courage to act instead of react

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EdisonBhola

Senior Member
Korean
"Have the courage to act instead of react" is a famous quote by Holmes. Was he wrong though? Shouldn't it be "courage to act instead of reactING"?
 
  • lifeandjoy

    Member
    Indonesia
    "Have the courage to act instead of react" is a famous quote by Holmes. Was he wrong though? Shouldn't it be "courage to act instead of reactING"?
    I think what he is trying to say is "Have the courage to act instead of TO react". It looks like the 'to' here can be omitted. But, since I'm not a native speaker, I am not very sure of my answer :p
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thank you ... for future reference, he is virtually always referred to as Oliver Wendell Holmes.

    I agree with lifeandjoy -- plus you want "react" to match in form with "act": act/react, rather than act/reacting. If you wanted something different you would want something like "Have the courage of acting rather than reacting."
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    But in the Oxford Dictionary, I see this example phrase: Walk to work instead of going by car.

    There are many other similar examples, so I was thinking maybe "instead of" must be follow by gerunds?
     

    lifeandjoy

    Member
    Indonesia
    Yes, you are right :) Prepositions are always followed by gerund. But, I think there are some exceptions on 'instead of' for reasons of parallelism. (I'm no expert, so I'm not so sure if there's any :p) Let's wait for the native speaker :)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    You are correct in what you say, but this is rhetoric.

    A noun or noun phrase does usually follow "instead [of]" but "instead" can be used to enable ellipsis where two ideas are joined and, for the sake of the rhetoric, need to take the same form.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes is saying, "Have the courage to act instead of react": two imperatives. However, he has joined the idea of "act" with "the courage", which does not apply to "react". = "Have the courage to act, [in the place of the courage to act, do] not react."
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    If in the case of two imperatives, I can say "react" instead of "reacting", can I then say:

    Run instead of stop.
     

    LVRBC

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    No, unfortunately you can't. OWH is using some rhetorical license to set "act" against "react" as a play on words but it doesn't work in the case you mention.
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    If so, how can we tell when it is rhetorical technique or play on word and when it is a mistake? It seems there is no rule in this example.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    If in the case of two imperatives, I can say "react" instead of "reacting", can I then say:

    Run instead of stop.
    I have been thinking about your excellent question. You are, of course, correct when you say that, after instead of"reacting" is the only correct form of the verb - because after "instead of" we need a noun, gerund or noun phrase - i.e. basically, a noun. ("I want cheese instead of meat." / "I want to eat something I like instead of eating something I don't like. "I want to drink instead of eating.")

    However, your question, "Can I then say: "Run instead of stop."?" (which you can) made me think more:

    Imagine that you are in the mountains with some friends and you must reach the town before the sun sets. You see one of your friends sit down. You then say, "It is getting dark, we must run instead of stop." and that is perfectly idiomatic, as is, "It is getting dark, let us run instead of stop." (Note that run and walk are both (bare) infinitives.)

    And this is the answer! The rhetoric, the modal verb, and imperative all play their part, but the essence is that stop is a noun infinitive, as is (in your example) react. Therefore "react" is a noun (in the same way that "reacting" is) and that explains it! :)

    The subject is discussed more here: http://www.dailygrammar.com/Lesson-220-Noun-Infinitives.htm
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Thank for taking the time! I really appreciate your help. I have read the site you provided and I think I understand it.

    But the answer is still unclear.
    For example, in this sentence:

    "I want to eat something I like instead of eating something I don't like."

    I can also write it as:

    "...instead of (to) eat something I don't like."

    Since "eat something I don't like" is an infinitive phrase functioning as a noun.



    I have been thinking about your excellent question. You are, of course, correct when you say that, after instead of"reacting" is the only correct form of the verb - because after "instead of" we need a noun, gerund or noun phrase - i.e. basically, a noun. ("I want cheese instead of meat." / "I want to eat something I like instead of eating something I don't like. "I want to drink instead of eating.")

    However, your question, "Can I then say: "Run instead of stop."?" (which you can) made me think more:

    Imagine that you are in the mountains with some friends and you must reach the town before the sun sets. You see one of your friends sit down. You then say, "It is getting dark, we must run instead of stop." and that is perfectly idiomatic, as is, "It is getting dark, let us run instead of stop." (Note that run and walk are both (bare) infinitives.)

    And this is the answer! The rhetoric, the modal verb, and imperative all play their part, but the essence is that stop is a noun infinitive, as is (in your example) react. Therefore "react" is a noun (in the same way that "reacting" is) and that explains it! :)

    The subject is discussed more here: http://www.dailygrammar.com/Lesson-220-Noun-Infinitives.htm
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    If we look at this question a little differently, can I change the quote to:

    Have the courage to act instead of reacting?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    There is an unwritten rule that says, "Never change a quote. It is not yours to change." But, if you are asking, "Can what Wendell Holmes said also be expressed as "Have the courage to act instead of reacting." The the answer is "Yes.""
     
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