INFINITIVES: Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk/to have walked on this planet.

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ritter66

Senior Member
Czech
Hello all

I think I got a wrong advice from my teacher today. Could you help me with the follwoing issue, please?

I was told I could say:


- Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk on this planet.:confused:

- Lleyton Hewitt is the biggest fighter to appear on tennis courts.:confused:

- Pierce Brosnan is the best actor to play in James Bond movies.:confused:

However teacher told me that in the sentence I give below there is only one correct option:

- I am sorry to have been sitting here for hours and not helping. :tick: to sit or to be sitting....neither of them would be correct. That´s fine. I agree.


From that standpoint I think that there should be " to have walked/appeared/played" in my three original sentences as well. Because if I decided to use "normal" tense I would pick up present perfect without hesitating.

Please tell me, who is right?

Thank you very much.
 
  • Kirusha

    Senior Member
    As nobody's venturing in, I'd suggest that there is a difference in meaning.

    Pierce Brosnan is the best actor to play in James Bond movies. -> My first reaction would be to think that this is about the future cast of some movie(s). It could also be taken as a general statement with present/ future significance: he's done well in that role in the past and should be considered for the role again.

    Pierce Brosnan is the best actor to have played in James Bond movies. -> The emphasis is on the past. Up to now no one has been as good as him in that role, but you never know, some budding genius may appear on the scene soon.

    I hope someone will correct me if I've got it wrong.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk on this planet. - The most gorgeous singer who is walking on this planet now.
    Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to have walked on this planet. - The most gorgeous singer who has ever walked on this planet.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk on this planet. - The most gorgeous singer who is walking on this planet now.
    Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to have walked on this planet. - The most gorgeous singer who has ever walked on this planet.
    Aside from the factual error (I'd go with Avril Lavigne, especially since she's had her teeth fixed), I agree with this analysis.
     

    ritter66

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Thank you Kirusha and RM1 (SS) .


    Packard:D:D
    I am a big fan of both. I prefer Taylor slightly more as she is closer to my age:cool:

    And be careful :p As far as I know Avril got married a few years ago.
     

    ritter66

    Senior Member
    Czech
    It gets more complicated :(

    Does the e.g. "the most gorgeous" differ significantly from "the first player" ?

    Would the two sentences I give below mean exactly the same thing? Or is there a similar difference as it is in the examplem with Taylor Swift?

    Let me give you an example:

    1) He is the first player to win this trophy.

    2) He is the first player to have won this trophy.

    Thanks!
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    I hope what I'm about to say is not going to sound like utter nonsense. To me English is a perspectival language with an acute sense of the linearity of time. So exactly the same event may be being described but the speaker will be facing in different firections, as it were.

    In the first case the gaze is turned towards the future, we are still savouring the win, reviving it in our imagination. In the second case we are treating the win as a fait accompli and are ready to move on.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    :thumbsup:Agree with Kirusha. I don't know how it is with other languages but if you lose the perspective of time in English you lose much of the subtlety or even outright meaning. It sounds empty.

    - I am sorry to have been sitting here for hours and not helping. :tick: to sit or to be sitting....neither of them would be correct. That´s fine. I agree.
    I am sorry to have been sitting here for hours and not helping.:tick:
    I am sorry to sit here for hours and not helping. :tick: (It means you two have been together for hours and you have not been helping.)
    I am sorry to be sitting here for hours and not helping.:tick: (It means the same thing except you are stressing the process.)

    Your teacher is not wrong. The second two are exceptional cases and should be ignored for learning or exam purposes.

    Here your teacher is talking about a specific usage that is important to understand for idiomatic English:

    -Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk on this planet.
    - Lleyton Hewitt is the biggest fighter to appear on tennis courts.
    - Pierce Brosnan is the best actor to play in James Bond movies.
     
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    ritter66

    Senior Member
    Czech
    I am sorry to have been sitting here for hours and not helping.:tick:
    I am sorry to sit here for hours and not helping. :tick: (It means you two have been together for hours and you have not been helping.)
    I am sorry to be sitting here for hours and not helping.:tick: (It means the same thing except you are stressing the process.)

    Your teacher is not wrong. The second two are exceptional cases and should be ignored for learning or exam purposes.
    What makes them exceptional? "It means that you two have been together for hours and I have been not helping" - it's exactly what says the original sentence with "to have been sitting" , isn't it? I can't see any difference. :(If it is really possible to use "to sit", "to be sitting" my teacher is wrong again as she said it was incorrect. I was asking her whether there could be some context where these two "exceptional" sentences would be appropriate.

    Here your teacher is talking about a specific usage that is important to understand for idiomatic English:

    -Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk on this planet.
    - Lleyton Hewitt is the biggest fighter to appear on tennis courts.
    - Pierce Brosnan is the best actor to play in James Bond movies.
    I am sorry but I don't get this. Could you explain it a bit more please? I get it the way that there is no distinction RM1 (SS) offered. Does it mean that to walk/to have walked are used interchangeably in these kind of sentences? The reason why I thought my teacher gave me a wrong advice comes from this question I gave her:

    Are these sentences (with Swift, Hewitt and Brosnan) correct if I want to say that there haven't been any more gorgeous singer/ bigger fighter or better actor in Bond movies? Then I gave her my three sentences with "to walk on", " to appear" and "to play". She agreed but according to RS1 (SS) distinction - she is wrong and the correct choice would be " to have walked on"...etc.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    What makes them exceptional? "It means that you two have been together for hours and I have been not helping" - it's exactly what says the original sentence with "to have been sitting" , isn't it? I can't see any difference. :(If it is really possible to use "to sit", "to be sitting" my teacher is wrong again as she said it was incorrect. I was asking her whether there could be some context where these two "exceptional" sentences would be appropriate.
    I would gently suggest that you not challenge your teacher on small points of grammar. It doesn't do you any good and it makes your teacher angry. :rolleyes: You are absolutely correct. They are not exceptional in normal usage, they are exceptional from the point of view of grammar books. Textbooks and grammar books are the grindstones that turn us all into meal. ;) You have in fact identified two very normal usages that Americans, at least, would use in their daily lives. The first sentence, I am sorry to have been sitting here for hours and not helping, is what I would call the academically correct sentence. It is what you use to pass the exam.

    The following grammatical function has a name and I don't know what it is. Perhaps someone else can define it:

    -Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk on this planet.
    - Lleyton Hewitt is the biggest fighter to appear on tennis courts.
    - Pierce Brosnan is the best actor to play in James Bond movies.
     
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    ritter66

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Thank you very much for your help, RedwoodGrove.

    The problem is that I am not trying to learn those academically correct sentences - in fact, that's not something I am focused on. The reason for this probably comes from my not knowing what I can afford to say and ,on the other hand ,what would be unacceptable . I would happily go with English not following grammar rules that strictly but then there is the problem that I won't recognize what is perfect to say (even if none of grammar books suggest that I say it) , what's ok to say , what's on the edge and what would be utter nonsense - you call it broken English, right?:DTherefore I am trying to follow grammar rules as much as I can.

    Back to my question.

    If I am wrong, please correct me. Considering everything has been written here I get the feeling that infinitives have their own world and it doesn't work the way that if I have a sentence calling for present perfect I necessarily have to use past infinitive - if I wanted to rewrite it into this form?

    In other words it doesn't matter whether I use "the most gorgeous singer to have lived or to live" ? Both can have the meaning that there hasn't been more gorgeous singer yet? Past infinitive would be just slightly more correct? Or RS1 (SS) and his dividing should be followed?

    I will appreciate any details you can share with me on this topic.
     
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    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Therefore I am trying to follow grammar rules as much as I can.

    Understood.

    "the most gorgeous singer to have walked the planet"
    This implies the past. The singer has probably passed away, i.e. died. "At the time, people thought Jenny Lind was the most gorgeous singer ever to have walked the planet."

    "the most gorgeous singer to walk the planet"
    This implies the present moment according to your time frame. The singer is alive in the time frame you specify. "Taylor Swift is the most gorgeous singer to walk the planet."
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Redwood, do you think the tense of the finite clause also affects the meaning? Let's consider A-D:

    A. She is the most gorgeous singer to walk the planet.
    comparison set: all living singers
    B. She is the most gorgeous singer to have walked the planet.
    comparison set: all singers, living and dead
    C. She was the most gorgeous singer to walk the planet.
    comparison set: all living singers at time T*
    D. She was the most gorgeous singer to have walked the planet.
    comparison set: all singers at time T, living and dead

    *time T - the period of time over which the person in question was a living singer
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Kirusha,

    All of these are possible, I think, as you describe them.

    A. She is the most gorgeous singer to walk the planet.
    comparison set: all living singers (Right. You would say this on a blog or in a formal critique.)

    B. She is the most gorgeous singer to have walked the planet.
    comparison set: all singers, living and dead (Somehow my ear requires an "ever": most gorgeous singer ever to have walked the planet.)

    C. She was the most gorgeous singer to walk the planet.
    comparison set: all living singers at the period of time over which the person in question was a living singer. (Right. It is the past simple complement to A in a past time frame.)

    D. She was the most gorgeous singer to have walked the planet.
    comparison set: all singers at time T, living and dead (This is the past simple complement to B and I would put an "ever" in the same place: "ever to have walked the planet".)

    This is just my instinct. I have never had to justify my usage in these cases before. :)
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Thanks, Redwood. :) The intuitively compelling "well, yes, they mean pretty much the same thing but they are still slightly different, it's really up to you because it's about how you feel about the situation", which essentially sums up English grammar, is very frustrating for learners. :rolleyes:

    Ritter, have we helped at all?
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Thanks, Redwood. :) The intuitively compelling "well, yes, they mean pretty much the same thing but they are still slightly different, it's really up to you because it's about how you feel about the situation", which essentially sums up English grammar, is very frustrating for learners. :rolleyes:
    I can imagine it's frustrating. The point of discussing grammar at all is to take it out of the realm of intuition and feeling so that it can be analyzed. On that note, I would also say that attempts at grammar are wasted on learners who just want to get the feel of a language. There's nothing wrong with this, of course.
     

    ritter66

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Here's the link to a similar thread posted by me. You may want to have a look at it, ritter.
    To have past participle vs infinitive
    Thanks for it, Englishismypassion. I got inspired and some ideas posted below come from this thread.



    Ok. Here are my ideas how it may work. If I am wrong please don´t hesitate to correct me.



    He is the best actor to have played James Bond. It can mean that he is dead and I am talking about past. However it can also mean that he is the best actor who has ever played James Bond - here, however, would be appropriate to add something like "ever" etc.

    He is the best actor to play James Bond. Here I am a bit lost - I can say it only when he is still alive? It is why it is interchangeable with "to have played"?

    The same would work if I wrote "the first actor" instead of the "the best actor" ? Am I correct?


    Until now I have thought that infinitives are always interchangeble with a slight, very slight difference in meaning. But what about examples I give below?

    I am happy to have been sitting here for 2 hours with you.

    I am proud to have been a part of your family for 2 months.

    Would to sit/to be sitting and to be be the equal ways to say the same? Even though there is time mentioned? Without using infinitive the sentences would call for the present perfect.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    He is the best actor to have played James Bond. It can mean that he is dead and I am talking about past. However it can also mean that he is the best actor who has ever played James Bond - here, however, would be appropriate to add something like "ever" etc. (Right. Sean Connery is the best actor ever to have played James Bond. You will run across this construct in other situations but let's stick with the basics for now.)

    He is the best actor to play James Bond. Here I am a bit lost - I can say it only when he is still alive? It is why it is interchangeable with "to have played"? (It is not interchangeable. Here you are selecting between several actors and you decide upon one. X is the best actor to play JB.)

    The same would work if I wrote "the first actor" instead of the "the best actor" ? Am I correct? (Here you are notating a fact: the first. SC is the first actor to play JB.)

    Until now I have thought that infinitives are always interchangeble with a slight, very slight difference in meaning. But what about examples I give below?

    I am happy to have been sitting here for 2 hours with you.

    I am proud to have been a part of your family for 2 months.


    (Both of the above examples are good, idiomatic expressions in my opinion. I'm not sure if there is a question about them.)


    Would to sit/to be sitting and to be be the equal ways to say the same? Even though there is time mentioned? Without using infinitive the sentences would call for the present perfect.
     
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