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INFINITIVAL SENTENCES




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In terms of grammatical organisation infinitival sentences should reasonably be subdivided into one-member and two-member sentences. The two groups may well be illustrated by the following examples:

(a) To be unwordly and quite good! How new! How exciting!... To be onewho lived to make people happy. (Galsworthy)

(b) That fellow to talk of injuries! (Galsworthy)

In two-member sentences the infinitive is preceded by a noun or a nounal phrase.

Infinitival sentences are fairly common in spoken English and literary prose.

Like other units of predicative value, they can communicate not only their denotative meaning but also the connotative suggestions of various circumstances of their use.

The context, linguistic or situational, and intonation in actual speech will always be explicit enough to make the necessary modal meaning clear.

Aubrey Green threw up his hands. "Ah! That white monkey to have painted that!(Galsworthy)

There are interrogative infinitival sentences, e. g.:

Why waste time? Why not stay here?

A suggestion made in such infinitival sentences may be rejected as impossible (nexus of deprecation).

We surrender? Never!

In terms of style and purpose, infinitival sentences merit attention as synonymically related to sentences with finite verb-forms. Identical in their grammatical content, such synonyms differ in stylistic value, and modal force. Compare the following:

 

Infinitival sentences Sentences with finite verb-forms
To have brought Fleur down openly yes! But to sneak her like this! (Galsworthy) I could have brought Fleur down openly yes! But how can I sneak her like this!
Poor fellow! What a thing to have hadhanging over his head all the time. (Dreiser) Poor fellow! What a thing had been hanging over his head all the time.
... Would he have hesitated then? Not a moment! Operate, operate! Make certain of her life! (Galsworthy) ...They must operate, make certain of her life.
A host to snatch food from a guest! A host to strike a guest! A gentleman to strike a lady! (Bennett) How can a host snatch food from a guest? How can a host strike a guest? How can a gentleman strike a lady?

Such midgets to have made this monstrous pile, lighted it so that it shone in an enormous glittering heap, whose glow blurred the colour of the sky! (Galsworthy) How could 'such midgets have made this monstrous pile lighted it so that... Cf. Syn. That such midgets should have made this monstrous pile and lighted it so that...!
It seemed to him unfair. To have taken that riskto have been through this agony and what agony! for a daughter! (Galsworthy) It seemed to him unfair. How could he have taken that risk...






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