the time it takes a tear to fall vs for a tear to fall

LV4-26

Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I was listening to Scatterhead (Bjork - from Dancer in the Dark) and noticed these lines....

1. The time it takes a tear to fall
A heart to miss a beat

...and thought "that's not correct, it should be ==>
2. The time it takes for a tear to fall

Then I realized something.
We do say
3.It took me one hour to get there
don't we?

We would say
It takes a tear [amount of time] to fall
wouldn't we?

So my current conclusion is that both are correct (?), mean more or less the same but are derived from two different underlying structures

In 2., there is no indirect object. No mention of what or whom it takes such amount of time to fall, a tear is not directly involved in the first clause. (only in the second one)

In 1., there is an indirect object which is a tear, exactly as it is "me" in #3.

I hope I managed to make myself clear but I'm not sure. :)

What do you think?
Does #1 seem totally incorrect to you?

Any input appreciated
Jean-Michel
 
  • Pobresito

    Member
    America, Texas, English
    Well Bjork writes in poetry, and very much admires those poets who either ignore grammar as a way of expressing emotion, or in the case of e. e. cummings, try to drive grammar into oblivion, so this might just be a artistic embellishment.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Bjork's poetic leanings aside, I don't see a problem with it. I guess one wouldn't say this without a preposition at the beginning, e.g. "Ritchie McRich makes $1,000,000 in the time it takes an egg to boil", but does that make any difference?
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    No comment on the underlying structures-the time it takes a snowflake to melt, a tear to fall, or a flower to blossom are all idiomatic. They do not ignore grammar, any more than E.E. Cummings tried to drive it into oblivion.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    If you're interested in the syntax here, "a tear" is the object of the complementizer "for", the rest of the sentence becomes an infinitive clause, and the "for" is deleted.

    Here's another example:

    "We expected him to go there."

    The "for" has been deleted here, too.

    But either form is correct, with or without the "for." Some of these sound more natural than others, but technically speaking, you can retain the "for" or not. (Though some verbs seem to require "for" deletion.)
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Thanks very much for you inputs. I'm awlays interested to see such pairs of equally correct sentences, that basically get the same message through, but from a slightly different perspective, hence with a different structure.

    coiffe said:
    "We expected him to go there."
    The "for" has been deleted here, too.
    Do you mean that both
    4. We expected him to go there and
    5. We expected for him to go there
    are equally idiomatic (as in the case of my sentences #1 and #2)?
    Or do you include "expect" in your final remark?

    I'd be surprised to see #5 used a lot. However, I would have less difficulty with its passive equivalent
    6. It was expected for him to go there.
    But take this for what it's worth, from the non native I am.

    I think I've found the grammatical difference between those sentences.
    In #1 and #4, the object (direct or indirect) of the verb (take/expect) is a noun phrase (noun or pronoun), whereas in #2 and 5, it's the whole subordinate clause, i.e. the event itself.
    The time it takes the subject to act versus the time it takes for the event to take place.

    The basic meaning is the same but the style is different. #1 is probably more vivid because a tear is not only involved as the subject of fall but also as the object of take.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Thanks very much for you inputs. I'm awlays interested to see such pairs of equally correct sentences, that basically get the same message through, but from a slightly different perspective, hence with a different structure.


    Do you mean that both
    4. We expected him to go there and
    5. We expected for him to go there
    are equally idiomatic (as in the case of my sentences #1 and #2)?
    Or do you include "expect" in your final remark?

    I'd be surprised to see #5 used a lot. However, I would have less difficulty with its passive equivalent
    6. It was expected for him to go there.
    But take this for what it's worth, from the non native I am.

    I think I've found the grammatical difference between those sentences.
    In #1 and #4, the object (direct or indirect) of the verb (take/expect) is a noun phrase (noun or pronoun), whereas in #2 and 5, it's the whole subordinate clause, i.e. the event itself.
    The time it takes the subject to act versus the time it takes for the event to take place.

    The basic meaning is the same but the style is different. #1 is probably more vivid because a tear is not only involved as the subject of fall but also as the object of take.

    Hi Jean-Michel,

    First, let's turn #1 and #2 into sentences. The originals were not sentences. So, for example:

    1. The time it takes a tear to fall is five seconds.
    2. The time it takes for a tear to fall is five seconds.
    --and--
    3. We expected him to go there.
    4. We expected for him to go there.

    I believe you were hypothesizing that #1 and #2 are derived from different structures. But they're not. The "for-deletion" is simply optional.

    In #3 and #4, these also derive from the same structure, but here, the for-deletion is not really optional; it's required. As you pointed out, #4 does not sound quite right, and it is preferable to say "It was expected for him to go there." (which is an alternate form of complementation) Therefore in most places, most of the time, the "for" is deleted and only #3 is correct. But it's also true that in some regional dialects, sentences like #4 have been heard and documented. Also documented are similar sentences such as "I want for John to go."

    So we know that these (3 and 4) are really the same sentence and the same sentence structure underneath, but the rule here, if you're following the rules rather than the practice in some regional dialects, is that the "for" complementizer has to be deleted. Whereas in 1 and 2 it does not.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Thanks very much, coiffe.

    To say the truth, I'm still not entirely convinced by this...
    I believe you were hypothesizing that #1 and #2 are derived from different structures. But they're not. The "for-deletion" is simply optional.
    ...although I do see your point and find it an interesting analysis. 1. would be a handy "shortcut" of some kind, made possible by the for-deletion.
    But it doesn't matter much. I'll ponder the whole thing again if ever I am to write a linguistic study on those structures (i.e. when pigs fly). :)

    My question as to whether 1. is correct and idiomatic has been thoroughly answered, thanks to you and all the others. :thumbsup:
    I was also interested to learn that a sentence like I want for John to go exists in some dialects.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Thanks very much, coiffe.

    To say the truth, I'm still not entirely convinced by this
    But it doesn't matter much. I'll ponder the whole thing again if ever I am to write a linguistic study on those structures (i.e. when pigs fly). :)
    My question as to whether 1. is correct and idiomatic has been thoroughly answered, thanks to you and all the others. :thumbsup:
    I was also interested to learn that a sentence like I want for John to go exists in some dialects.

    1 and 2 are very difficult because of the idiom "take time" and the nonreferential "it" (it takes time). Other, clearer ways of conveying the essence of the sentence are:

    It takes five seconds for a tear to fall.
    A tear's falling takes five seconds.

    Analysis of the underlying base is easier if you look at those constructions.
     
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