On the Grammar and Etymology of “Being” • 77

Here we must admit that everyone is the furthest from himself, as far as the I from the you in “you are.”

But today the We is what counts. Now it is the “time of the We” instead of the I. We are. What Being do we name in this sentence? We also say: the windows are, the rocks are. We—

are. Does this statement ascertain the Being-present-at-hand of a plurality of I’s? And how does it stand with the “I was” and “we were,” with Being in the past? Is it something by-gone for us? Or are we precisely that which we were? Are we not becoming precisely just what we are?

The examination of the definite verbal forms of “to be” yields the opposite of an elucidation of Being. What is more, it leads to a new difficulty. Let us compare the infinitive “to say” and the basic [54|75] form “I say” with the infinitive “to be” and the basic form “I am.” In this comparison, “be” and “am” <“seinundbin”> show that they have different stems. Furthermore, “was” and “been” <“war” und “gewesen”> in the past form are different from both of these. We stand before the question of the different stems of the word “to be.”

II. The Etymology of the Word “Being”

First, we should briefly report on what linguistics knows about the word stems that are found in the inflections of the verb sein. Current information about this is hardly definitive—not so much because new facts may turn up, but because it is to be expected that what has been known up to this point will be reviewed with new eyes and more genuine questions. The full variety of the inflections of the verb “to be” is determined by three different stems.

Introduction to Metaphysics, 2nd ed. (GA 40) by Martin Heidegger

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