gave her the flashlight to...

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gave her the flashlight to...

Post by navi » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:56 am

Are these sentences correct:

1) She was in the bike's way. I shoved her to get out of the bike's way.

2) I gave her the flashlight to find her way in the dark basement.

3) I gave the flashlight to her to find her way in the dark basement.

4) I placed the child on my shoulders to be able to see the show.

Gratefully,
Navi
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Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by Phil White » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:13 pm

Sentence 1 is so labored as to be painful:
"She was in the way of the bike. I pushed her out of the way of the bike."

That also eliminates the construction that you seem to be asking about.

Sentence 2 is fine, but there is no benefit to using the "to her" variant in sentence 3.

That leaves sentence 2, which sounds reasonably natural, and sentence 4, which sounds peculiar, but which I am sure you would hear spoken.

The problem with these types of sentences is that the implied subject of the non-finite verb (to find, to be able), is only available from pragmatics, and not purely from syntax. This makes the sentences syntactically unstable, and many people would simply say they are wrong. As so often, however, you can usually get away with constructions like these in spoken English provided that you give enough cues as to the implied subject.

In fact, however, I think most people would prefer a construction with "allow" or something similar:
"I placed the child on my shoulders to allow him to see the show."

Such a construction does not suffer from the same problems, as the implied subject of "allow" can be seen as the same as the subject of the main verb.

Of course, I am absolutely out on a limb talking about "implied subjects" of non-finite verbs. Non-finite verbs do not have grammatical subjects. It is one of the things that make them non-finite. But in many contexts, there is a very strong sense that a non-finite verb has an "agent" role associated with it, and your example sentences fall into this category.

I guess, the stronger the sense that the verb requires an agent, the less likely we are to use a non-finite form.
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Non sum felix lepus

Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by navi » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:04 pm

Thank you very much for this detailed response,

You have fully grasped what my problem is: the subject or, as you say, the agent of the non-finite verb,

It seems to me that such 'constructs' work well only with certain verbs.

I think these sentences work and are natural:

a) I brought him here to see the show.
b) I took him out to get some fresh air.
c) I gave him money to buy candies for himself.
d) We send you to school to acquire useful knowledge.

I think that has mostly to do with the main verbs (bring, take, send and give).

Would you say I am correct?

Thanking you again,
Respectfully,
Navi
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Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by Phil White » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:25 pm

Hmmmm. Of your 4 sentences, the first 3 are fine. Something troubles me about "We send you to school to acquire useful knowledge," although I cannot pin down why.

Generally, I am at a loss as to why some sentences work and some don't. I don't think it has to do with the main verb.

It will take some extensive squirrel hunts for me to get a grasp on this, and seeing that I am currently sleeping for around 20+ hours a day as a result of Australian flu, it may take a little while...
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Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by BonnieL » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:54 pm

navi wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:04 pm

a) I brought him here to see the show.
I don't think you need "here" as you are both "there."
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Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by BonnieL » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:56 pm

Phil White wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:25 pm
Hmmmm. Of your 4 sentences, the first 3 are fine. Something troubles me about "We send you to school to acquire useful knowledge," although I cannot pin down why.
If it's American schools being referred to, I think I can pin down your discomfort with it: our schools don't teach much "useful knowledge." :shock:
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Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by navi » Fri Feb 16, 2018 7:09 am

Thank you both very much,

Phil, take care of yourself and get as much rest as you need. The squirrels will always be there!

Respectfully,
Navi
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Re: gave her the flashlight to...

Post by tony h » Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:02 pm

BonnieL wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:56 pm
Phil White wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:25 pm
Hmmmm. Of your 4 sentences, the first 3 are fine. Something troubles me about "We send you to school to acquire useful knowledge," although I cannot pin down why.
If it's American schools being referred to, I think I can pin down your discomfort with it: our schools don't teach much "useful knowledge." :shock:
I think it only sounds rather old fashioned. I can imagine my housemaster saying : "Your parents send you to this school to acquire useful knowledge. And that does not include the reading matter which I found in your desk. So when you have concluded your Latin prep you will see me in my study and bring that pamphlet on the rules of association football with you."
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Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

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