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.”