Why Grammar Matters

A fascinating new article appears in the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal,  “Why Grammar Matters: Conjugating Verbs in Modern Legal Opinions,”  by Robert C. Farrell (Fall 2008).

The article opens with a series of questions [see if you know the answers]:

“Does it matter that the editors of thirty-three law journals, including those at Yale and Michigan, think that there is a “passive tense”?  Does it matter that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits think that there is a “passive mood”?  Does it matter that the editors of fourteen law reviews think there is a “subjunctive tense”?  Does it matter that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit thinks that there is a “subjunctive voice”?

There is, in fact, no “passive tense” or “passive mood.”  The passive is a voice.  There is no “subjunctive voice” or “subjunctive tense.”  The subjunctive is a mood.”

Does it really matter?  The article attempts to show that a knowledge of verb forms “is a very useful tool in the arsenal of legal argumentation.”