60 • On the Grammar and Etymology of “Being”

But we immediately notice the difference from the first set of words: we can easily trace the first set back to the temporal words (verbs) “to go,” “to fall” <gehen, fallen>, etc., which does not seem possible with the second set. It is true that for “house” there is the form “to house”: “he is housed in the forest.” But the grammatical relation, in terms of meaning, between “the going” <das Gehen> and “to go” <gehen> is different from the relation between “the house” <das Haus> and “the housing” <das Hausen>. On the other hand, there are word forms that correspond exactly to the first group (“going,” “flying”), but resemble “bread” and “house” in their character and meaning. For example, “The ambassador gave a dinner <Essen: verbal substantive of essen, to eat>”; “he died of an incurable illness <Leiden: verbal substantive of leiden, to suffer>.”2 Here we no longer notice the relation to a verb. From this verb has come a substantive, a name, and this by way of a definite form of the verb (the temporal word) that in Latin is called the modus infinitivus.

We also find the same relations in our word “Being” <das Sein>. This substantive derives from the infinitive “to be” <sein>, which belongs with the forms “you are,” “he is,” “we were,” “you have been.” “Being” as a substantive came from the verb. We thus call the word “Being” a “verbal substantive.” Once we have cited this grammatical form, the linguistic characterization of the word “Being” is complete. We are talking here at length about well-known and self-evident things. But let us speak better and more carefully: these linguistic, grammatical distinctions are worn out and commonplace; they are by no means “self-evident.”

2. Heidegger’s examples are impossible to translate into idiomatic English here. An English sentence of the type he is discussing would be: “There was quite a to-do at the embassy last night.”

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