Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Welcome vs Welcomed

‘… the English-language China Daily said the apology was welcomed despite its lateness’ (Straits Times, 25 September 2007).

Make it welcome, because it is an adjective; welcomed can only be a verb. This contrast is more clearly illustrated in the following examples:

(i) Sanjay welcomed the visitors. (verb; active voice)
(ii) The visitors were welcomed by Sanjay. (verb; passive voice)
(iii) The visitors felt very welcome. (adjective)

One test to use if you can’t decide whether a word is an adjective or verb is to place very before it: if this is possible, the word is an adjective. Otherwise it is a verb, for verbs cannot be intensified with very. Hence:

(i) *Sanjay very welcomed the visitors. (verb)
(ii) *The visitors were very welcomed by Sanjay. (verb)
(iii) The visitors felt very welcome. (adjective)

(Note that * denotes an ungrammatical sentence.)


Sam said...

Hey Ludwig,

Finally had time to check out your blog. I think your blog's great, good enough to be considered an English grammar resource. Cool!


The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks for your kind encouragement, Sam!

I'll keep on developing this site; there's still a lot I want to blog about that would be useful to students and teachers of English.

I think we can learn much more from errors that 'educated' Singaporeans make, so my focus is the slip-ups in 'reputable' papers like the Straits Times -- not the near-illiterate signs (from which we learn next to nothing) seen in foodcourts and shops.

le radical galoisien said...

Seems a tad haughty lor...

I think there is ambiguity in the interpretation [which is the main reason for inflection in the first place: to act as a sort of CRC for the insecure channel that is speech, to ensure message integrity] -- it can be both passive voice and an adjective.

For example, it could be implicitly welcomed by them -- whereas if something is "welcome", where the environment of welcome comes from is less specific.

Compare French "je suis mort / elle est morte / etc.", which is generally interpreted to be the compound past but "mort" can still be interpreted as an adjective.

Besides if one investigates the passive voice in Indo-European languages (the copula + past tense of verb), there is a very intimate relationship between the adjective and the passive voice.

(It would also have been so fun if "welcome" had preserved its strong origins, as "understand" has -- welcome, welcame, have welcome -- arguably "welcome" is also a past tense, but simply having preserved the participle form of "welcome", which is "welcome" itself.)

le radical galoisien said...

On the other hand yes, while Singlish often drops tense inflection it doesn't drop strong inflections in adjectives anywhere close as much.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hi again, Galoisien

Thanks for your very interesting insights. These issues are familiar to me ... at least in German it's more clear-cut. This predicament arises whenever we teach word class. The quick fix we tend to use is the 'very' test, but of course this works better with some adjectives/participles than others -- 'interested' and 'disappointed' spring to mind. (Admittedly, it's not so instructive with 'welcome'/'welcomed').

However, I do think the case for the adjective is stronger in the cited example: 'But not all the Chinese media doubted the sincerity of Mattel's apology. In an editorial yesterday, the English-language China Daily said the apology was welcomed despite its lateness.'

Since the China Daily was being quoted, it would've been highly unusual to frame this in the passive, with the agent implied. Rather, the active voice (and overt subject) would've been far more natural: '... the English-language China Daily said it welcomed the apology despite its lateness.'

Marie Parker said...

Found your blog browsing for an explanation on this. For me it was seeing a sentence and getting that feeling, "Ooh, that just looks wrong" without the why. (In this particular case it is my professor that abuses "welcomed".) Your explanation is great! Thank you.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thank you, Marie! Really appreciate your kind comment.