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maestrowork
04-25-2006, 11:47 PM
I know this is the correct usage: You had (or you'd) better run now.

But it doesn't make sense (to me anyway) in terms of grammar. Can someone enlighten me? Where did that come from?

Also, something like "Let us walk" turning into "Let's walk" -- it's confusing. If the apostrophe means a letter is missing (the "u") but shouldn't it be "let 's"? Then again, it's "shouldn't" and not "should n't."

English is such fun.

Jamesaritchie
04-26-2006, 01:59 AM
I know this is the correct usage: You had (or you'd) better run now.

But it doesn't make sense (to me anyway) in terms of grammar. Can someone enlighten me? Where did that come from?

Also, something like "Let us walk" turning into "Let's walk" -- it's confusing. If the apostrophe means a letter is missing (the "u") but shouldn't it be "let 's"? Then again, it's "shouldn't" and not "should n't."

English is such fun.

I'm not sure about You had (or you'd) better run now. I never really gave it any thought. It makes good sense to me, in that I see nothing wrong with it, and I understand what it means.

As for the other, it makes perfect sense. If you write "'s" as a standalone, it could mean anything, and you'd have to decide what the writer meant by context. That's the hard way of doing things.

By joining the words you say what you're really trying to say without context being a factor. For me, at least, writing "Let's" is not in the least confusing, the word really has only one meaning, but writing "let 's" would be.

The words simply work much, much better joined.

William Haskins
04-26-2006, 02:26 AM
they're idiomatic modals, if i recall correctly. they show possibility, recommendation or expectation.

Doctor Shifty
04-26-2006, 05:18 PM
I know this is the correct usage: You had (or you'd) better run now.

But it doesn't make sense (to me anyway) in terms of grammar. Can someone enlighten me? Where did that come from?

Also, something like "Let us walk" turning into "Let's walk" -- it's confusing. If the apostrophe means a letter is missing (the "u") but shouldn't it be "let 's"? Then again, it's "shouldn't" and not "should n't."

English is such fun.

The "had" usage is interesting. It is subjunctive and/or a verb. Consider this:
"You had better run now" means "You would find it better to run now"
The word "had" in sentence 1 is equivalent to the verb "find" in sentence 2. So 'had' is a verb and in this use it nearly always has a "will find" kind of meaning.

It also likes to align with its twin, "have".
"It would have been better if you had have run." Two 'have's and a 'had'.
Shakespeare managed to mangle it well in Othello.
"Thou hadst been better have been born a dog." Nothing like the master to show us the way forward. :)

You might like to explore it a bit in a style manual, or Strunk, or Fowler.

And regarding your second query about apostrophes. The apostrophe in the case you give doesn't mean "a letter is missing". It is an indication of elision, which means two words slid together, they have collided gently and not too much damage was done but they're now slightly compressed.

If you consider that "we have" elides to "we've", then the space and the 'h' and the 'a' are all gone. So the apostrophe means more than one letter can be missing. Elision happens in some languages more than in others, such as in French where the "le" at the beginning elides into the word. For example, the name L'estrange which can sometimes have the apostrophe, sometimes not.

Many years ago I learned Greek, and elision of words into new words was my constant bugbear.

Kim

maestrowork
04-26-2006, 05:50 PM
Thanks, Kim. Very useful.