To infinitive: result or purpose?

Lee Sang

1. The secretary broke in to say that the urgent fax had arrived.

1-1. The secretary broke in (in order) to say that the urgent fax...

1-2. The secretary broke in and then he said that the urgent fax...

Which is the appropriate interpretation between 1-1 and 1-2?
I think 1-1 is the case of 1, because the secretary is the real actor of the action of breaking in, so maybe he has a purposive mind of the acting.

2. The leaves fall to piled up high.
The leaves is not the causer of the action of falling. They don't have any volition.
2-1 The leaves fall in order to pile up high.
You know this sentence is strange. It is natural to think leaves can't have a purposive mind.

3. The damp seeped in to chill our bones.
4. The harness jingled to make music.

I think 3 and 4 have a resultant meaning,
But the harness in 4 may be the causative actor of jingling, so it seems to be a little ackward in meaning.
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    As we are restricted to one question per thread, I shall look only at your first sentence. The only possible meaning is that the secretary broke in with the purpose of saying that the fax had arrived. Your second version is a description of the sequence of events, but that is not the meaning of the original sentence.


    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    I'm not sure I would use "broke in" here. In a story one might read something like "Excuse me, the fax has arrived" the secretary broke in." but when reporting it I think I'd say "The secretary interrupted the meeting/conversation to say that the fax had arrived."
    My first thought on reading "The secretary broke in" was that she/he forced her/his way into a building.


    Senior Member
    British English
    "The secretary broke in (to the meeting) to say that the urgent fax had arrived." Seems OK to me - that was how I understood it on first reading.
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