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  1. #1
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    Default Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    I think the following two sentences in The Gettysburg Address are incomplete. Can anybody please kindly tell me why they are correct?

    "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. "
    "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us"

    My reason is that in both sentences, the subject "It" represents the infinitive, so they do not have a predicate. That's wrong.
    I think Abraham Lincoln should say "It is important for us ...".

    Thank you for your advice!

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Lincoln is using language creatively to fashion beautiful rhetoric- noble words that have to sound different to achieve their task. I think Lincoln should stick to his words. The structure may seem strange, but try saying it aloud.

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    Default Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Hi, tdol,
    Thank you for your reply! But, frankly speaking, I don't think you really answered my question.
    I admire Lincoln, I admire his ideal and his language skill. I'd like to believe that those two sentences are correct. I just need to know why they are correct.
    I love Lincoln's speaches, especially The Gettysburg Address. I have read it aloud dozens of times. Now I can even recite it. But I still fell those two sentences are very weird!
    In those sentences, the subject "It" represents the infinitives, the infinitives are the real subject. So those sentences do not have a predicate. That seem to be wrong.

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    Default Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by cssgli
    I think the following two sentences in The Gettysburg Address are incomplete. Can anybody please kindly tell me why they are correct?

    "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. "
    "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us"

    My reason is that in both sentences, the subject "It" represents the infinitive, so they do not have a predicate. That's wrong.
    I think Abraham Lincoln should say "It is important for us ...".

    Thank you for your advice!
    CSSGLI,

    I don't understand what you mean by, "the subject "It" represents the infinitive,". Could you please explain?

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    Default Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    "It" represents an empty, or null subject. Delete "It" and the true subject emerges:

    We (the people who have survived the hardships of war) should be dedicated to the unfinished work which the soldiers who fought and died here have thus far so nobly advanced.

    We (the people who have survived the hardships of war) should be dedicated to the great task remaining before us.

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    Question Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    "It" represents an empty, or null subject. Delete "It" and the true subject emerges:

    We (the people who have survived the hardships of war) should be dedicated to the unfinished work which the soldiers who fought and died here have thus far so nobly advanced.

    We (the people who have survived the hardships of war) should be dedicated to the great task remaining before us.
    Hi, Casiopea,
    Thank you for your reply.
    From the context, I know Lincoln meant to say what you wrote and I quoted. But if those two sentences are taken out of the context, I can not be so sure.
    Do you know what I mean when I say "It is for him to go there"?
    I think you can not. I may mean "It is RIGHT for him to go there", I may mean "It is WRONG for him to go there". How can you know?!

    When an infinitive is used as the subject, we habitually bring the infinitive to the end of the sentence and put an "it" in its place as the nominal subject. For example, when we mean "For him to go there is right", we normally say "It is right for him to go there". But I don't think we could leave out the very "right". What do you think?

    PS. In the sentence "It is right for him to go there", the "him" is the subject of the infinitive, not the subject of the whole sentence.

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    Default Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by cssgli
    For example, when we mean "For him to go there is right", we normally say "It is right for him to go there". But I don't think we could leave out the very "right".
    There's your answer. If 'right' is required above, why assume that it or even 'important' has been omitted below?

    "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here . . . ."

    To me, the phrase "it is for us the living, rather" means,

    => It is our responsibility, and not theirs, to be dedicated here . . . . "
    => It is to our benefit, and not theirs, to be dedicated here . . . . "

    "It" represents the infinitive, so they do not have a predicate. That's wrong. I think Abraham Lincoln should say "It is important for us ...".
    "It" does not represent 'to be dedicated'. "It" is an anticipatory subject. It's a stylistic device:

    It (structural subject) is (verb) for us (semantic subject)

    Note, "us" functions as the object of the preposition "for". The complete semantic subject is the prepositional phrase "for us".

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    Question Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Hi, Casiopea,
    Thank you for your excellent answer. But I still have some questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    To me, the phrase "it is for us the living, rather" means,
    => It is our responsibility, and not theirs, to be dedicated here . . . . "
    => It is to our benefit, and not theirs, to be dedicated here . . . . "
    I agree to your understanding. But do you think you can get that safely if the sentences are taken out of the context?

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    "It" does not represent 'to be dedicated'. "It" is an anticipatory subject. It's a stylistic device:
    It (structural subject) is (verb) for us (semantic subject)
    Do you think we can leave out the verb in the stylistic device?
    I guess we can not. That's what I am arguing about.

    Do you think I can say "It is for him to go there"?
    By saying something likewise, Abraham Lincoln has been confusing me so much.

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    Default Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by cssgli
    But do you think you can get that safely if the sentences are taken out of the context?
    Yes. The structure reads that way.

    [1A] It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

    [1B] To be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who have fought here have thus far so nobly advances is for us.

    [2A] It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.

    [2B] To be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us is rather for us.

    Quote Originally Posted by cssgli
    Do you think we can leave out the verb in the stylistic device?
    I guess we can not. That's what I am arguing about.
    Do you mean, leave out "is"? If so, no. Every sentence requires a main verb. If you mean, leave out 'important', which by the way is an adjective, consider,

    It is important that Max remember to wear glasses.
    It is *that Max remember to wear glasses.

    It is important to Max that . . . .
    It is *to Max that . . . .

    Omit the adjective and the result is ungrammatical (*). Now consider,

    It is important for us to remember to wear glasses.
    It is for us to wear glasses.

    Both are fine, but they express different things. (Note, 'important for us' is not my dialect--I use 'important to us' and 'important that we'--but some speakers will use 'for us' in that context, especially if they feel 'to' and 'for' are near synonyms.)

    Quote Originally Posted by cssgli
    Do you think I can say "It is for him to go there"?
    By saying something likewise, Abraham Lincoln has been confusing me so much.
    Hmm. Well, modern English it's not, but I grasp its meaning: It's his responsibility to go there, not ours. It's his responsibility. Consider,

    It is for her to decide. => The decision is hers. It's up to her to decide.
    It is important for her to decide. => That she be the one to make the decision is important for/to her.

    Here's something you might find interesting:
    http://www.geocities.com/gene_moutoux/gettysburg9.htm

  10. #10
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    Thumbs up Re: Two sentences in The Gettysburg Address seem to be wrong

    Hi, Casiopea,

    Your explanation makes sense to me. Thank you very much!
    Later I may pose some more questions. I hope I could get your help again.
    And thank you for telling me the interesting link!

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