there is a difference between a participle and an adjective, but that difference lies in their use, not in the form of the words themselves. That means that you can't always tell the difference between them without making some tests. Here's a portion of a post I made on the subject in 1999:
cut here

The past participle form of the verb is not uniquely distinctive. There are many adjectives that are derived from and have the same shape as the past participle form of some verb, and if they can occur as predicate adjectives, as most adjectives can, they occur after a form of the auxiliary verb 'be', which carries the tense, person, and number inflections.
There are tests that distinguish between an adjective and a participle. An adjective (but not a participle) can occur with the intensifier 'very':
A very white whale was discovered in the press room. *A very fondled aide was discovered in the press room.

The passive allows an optional agent phrase with 'by':

*The whale was white by the spokesman.
The aide was fondled by the spokesman.
There's a difference here between 'opened' and 'closed'. 'Closed' is ambiguous between a participle and an adjective, while 'opened' is only a participle, since the adjective 'open' exists to constrast with it.

The door was open. (= an open door)
The door was opened. (= somebody opened it)
The door was closed. (ambiguous)
In one sense, 'closed' is the participle of the active verb 'close', and the construction is passive. On this reading, we're talking about an event that took place in the past:
The door was closed by the first lady.
=The first lady closed the door.
In the other sense, 'closed' is a stative adjective describing the condition of a door, with no necessary reference to any event of closing (a closed door need never have been open at all).

The 'very' and 'by Harry' tests show this up:
The door was very open. *The door was open by Harry. *The door was very opened. The door was opened by Harry. The door was very closed. The door was closed by Harry.

The last pair are both good, but have different senses, because of the ambiguity of 'closed'.
Historically, many adjectives come from participles, and may retain the form without retaining the grammatical function. Since English has almost no inflection left, it's not a good clue to grammar anymore. You have to pay attention to the syntactic constructions, not the canonical shapes of words.
cut here

In the sentences at issue,
a) I was flummoxed by her question. b) It's two ... he was injured in a fall. b) He is injured.

the (a) sentences are passive, thus displaying participles, while the (b) sentences have simple adjectives. The "by" test is already applied in the first (a), and is implicit in the second, because "in a fall" is the same thing as "by falling".

On the other hand, the "very" test works in the (b) sentences:

... I'm still very flummoxed.
He is very injured.
These adjectives are stative, which means they describe a state rather than an event. Passives, and participles generally, on the other hand, describe events that occur rather than states. That's a semantic distinction, not a syntactic one, but it can give you a clue as to which syntactic tests to apply.

-John Lawler www.umich.edu/~jlawler Univ of Michigan Linguistics Dept "Scholars who have made and taught from English grammars were previously and systematically initiated in the Greek and Latin tongues, so that they have, without deigning to notice the difference, taken the rules of the latter and applied them indiscriminately and dogmatically to the former." William Hazlitt 'English Grammar' (1829)
Actually I was looking for the Association of Underwater Explorers, ... boffins here, haven't you? Or have I been misinformed again?

There are boffins here, but what why would you expect them to be experts on grammar?

Shouldn't that be "but what how would you expect them to be"?
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Unfortunately my server is giving me only John Lawler's comments on Robert Lieblich's comments (not RL's original) so please forgive me if I get the attributions tangled or miss something altogether.
Thanks to both for commenting.
The two sentence types under discussion are these: a) I was flummoxed by her question.
b) It's two days later and I'm still flummoxed.
a) This morning he was injured in a fall.
b) He is injured.
It's true that some sentences feel more like a "be" ... see any real difference, and the meaning is rarely affected.

In type a), an event is described one which I instinctively try to visualize. In type b), a state or condition is described, and my way of experiencing and processing the sentence is very different, though I may eventually end up with the same general knowledge about the world.

It seems inadequate, therefore, to say that there is no "real" difference, or that the meaning is rarely affected, though I concede that this depends upon what we mean by "mean" and I guess we really don't need to go there.

Thanks to John Lawler for giving me a handle on how to test for and describe the difference. I knew there was one, but I couldn't put a label on it. Now I can.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
I think you mean the plain old past participle, which ... call for John Lawler, whose meat and potatoes this is.

Grammarians are in agreement that there is a difference between a participle and an adjective, but that difference lies in their use, not in the form of the words themselves.

I liked your tests. However, there are a very few words where a different adjective form has survived from an older past participle, eg molten and melted.

Rob Bannister
Actually I was looking for the Association of Underwater Explorers, but while I'm here I'd like to submit a grammar question to the boffins. You have got boffins here, haven't you? Or have I been misinformed again?

If we haven't, we've sure gotta lotta wannabees.
My question is about passive participles those epicene grammatical entities seldom mentioned (though often heard) in the best houses. ... to address this distinction and treat all four usages above as cases of a verb being used as an adjective?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

My main grammar rule is "I know what I like".

Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/stevesig.htm
E-mail - see web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk
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