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To ... as infinitive marker

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Walt Whitman, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    I was wondering: does the infinitive marker “to” belong to the verb (to go, to see, to read, etc)?I would answer: yes. For example, the question “Does she like Mozart?” is usually analyzed like this: auxiliary “does” + subject + bare infinitive or infinitive without “to” (so you have to omit the “s”). I think this confirms that the particle “to” does belong to the verb; it says that the verb is in the infinitive form.Do you agree?
    Than you very much.
    WW
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    As I understand your question, you may be looking at this the wrong way round.

    The forms to go and go (infinitive and bare infinitive) existed before they had names. But for a trick of fate, or the whim of a linguist, the descriptions might have been, e.g.

    go = infinitive
    to go = expanded infinitive
     
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    No, it doesn't: it's not part of the verb at all. It doesn't even form a constituent of the sentence with the verb. The word 'to' is a subordinator or complementizer (the technical term chosen is not very important) that marks the beginning of the verb phrase. It need not appear next to the verb, which is in the plain form (English does not have infinitive verbs). It can appear separated from the verb by (a) a coordination, (b) an adjunct in the verb phrase, (c) being the stranded relic of an otherwise empty verb phrase:

    (a) She likes to play and sing Mozart.
    (b) Her mission is to boldly sing what no-one has sung before.
    (c) She doesn't like Mozart but wants to.

    In (a) the verb phrase is the coordination 'play and sing Mozart', and it is this that is marked with the subordinator at the beginning. In the sentence 'She likes to play Mozart', the complement of 'likes' is the extended infinitival clause 'to play Mozart', which consists of the subordinator 'to' and the bare infinitival clause 'play Mozart'. The latter divides into verb and object. The subordinator and the verb don't form a grouping.

    The traditional description of 'to go' as a verb is nonsense on a par with describing 'the cat' as the basic form of the noun 'cat'.
     
  4. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    Thank you, PaulQ and entangledbank.

    How would you parse the sentence, "To see his son smoking in his bedroom made him angry." (I know, older English - but just an example).
    Modern English: "It made him angry to see his son smoking in his bedroom."
    WW
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Do you want the whole sentence parsed, or just "To see his son smoking"?
     
  6. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    Just "To see his son smoking", PaulQ.
    WW
     
  7. Fabulist Senior Member

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Unlike many Indo-European languages, English verbs do not have an "infinitive" form that is different from the various forms that show person, number, tense, and voice. Therefore, the particle "to" is sometimes used to show that the word that follows is not the active-voice first or second person singular or first, second, or third person plural in the present tense, active voice. That's how we tell to like from I like, you like, we like, and they like. But sometimes we drop the "to."

    I know that modern German, like English a member of the Germanic family of Indo-European languages, also has a one-word infinitive form (it also looks like a present active verb, but only like the verb for the first and third person plural) and a two-word form, made by adding the particle zu to the "bare infinitive." "To," in both this function and as a preposition, is just the way modern English says and writes the Protogermanic word that became zu in modern German (there are a lot of very similar words that begin with the letter z—pronounced ts—in modern German and with the letter t in modern English). I don't know whether the other Germanic languages also have a "bare" infinitive and one that uses a particle, but I'll bet that Dutch does. A Danish grammar that I have on my bookshelf describes two infinitive forms, one with a particle, and says that use or non-use of the particle (spelled at) is similar to the use or non-use of to in English. So it would appear that this "dual infinitive," if you will, is a general feature of the Germanic languages, one of the features that distinguishes them from the Romance languages. I studied a little Russian once, and I don't remember that there was anything comparable to this dual infinitive in Russian, so the Slavic family might not have it, either.
     
  8. Thomas Veil Senior Member

    English - USA
    There is, however, at least one exception: the infinite of "be" is different from every other form except the subjunctive. I can't think of any other examples.
     
  9. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    Thank you Fabulist and Thomas Veil.
    Thomson and Martinet's classic advanced grammar (OUP), which I used at university, says, "The full infinitive consists of two words, <to> + verb. But after certain verbs and expressions we use the form without <to>, i.e. the <bare infinitive>."
    Do you think this has misled (and keeps on misleading) students and teachers as well into believing that the marker "to" belongs to the verb?
    WW
     
  10. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    If you see my post #2, I don't think that you have been misled; the infinitive has to have a name. Thomson and Martinet write, "The full infinitive consists of two words ..." Here it is qualified and distinguished from the bare infinitive.

    It may be that, for precision, infinitive should be qualified, but normally both go and to go are described as the infinitive and, only when a distinction needs to be made, is there a qualification.
     
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    The terms I tend to use are to-infinitive and bare infinitive. And no, I don't think they're misleading: I think they're useful shorthand, even if it's possible - or, even, more accurate - to analyse things in a different way:).
     
  12. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    If my understanding of Thomson and Martinet's statement is correct, "full" means "complete", i.e. including all parts and with nothing missing. So I would assume that the particle "to" does belong to the verb.
    Loob would tend to use "to-infinitive", and the particle is still there.
    It’s true that after certain verbs and expressions you use the form without “to”, i.e. the “bare infinitive”, but when you want to go back to the full form the “to” has to be put there again.
    I believe that Entangledbank’s examples do not go against what I’ve just said.

    (a) She likes to play and sing Mozart.
    (b) Her mission is to boldly sing what no-one has sung before.
    (c) She doesn't like Mozart but wants to.

    If my students asked me (as they usually do), “How can we recognize an infinitive form in those three examples?”, I would answer (just to make things easier for them to understand):

    in (a) to play and to sing. “Sing” does not have “to” before it because you can usually omit it with some co-ordinating conjunctions;
    in (b) to sing. “To” is separated from “sing” because the adverb “boldly” can be put between the “to” and the verb (it is a split infinitive);
    in (c) [if my understanding of the sentence is correct] to like. The “to” stands alone because you don’t need to repeat the full form.

    I know there is a controversy about split infinitives: some say it is not normally advisable to put any words between the “to” and the verb (it would be considered as bad style), some others, on the contrary, believe that there should be a more relaxed attitude to this. Maybe the former feel that there is a strong link between the particle and the verb.
    I wonder if this confirms my feeling about such a thorny problem. I’m so confused!
    Anyway, thank you very much for you previous and future contributions.
    WW
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  13. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    There is no to missing from "She likes to boldly play and sing Mozart" any more than there is a boldly or a Mozart missing. Here play and sing is a compound. The whole compound has a direct object, Mozart, is modified by an adverb, boldly, and is subordinated in a clause using to. In my opinion, just adding a to would disconnect the boldly from sing and the Mozart from play. (In other words, "to boldly play and to sing Mozart" = "To sing Mozart and to boldly play".)

    Of course you can add more tos to something like:

    Her mission is to do nothing but boldly play and sing Mozart, or at least try to, but all she really does is fiddle about.

    ... but isn't this sentence long enough without them?
     
  14. Explorer41 Senior Member

    Two of them do, as far as I know (and if I understood the role of "to" properly — thank you, entangledbank and Forero, for your explanations and examples, they are very helpful). I mean Bulgarian and Macedonian. Bulgarian uses the word "да" ("da") to introduce a construction, which is used on the same occasions as the infinitives in the other Indo-European languages, but an active form of a verb follows the word (which is somewhat distinct from English, not having expressions like "He wants to sings"). So does Macedonian.
     
  15. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Dutch and German have infinitives with a to (Dutch te, German zu) that can get stuck between an adverb and verb written as one word. But they also have infinitives without to.

    Modern Greek, like Bulgarian, uses a to (να (na), = subordinating conjunction that) followed by a finite verb form (inflected for person, number, etc.).
     
  16. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    Forero, you say, “There is no to missing from "She likes to boldly play and sing Mozart".
    From Michael Swan, “Practical English Usage” (OUP),
    “When two infinitive structures are joined by and, or, except, but, than, as or like, the second is often without to.
    Example: I’d like to lie down and go to sleep.”
    I don’t want to contradict you, I’m just trying to understand.
    This is a rule you follow, otherwise the “to” should be there.

    You also say, “Of course you can add more tos to something like + sentence.
    ”No, I would not. In my previous post I just gave a possible explanation for my students’ query.
    Do you think I have completely misunderstood you?
    Thank you, Forero.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  17. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    From “A History of the English Language” by G.L.Brook
    The author makes plain that to is always a preposition
     
  18. Explorer41 Senior Member

    Thank you, Paul, this information is very interesting!

    What are examples of the bare infinitives, come from the nominative forms? Am I correct to suppose that we have the following: "Her mission is to do (DAT) nothing but boldly play (DAT) and sing (DAT) Mozart, or at least try (DAT) to, but all she really does is fiddle (NOM) about."?

    Thank you. :)
     
  19. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Fortunately, the days of nominative, accusative, and dative are long behind us; my knowledge of Old English is severely limited, and your questions are basically unanswerable.

    The above only describes the origin of the infinitive as it is used today, the book (which is very readable and very informative) continues from the above
    So we see that to is simply a marker and not related to the case or the infinitive.
     
  20. Walt Whitman Senior Member

    Near Venice
    Italian - Italy
    Thank you, PaulQ (and G.L. Brook).
    "To is simply a marker [a sing of the infinitive]" is just what I was looking for.
    I'm sure I'll sleep soundly all night. No more nightmares about full or bare infinitives.:D
    WW
     
  21. Explorer41 Senior Member

    Well, what I was trying to figure out is where one is supposed to use the bare infinitives, like in "all she really does is fiddle about"... May I say, for example, something like "All jobs he was able to perform at that time were make men pay money"? If not (I mean exactly the use of infinitives), what is the difference from the example with a fiddler?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  22. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I think we are saying we disagree with Swan's explanation. And joins two things of the same type. I see "lie down and go to sleep" as a compound predicate and "play and sing" as a compound verb.

    To me, "lie down and go to sleep" is the same in a command ("Now you lie down and go to sleep"), after "must" ("You must lie down and go to sleep"), and after "to" ("You have to lie down and go to sleep"). If you add a "to", you create a different compound and destroy the combination action of "lie down and go to sleep".

    Similarly, "play and sing" is a compound transitive verb, which can be used as you might use a single transitive verb. The compound takes one direct object and can follow to:

    To play and sing Mozart is challenging. [This compound is singular, not plural.]
    To play and to sing Mozart are separate activities. [This compound can be plural.]

    I need to see Swan's examples to know what usage of but, except, or like he is referring to.
    I am not sure I understand me. :)

    But I think Entangledbank's post really says it all.
     
  23. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Here you go, Forero:
    We have nothing to do except look at the cinema posters.
    I'm ready to do anything but work on a farm.
    Why don't you do something useful like clean the flat?

    Swan introduces this section of the text (which also covers modal auxiliaries, let/make/hear, why (not)? and all/what I do is...) with the comment We usually put to before the infinitive (e.g. I want to know, It's nice to see you). But we use the infinitive without to in some cases.
     
  24. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Thank you, Loob.

    These are not really pairs of infinitives being joined but examples of the same phenomenon as in my example with "all she really does is fiddle about." The key is the verb do with a direct object. Here are similar constructions with only one infinitive:

    We did nothing except look at the cinema posters.
    I did nothing but work on a farm.
    All I did was work on a farm.
    You never do anything useful like clean the flat.
    All we have ever done is look at cinema posters.

    We might include to before each of these infinitives, but I would rather use a gerund than a to after except or like.
     
  25. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Could you give another example? The one you gave is not comprehensible, even If I add to.

    All jobs he was able to perform = All the jobs he could perform
    but "All jobs...were to make men pay money" is meaningless

    Consider:
    His swims and all he sees is water - noun as direct object*
    All he does is wait - the bare infinitive as a noun (direct object*)
    "all she really does is fiddle about" - infinitive ([to] fiddle about) as a noun
    Most people like to win. The to infinitive as a noun phrase as direct object

    *may also be called the predicate [object]
     
  26. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    It just does not work with perform or jobs. I think this construction requires the verb do with a replaceable object (e.g. all she does, what she does, she does nothing but ...), and the infinitive of the other verb, which could not work as a frank direct object of do, replaces both do and its direct object:

    All (that) she does is fiddle about.
    Here it appears that "fiddle about" might be a direct object of does, but in "She does fiddle about", "does fiddle" becomes a compound verb, not verb plus direct object. Because do is a sort of stand-in for almost any verb, what we get out of this sentence is that "she fiddles about", with fiddle replacing do.

    He may not do much of anything but sit around and complain.
    This cannot reduce to "He may do only sit around and complain." It means that "he may only sit around and complain." The do disappears.

    All jobs he was able to perform at that time were make men pay money.
    This sentence does not work because there is no form of do. And jobs is plural and too definite an object to work like "all", "what", "nothing but", etc.

    The point of all these examples is just to demonstrate that:

    1. To does not attach to a verb because it can serve to subordinate a whole phrase (or clause), and
    2. To is not really part of the phrase/clause either since it can as easily attach to a previous verb (e.g. "He has hunted rabbits before, but now that he doesn't have to, he doesn't want to.").

    Note that including a to in the fiddle sentence ("All she does is to fiddle about.") adds ambiguity because to fiddle about can mean "for the purpose of fiddling about."
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  27. Explorer41 Senior Member

    Thank you very much, PaulQ and Forero! That is, such use of infinitives (without any trace of "to") is possible only when the verb "to do" is employed, because the verb "to do" is auxiliary. :)
     
  28. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    No, it is the transitive do (as in "may not do much of anything), not the auxiliary do (as in "do not fiddle about"), and no other verb has this property, auxiliary or otherwise.
     

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