have far to go

Discussion in 'English Only' started by easychen, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. easychen Senior Member

    Chinese
    Hi,

    ...but they still have far to go to break through the glass ceiling.

    To my knowlege, have should be followed by a noun (i.e. a long way), but far cannot be a noun, it's a adv or adj. So, why is it used here?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    It's an adverb, modifying the infinitive verb to go.
     
  3. easychen Senior Member

    Chinese
    Hi, Parla
    Do you mean there's a split structure here--- insert the far between have and to? Andthe expression can be rephrased like this: ...but they still have to go far to break through the glass ceiling. Is that so?
     
  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Yes, that's right. :thumbsup:
     
  5. easychen Senior Member

    Chinese
    It's a special case then...as we won't say They have carefully to speak to mean They have to speak carefully.:)
     
  6. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    This is interesting because I do not really understand your problem. To me there is nothing odd about this phrase, it is an everyday, often-used structure.

    You have a pattern in mind which makes it seem odd to you, it might be something historic about the way we use far, but I would not call it a special case myself, because I have so often seen it used this way.
     
  7. easychen Senior Member

    Chinese
    Yes, it's interesting. suzi br:)

    Can you please offer another example that is similar in structure to They have far to go?

    All I can think of is something like:
    -They have a long way to go
    -They have something to drink
    -They have some work to do.

    I've never run into any other expression in which an adv(far in this case) follows the have in this have...to structure.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  8. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    I cannot really! Thinking about this now (have far to go) I would gloss FAR as "a long way" which obviously seems more like a noun than an adverb!
     
  9. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    I have a problem with this too. I've tried hard to force "far to go" into the role of noun phrase without much success.

    My Webster’s New World Dictionary lists "far" as a noun with the definition “a distant place [to come from far]”. That's the wrong noun. The one I want is "a great distance" or "a long way". Worse, I haven't been able to find another dictionary that says "far" is a noun. The OED says it's an adverb, an adjective, and even a verb, but not a noun. It is able to explain "came from far and near" and "from far and wide" using "far" as an adverb.

    The rephrasing from "have far to go" to "have to go far" doesn't work for me. The second uses "have to" as a modal with the meaning "must". In the original quote, the road will be difficult, but no one has to take it. In the rephrasing, they have to.

    I think easychen needs a better answer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  10. easychen Senior Member

    Chinese
    Yes, I completely agree with you, srk!
     
  11. USMeg Senior Member

    Virginia, USA
    English/USA
    There is a very old children's rhyme about characteristics of someone born on each day of the week. One line is "Thursday's child has far to go." I believe this literally implied travel, but it is at any rate an archaic construction, and the author of the glass ceiling observation would have done much better to just have said that "they have a long way​ to go..."
     
  12. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    There are many instances of "have far to go" in the BNC and COCA, and there are sources (see Paragraph 56.3.2) that say the phrase tends only to be used in negative contexts, with "a long way to go" to be in used positive ones. (The BNC examples are all in negative contexts, and most from COCA are as well.) That's OK. I have the same problem with "didn't have far to go" as with what's in the quote.

    I don't agree that "have far to go" is an archaic construction.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  13. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    As I said, "to go" is an infinitive. In this sentence, "to speak" is not an infinitive; the "to" goes with "have" ("have to" = must).
     
  14. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    I am starting to get this now!
    Thanks
     
  15. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    Thanks, Parla. I wish I could have caught on earlier. Do you know this because there can be no other explanation, given how "far" is defined?

    I had dismissed "carefully to speak" without really thinking of it as a possible construction. I can't find it in BNC, but I will continue to look for similar examples. Do you know of any?


    Late Edit: I think what I've written so far in this post is a misunderstanding of what Parla said. It has been sitting here long enough that it would be unfair if I just deleted it.

    If "to go" is the infinitive in "have far to go", and "far" is an adverb modifying "to go", I don't know how to interpret "have". easychen and I seem to be the only people in the world confused by this phrase. We don't find other examples like it.

    If "far" is a noun, and "far to go" is a noun phrase, I think the construction is quite usual, and I understand it. "far to go" would be just like "a long way to go". I can't find adequate justification for reading "far" as a noun.

    If "have to go" can be split by an adverb placed between "have" and "to go", I can understand "have far to go" as "have to go far". I'm not familiar enough with the simple search at BNC to know if I can represent an arbitrary adverb with a code, so that I could look for instances of this kind of construction. (This kind of construction is what I thought Parla was advocating in recent posts. Reading her posts as carefully as I should have to begin with, I see that this is not so.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  16. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    Hi easychen,

    I finally thought of an example similar to "have far to go", in that "have" is followed by an adverb and not a noun. The adverb is "only". Here is a link to some results on BNC showing instances of "have only to" followed by an infinitive. The sense of "have" in these expressions the sense of "need": "I have only to go on" pretty much means "all I need to do is go on".

    These expressions with "only" sound a little old fashioned, but just a little.

    Maybe thinking of this example will help me think of others. I'll edit this post and add them as I think of them. Meanwhile, I'll look up "have" and see if it can mean "need" in this way.

    Edit: That meaning for "have" isn't working out. If the sense is "have to" = "must", despite the intervening adverb, that would work too.

    "merely" works in place of "only", unsurprisingly.
    "at least" gets one hit at COCA
    Because "only" works, I know that "but" will work too. "I have but to go" = "I have only to go"
    "I need only go" is much the same as "I have only to go" or "all I have to do is go"
    "frequently" gets one hit at COCA ("have frequently to suffer....")
    "often" gets one hit at COCA ("as I have often to repeat....")

    Maybe that's enough for you and I to abandon the idea that there is something wrong with "have" being followed by an adverb, or that it is very unusual. I'd still like to sort out the differences (if there are any) between "have far to go" and "have to go far", "have a long way to go" and "have to go a long way", "have often to repeat" and "often have to repeat", etc. There is no question that "have something to eat" and "have to eat something" are very different.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  17. easychen Senior Member

    Chinese
    Thank you very much, srk. You have been such a big help!:)
     

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