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English Prime, more commonly referred to as E-Prime, is a modified form of the English language that avoids the use of the verb "to be". This includes all forms of the verb, such as "be," "being," "been," "am," "is," "isn't," "are," "aren't," "was," "wasn't," "were," "weren't," "I'm," "you're," "we're," "they're," "he's," "she's," "it's" and their varying contractions.

E-Prime can make use of the following words, which are not forms of "to be": "become," "has," "have," "I've," "you've," "do," "does," "doing," "did," "can," "could," "will," "would," "shall," "should," and "ought."

The verb "to be" has several distinct functions in English:

  • identity; using the form noun-be-noun: A cat is an animal
  • predication; using the form noun-be-adjective: The cat is black
  • auxiliary, using the form noun-be-verb: The cat is eating
  • existence, using the form noun-be: There is a cat
  • location, using the form noun be place: The cat is in the basket

However, the use of the verb "to be" as an attribute, can imply that what is being discussed is:

  • Permanent
  • Always true
  • Unchanging
  • Appears the same to everyone.
  • Final

It was first suggested by Alfred Korzybski in his 1933 book, "Science and Sanity," in which he pointed out the problems caused by two usages of "to be", namely identity and predication.

An example of this would be somebody saying "The apple is red." The speaker actually means that the apple appears red to him, but it may not to another observer. In other words, there is the automatic assumption that everybody perceives the same quality of redness. By saying "The apple appears red to me," the statement is no longer absolute and can allow for another observer to have a different opinion, with neither being incorrect.[1][2]

See also

External links

Additional reading

  • D. David Bourland, Jr. & Paul Dennithorne Johnston; "To Be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology"; International Society for General Semantics; 1991
  • Robert Anton Wilson; Quantum Psychology; New Falcon Publications; 1990