I’m sorry that I disturbed you / to have disturbed you. [Perfect infinitive]

9to6

New Member
Cantonese
Based on my understanding, perfect infinitive is used to describe a completed action or event with reference to another time indicator, and the infinitive does not directly describe the subject in a sentence.

I’m sorry that I disturbed you.
I’m sorry to have disturbed you.

What are the differences between these two sentences? I think the perfect infinitive only describes what I am sorry about, which is the fact that I disturbed you. And it implies “I” did the action of disturbing. But I’m not sure about the first sentence.


He pretended to have lost her number and so had been unable to contact her.

I saw it from another forum that it is not acceptable to change it into “He pretended to lost her number and so....” Could you explain why is that?
 
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hi 9to6 and welcome to the forum.

    The first two sentences mean exactly the same thing, just expressed in different forms. 'I' very clearly also did the action in sentence 1 (it says so!).

    You can say:
    He pretended to lose her number. (infinitive):tick:
    OR
    He pretended to have lost her number. (perfect infinitive):tick:
    BUT NOT
    He pretended to lost her number. :cross:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Pretend can take a to infinitive complement: either present or past infinitive.

    He pretends to lose; he pretended to have lost.

    (cross-posted)
     

    9to6

    New Member
    Cantonese
    Hi 9to6 and welcome to the forum.

    The first two sentences mean exactly the same thing, just expressed in different forms. 'I' very clearly also did the action in sentence 1 (it says so!).

    You can say:
    He pretended to lose her number. (infinitive):tick:
    OR
    He pretended to have lost her number. (perfect infinitive):tick:
    BUT NOT
    He pretended to lost her number. :cross:
    Thanks for your reply Chez!

    Does that mean I can use those two sentences (the disturb example) interchangeably? And the difference is so minor that you can ignore it?

    For the second question, I think the meaning is different in terms of time relation.
    He pretended to lose her number: The action of losing her number and pretending happen simultaneously or around the same time.
    He pretended to have lost her number: The action of losing her number happened before his pretending.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    The reason "He pretended to lost her number" is wrong is that you can't form a simple past infinitive in English. The concept of "to (past tense)" is never going to work as a verb form, no matter what context it's in; it's not anything about the particular sentence or its meaning.

    However you can, like the first example "I'm sorry I disturbed you" say "He pretended he lost her number."
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Does that mean I can use those two sentences (the disturb example) interchangeably? And the difference is so minor that you can ignore it?
    Yes, I think so.
    For the second question, I think the meaning is different in terms of time relation.
    He pretended to lose her number: The action of losing her number and pretending happen simultaneously or around the same time.
    He pretended to have lost her number: The action of losing her number happened before his pretending.
    The first one, while grammatical, is rather an odd thing to say, as it means he pretended to lose her number there and then, presumably while she was watching. I am not quite sure how this is possible.
    The second sentence is as you describe, that he pretended that he had lost her number some time previously.

    In both cases, the past tense verb "he pretended" sets the time of the action. If this is followed by an infinitive, the action in the infinitive happened at the same time (or later, if the situation allows). If it is followed by a perfect infinitive, then the action in the perfect infinitive happened some time earlier.
     

    9to6

    New Member
    Cantonese
    The reason "He pretended to lost her number" is wrong is that you can't form a simple past infinitive in English. The concept of "to (past tense)" is never going to work as a verb form, no matter what context it's in; it's not anything about the particular sentence or its meaning.

    However you can, like the first example "I'm sorry I disturbed you" say "He pretended he lost her number."
    Thank you for your answer. I think I mixed up lost and lose.


    Yes, I think so.

    The first one, while grammatical, is rather an odd thing to say, as it means he pretended to lose her number there and then, presumably while she was watching. I am not quite sure how this is possible.
    The second sentence is as you describe, that he pretended that he had lost her number some time previously.

    In both cases, the past tense verb "he pretended" sets the time of the action. If this is followed by an infinitive, the action in the infinitive happened at the same time (or later, if the situation allows). If it is followed by a perfect infinitive, then the action in the perfect infinitive happened some time earlier.
    The first one, while grammatical, is rather an odd thing to say, as it means he pretended to lose her number there and then, presumably while she was watching. I am not quite sure how this is possible.

    Thank you for your help!
    I’m still a bit confused. Would you mind elaborating on your explanation? Did you mean the actions of losing her number and his pretending are not possible to happen at the same time? (provided that “she” is present with him at that moment)
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    He could use sleight of hand to substitute the piece of paper with the number on it for another piece, and drop the substituted piece over the side of a bridge into a river. That's "he pretended to lose her number" :)
     

    9to6

    New Member
    Cantonese
    He could use sleight of hand to substitute the piece of paper with the number on it for another piece, and drop the substituted piece over the side of a bridge into a river. That's "he pretended to lose her number" :)
    Thank you for your answer, Truffula!
    Now I understand the logic a bit more. But what if her number is not written on a piece of paper? Instead, the assumption is he memorised her number (without writing down). Two days later, she asked about whether he had her number. Then, he said no I lost it. Does it make sense if I say "He pretended to lose her number" if he in fact "lose" her number (his memory) immediately while he was pretending after being asked the question? Or should I simply say "He pretended to lose his memory of her number" in this case?

    Yes. How do think this could be possible?
    I was wondering after all he was pretending. So he didn't really lose her number beforehand and he can actually fake it on the spot, claiming that "oh I lost it"? That's why I was thinking if the action of losing her number didn't really happen, the action of losing her number happen before or during his pretending shouldn't matter?

    Sorry for my long-winded questions. I hope I get my points across.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    That's why I was thinking if the action of losing her number didn't really happen
    It didn't really happen, but "lose" is an action verb, so it still has a time associated with it, and so does "pretend". The time of "pretend" is easy to pin down, for his pretending takes place when he talks or writes to her, telling her about his loss of her number (which, of course, he did not actually lose).

    However, losing a thing is something we usually only know about after it has happened. We had something, maybe something physical, maybe something in our memory, but when we attempt to find it we discover it is not there. The thing is lost (adjective) in the present, but all we can say about when it was lost (verb) is that it happened at some point in the past. We do not say that the action of losing a thing took place at the time we tried to find it, but that it must have happened before we tried to find it.

    However, saying "he pretended to lose her number" says that the two events took place at the same time. He does not pretend that he lost her number at some time in the past, but that he is losing her number at that moment. This does not really make sense, although Truffula has made a gallant attempt at a possible interpretation.
     

    9to6

    New Member
    Cantonese
    It didn't really happen, but "lose" is an action verb, so it still has a time associated with it, and so does "pretend". The time of "pretend" is easy to pin down, for his pretending takes place when he talks or writes to her, telling her about his loss of her number (which, of course, he did not actually lose).

    However, losing a thing is something we usually only know about after it has happened. We had something, maybe something physical, maybe something in our memory, but when we attempt to find it we discover it is not there. The thing is lost (adjective) in the present, but all we can say about when it was lost (verb) is that it happened at some point in the past. We do not say that the action of losing a thing took place at the time we tried to find it, but that it must have happened before we tried to find it.

    However, saying "he pretended to lose her number" says that the two events took place at the same time. He does not pretend that he lost her number at some time in the past, but that he is losing her number at that moment. This does not really make sense, although Truffula has made a gallant attempt at a possible interpretation.
    Thank you for your thorough answer, Uncle Jack! It seems that whether to use perfect infinitive has to do more with the logic behind the verb in the infinitive (“to lose” in this case).

    Sorry I have another question popping up in my head after thinking about your explanation. What about “She pretended to have been a man”? Is the logic behind similar? Even though she didn’t really becoming a man biologically, is it true to say that one must become a man before we find out she was pretending? But I think I only see people saying “she pretended to be a man/ to be blind/ to be interested etc.”
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you for your thorough answer, Uncle Jack! It seems that whether to use perfect infinitive has to do more with the logic behind the verb in the infinitive (“to lose” in this case).
    No. It is just an indication of time, and there is nothing special about the verb "to lose". Just as using the present tense in a main clause means that the thing happens in the present or future, whereas using the past tense means it happened in the past, so using the infinitive in a subordinate clause means that the the thing happens at the same time or later than the action in the main clause, whereas using the perfect infinitive says it took place earlier than the action in the main clause.
    Sorry I have another question popping up in my head after thinking about your explanation. What about “She pretended to have been a man”? Is the logic behind similar? Even though she didn’t really becoming a man biologically, is it true to say that one must become a man before we find out she was pretending? But I think I only see people saying “she pretended to be a man/ to be blind/ to be interested etc.”
    You might find it easier thinking how these would be expressed in a main clause. One easy way to do this is to use direct speech instead of a subordinate clause:

    1. She pretended to have been a man: "I was a man", she said (or, "I have been a man", she said, or, "I used to be a man", she said).​
    2. She pretended to be a man: "I am a man", she said.​
    3. She pretended to be blind: "I am blind", she said.​
    4. He pretended to lose her number: "I am losing your number", he said.​
    5. He pretended to have lost her number: "I lost your number", he said (or, "I have lost your number", he said).​

    The only one of these that does not make sense is (4). (1) and (2) mean different things.
     

    9to6

    New Member
    Cantonese
    No. It is just an indication of time, and there is nothing special about the verb "to lose". Just as using the present tense in a main clause means that the thing happens in the present or future, whereas using the past tense means it happened in the past, so using the infinitive in a subordinate clause means that the the thing happens at the same time or later than the action in the main clause, whereas using the perfect infinitive says it took place earlier than the action in the main clause.

    You might find it easier thinking how these would be expressed in a main clause. One easy way to do this is to use direct speech instead of a subordinate clause:

    1. She pretended to have been a man: "I was a man", she said (or, "I have been a man", she said, or, "I used to be a man", she said).​
    2. She pretended to be a man: "I am a man", she said.​
    3. She pretended to be blind: "I am blind", she said.​
    4. He pretended to lose her number: "I am losing your number", he said.​
    5. He pretended to have lost her number: "I lost your number", he said (or, "I have lost your number", he said).​

    The only one of these that does not make sense is (4). (1) and (2) mean different things.
    Thank you so much uncle jack! I think I have a better understanding now.
     
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