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柳絲裊娜春無力 - 漫談英文BE動詞的使用

柳絲裊娜春無力 - 漫談英文BE動詞的使用

玉樓明月長相憶。柳絲裊娜春無力。門外草萋萋。送君聞馬嘶。

畫羅金翡翠。香燭銷成淚。花落子規啼。綠窗殘夢迷。

- 溫庭筠

晚唐詞家溫庭筠這首〔菩薩蠻〕﹐描寫月下懷人心情: 綿綿遠道﹐所思遙不可及﹐而魂夢相憶﹐觸景傷感﹐萬般說不出來使不上勁的無奈意緒﹐這位花間集鼻祖只用「柳絲裊娜春無力」七字便予表達淨盡! 的確﹐這七字不但適於寫暮春之景抒閨懷之情﹐用來形容英文寫作時因BE動詞使用過多而形成的軟綿綿"沒骨句﹐"竟也十分貼切!

"沒骨句"自然只是句戲言﹐這裡指的是某些柔弱無力的英文句子﹐雖然意思表達了﹐讀來卻總覺尋不著骨幹﹐既乏挺立之姿﹐也少了一股遒勁之感﹐如以聲音比喻﹐則覺渾濁而不清脆。現代人寫作英文﹐已和十八九世紀時相去甚遠﹐講究的是句式簡潔清晰用字鏗鏘有力。優雅當然還是不可少的﹐但那屬不可強求的範圍﹐能有自然更好﹐沒有也無傷大雅。惟大體而言﹐現代英文寫作的基本共識是﹐最起碼要避免漫冗軟塌如柳絲裊娜春無力般的沒骨句。

細探其故﹐這沒骨句的英文﹐問題多出在動詞﹐尤其是BE動詞(am, are, is, was, were, being, been)。原來英文句子的骨幹﹐全靠動詞來支撐﹐而動詞又分及物動詞和不及物動詞兩類。凡有動作而影響及於接受該動作的﹐屬及物動詞﹐如 I LOVE YOU。有些動詞只表述動作本身﹐並不及於他物﹐屬不及物動詞﹐如 I RAN。BE動詞在動詞種類中﹐可謂別樹一幟﹐因為它既可當主動詞用﹐也可當助動詞用﹐又是形成被動語態時不可或缺的字眼﹐因此極易在行文用字時被順手拈出﹐不知不覺氾濫成災。但BE動詞之所以成為沒骨句的罪魁禍首﹐是因為它大部份用來做為連綴詞 (COPULA)的功能﹐在文法上擔任連接主詞和主詞補語的角色﹐只能用來表明主詞和補語的關係﹐在表達主詞動作上﹐則了無貢獻。因此如果句子中使用了過多BE動詞﹐就好比一輛沒有引擎的汽車﹐能靜不能動﹐趴軟無力﹐為近代人寫作大忌。

以下試舉幾種沒骨句例子﹐ 並討論其對治修改方法。

The sodium concentration is continuously increased. However, there is no change in electrical conductivity, and measurement of specific density is as useful as measurement of refractive index. Optical transmission is usually present, but is not useful as a sign, since it is abandoned if the molecular filtration is impaired, as it is in many cases of similar measurements.

此段話共有八個BE動詞。只能得八字評: 平鋪直敘﹐欲振乏力。

This brief report is an excellent summary of current concepts of MEMS technology. It is abundantly illustrated with clear diagrams and photographs of high magnification. The language is relatively simple and is obviously written for the beginners, for there are very few references cited.

此段話共有五個BE動詞。最友善的評語只能說是: 四平八穩。這兩段話相同之處是文法語法均正確﹐但因BE動詞過多﹐句子柔弱無骨﹐讀來味同嚼蠟。對治之方是先去其BE動詞﹐使第一個句子成為片語。

改The language is relatively simple. 為This relatively simple language...可剔除一BE動詞。成為This relatively simple language is obviously written for...或將主詞前的修飾詞由前方調到後面﹐以增加文句錯落之致。This language, relatively simple, is obviously written for...

BE動詞的名詞補語如直接改為動詞﹐也可減少BE動詞的出現。

改This brief report is an excellent summary...

為This brief report excellently summarizes ....

此外﹐把原句重新組合也能消減BE動詞。It is abundantly illustrated with clear diagrams and photographs of high magnification.中﹐it指的是report, 故原句可改為:"This report abundantly illustrated...," 並減少一個BE動詞。若再乘勝而進﹐以過去分詞來形容該主詞﹐則又可屏去一個BE動詞。Abundantly illustrated with clear diagrams..., this report..."

被動句在科學論文中雖很常見﹐但不為多數人所喜﹐若要處理被動語態中的BE動詞﹐則須清楚動作的主詞是誰﹐此段中的 for there are very few references cited.可改為主動語態﹐以藉此再除去一個BE動詞。原句主詞為report, 但report在主句中已被提及﹐故可用代名詞it 置放在下一個子句﹐將原句改為: for it cites very few references.

綜合整理以上考量﹐原文可修改如下:

Abundantly illustrated with clear diagrams and beautiful photographs of high magnification, this report summarizes excellently the current concepts of MEMS technology. The language, relatively simple, is obviously written for beginners, for it cites very few references.

修改稿共刪去四個BE動詞﹐減少一個被動語態﹐原稿因BE動詞過多的虛柔毛病盡去﹐筆勢顯得雄健利落。

有一種常見的句型﹐其特點是BE動詞和另一個ACTION 動詞合用﹐形成所謂的is-and 結構﹐也宜極力避免:Glass is an inorganic compound and shares the properties common to many other ceramic materials. 這種情形可以用同位語將BE動詞除去。

Glass, an inorganic compound, shares many properties common to all ceramic materials.

以下句型也很普遍:The first part of the research is directed to the study of microstructure and begins with an introduction to crystallography. is-and結構可用過去分詞片語一併消去﹐使原文簡潔有力:The first part of the research, directed to the study of microstructure, begins with an introduction to crystallography.

同樣地﹐以下句子也可以藉除去BE動詞讓句子更生動:

改This essay is divided into three sections and consists of...

為This essay, divided into three sections, consists of...

有一些慣用的開場語句﹐如There is..., It is essential that...也須留意﹐因為這些結構都屬和BE動詞有關的弱勢句法﹐如下例: There is a rapid heating which is contrary to current slow heating. It is becoming more common every year and raises less and less resistance. 可先除去BE動詞﹐使用形容詞片語﹐和另選連接動詞修改如下:A rapid heating, contrary to slow heating, grows more common every year and raises less and less resistance.

It is essential that...屬不必要的冗句﹐可逕以must或have to取代之。如:

To make the most of your investments, it is essential that you understand what your goals are and what your financial temperament is. 可消去兩個BE動詞﹐並改為:

To make the most of your investments, you must understand your goals and financial temperament.

其他有關BE動詞的使用可討論的還很多﹐但因篇幅所限﹐僅能擇要略述如上。BE動詞的使用不難﹐細心的讀者應能看出只要掌握原則﹐原本柳絲裊娜春無力般的句子﹐經過些微的修飾﹐便能產生極大效果。正如同數年前一位藝術家朋友告訴我的: 一幅畫的好壞之別往往只存在細節之處﹐照顧好了細節﹐整體便能煥然一新。我想﹐在繪畫和寫作間﹐這道理大約是相通的。

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