Using "do" as a modal verb: why do cops do this?

Now and then when trouble is afoot out in the boonies, the local Barney Fife can be seen on the evening news, straightening his tie and dusting off his law-speak in order to impress television-land. He can usually be relied upon to speak thusly: “The suspect did enter the residence and did proceed to have sexual intercourse with a boiled ham in the refrigerator, at which time a male resident did strike the intruder about the head and shoulders with a cooking implement, after which the intruder did fall to the floor.”

I have no quarrel with the use of slightly archaic language if it increases the precision of the sentence in any way at all. But I don’t see it here. Why “did enter” instead of just “entered?” It can’t be to contrast it with “did not enter”, as we can assume that Podunk’s finest would not squander his 15 minutes of fame enumerating those exploits that the perpetrator did not do.

It might be to avoid ambiguity with certain words.

Hearing the phrase “he picked daisies,” as most people would say it, might be confused with a sort of present tense. But “he did pick daisies” eliminates that possibility.

Just my WAG, and could be wrong.

I don’t know–it probably reproduces what they have been saying for time immemorial. It is not a modal incidentally; it would be to be in a class by itself as a verbal prefix, since its grammar does not duplicate that of any other verb.

Just for the record, English does not have modal verbs. Both French and German modals are also verbs (for example, they can be governed by modals). Sometime between 1550 and 1600, the modals stopped being verbs and the periphrastic replacements such as “be going to”, “have to”, and a couple others entered the language. Or acquired new meanings since you can “be going to the store”, but until then you couldn’t “be going to go to the store”.

More on this (and other interesting things) can be found in David Lightfoot’s book “Principles of Diachronic Syntax” (I think that’s right, but I am sure about Lightfoot).

I’m sorry, your example paragraph does not meet the minimum cop-speak requirements. Not once did you use the words “proceed” or “vehicle.”
ETA: Doh! You did use “proceed.” Half-credit is given. Please try to fit “vehicle” in next time.

I did visualize the infraction, and I did laugh.

Then what is the difference between German “Ich kann gehen” vs. English “I can go?” They are equivalent phrases, denoted as modal in German, why not in English?

I suppose Hari’s referring to the fact that in English, the modals are defective. In French, the verbs corresponding to our modals are full-fledged verbs that can be used in any tense or mood, whereas in English their use is far more circumscribed. In French, for example, you can say Je pouvais aller, je pourrais aller, je pourrai aller, je ne peux pas aller, je dois pouvoir aller, whereas in English, you can’t say **I was canning go, *I used to can go, *I might can go, *I will can go, *I do not can go, I must can go; you must use a non-defective circumlocution such as be able to.

I read that five times before I realized that you weren’t talking about preserving food. Right?
Wow! This is weird! The word “go” appears in the reply window, but not in the post. Wassup?

WAG: It preserves the conjugation of the verbs whether you’re telling what happened or asking a question.
COP: Did you enter the residence in question?
PERP: I did enter the residence in question
COP: Did you proceed to have sex with a boiled ham?
PERP: I did proceed to have sex with a boiled ham.

COP (on the stand/at press conference): The suspect did enter the residence in question, and he did proceed to have sex with a boiled ham.
Not necessary for cops/lawyers to say enter/entered, proceed/proceeded, etc.

It’s not just cops. Lots of people in positions of low-level authority speak that way: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our final descent at this time, and we do ask that you stow all luggage and put your tray tables up and your seat backs in the full upright position.” Note also that the stress falls on the modal (edit: or verbal prefix or whatever it should be called).

Completely dialectal and considered substandard even in the dialect area, but Eastern North Carolina (NOT the Outer Banks) preserves the usage “might could,” with the vowel of “might” halfway between the standard pronunciation and “maht” – example “I maht cou’d fayux thayut pahrt if’n ayit’s not tot’ly bunged up.” (“Fayux” is not a reference to the city five miles east of Erewhon, but a cognate to “fix” :D)

Cuz his momma learned 'im to don’t say “he done entered” when he is on the TV.

You know, my knowledge of English is one of the few things I have left to feel proud about. And after this post, all of a sudden I feel like a poser.

Thanks a lot. :slight_smile:

A lot of the cop speak here - and more so in recent years - seems to have the alleged crime itself so important for the speaker not to get wrong that it remains outside of normal grammar, so instead of, “a male person was charged with breaking and entering, theft, and resisting arrest”, it will be “a male person was charged with break, enter, and steal, and resist arrest.”

That makes sense if you do this: “A male person was charged with ‘break, enter, and steal,’ and ‘resist arrest.’” Assuming those are the names of the crimes, it’s not really outside the realm of normal grammar.