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Thread: grammar query

  1. #1
    rogerd1960 is offline Newbie
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    Default grammar query

    A student asked me about the structure of the sentence, "I felt my father take my hand... " and wanted to know how come the verb take is in the infinitive even though the sentence is obviously set in the past. I'm afraid for the time being I'm stuck for an answer. Is take my hand a verb phrase? We discussed the possibility of using taking, and how that might emphasise the action rather than what was felt, but that didn't really answer the question or contribute much to a solution.

    Can anyone explain this item of grammar to me, please?

  2. #2
    Buddhaheart is offline Member
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerd1960 View Post
    A student asked me about the structure of the sentence, "I felt my father take my hand... " and wanted to know how come the verb take is in the infinitive even though the sentence is obviously set in the past. I'm afraid for the time being I'm stuck for an answer. Is take my hand a verb phrase? We discussed the possibility of using taking, and how that might emphasise the action rather than what was felt, but that didn't really answer the question or contribute much to a solution.

    Can anyone explain this item of grammar to me, please?
    We do use verbs of sensation like “feel”, “see” & “hear” with a bare infinitive. I believe this is one of those cases. The main verb is of course “felt” in the sentence; “take” is the infinitive without the “to”. Another example would be “I saw the thief drive off.”

    More often they are used with the present participles: “I saw the thief driving off.” “I felt my father taking my hand...”

    It might be instructive if you would ask the students to change the sentence from a simple past to a complex one with the noun clause like “I felt that my father took my hand..."

  3. #3
    minnieuk is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: grammar query

    In this case the infinitive (without to) is used after a word of perception and the action is finished.

    For example:

    I saw her take the book.

    She saw him close the door.

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by rogerd1960 View Post
    A student asked me about the structure of the sentence, "I felt my father take my hand... " and wanted to know how come the verb take is in the infinitive even though the sentence is obviously set in the past. I'm afraid for the time being I'm stuck for an answer. Is take my hand a verb phrase? We discussed the possibility of using taking, and how that might emphasise the action rather than what was felt, but that didn't really answer the question or contribute much to a solution.

    Can anyone explain this item of grammar to me, please?

    According to my grammar books, the "complete" sentence is really:

    I felt my father [to] take my hand.

    I = subject.

    felt = verb.

    my father [to] take my hand. = so-called infinitive phrase, acting

    as the object of the verb.

    ("my father" is the subject of that infinitive phrase.)

    Hopefully, someone will diagram it for you in this diagramming forum, and

    then you will clearly see the relationships.

  5. #5
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    According to my grammar books, the "complete" sentence is really:

    I felt my father [to] take my hand.
    I disagree with your grammar books, Parser. The complete sentence is as originally quoted. Using 'to' is not natural English, any more than it would be in "The boss let me to go home early."

  6. #6
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I disagree with your grammar books, Parser. The complete sentence is as originally quoted. Using 'to' is not natural English, any more than it would be in "The boss let me to go home early."
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) Your humble servant is at fault, not the grammar books.

    (2) I put "to" in brackets to indicate that the grammar books teach

    us NOT to use the "to" but that -- for the sake of analysis -- one

    should realize that the "to" is in the so-called "deep" structure but

    that -- as you said -- is sometimes omitted from the "surface"

    structure.

    (3) Learners often ask, "Why isn't there a 'to'?" They should

    realize that in reality there is a "to," but we simply omit it with

    certain verbs.

    (4) Thank you for making me clarify the point.

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    (2) I put "to" in brackets to indicate that the grammar books teach us NOT to use the "to" but that -- for the sake of analysis -- one should realize that the "to" is in the so-called "deep" structure but that -- as you said -- is sometimes omitted from the "surface" structure.

    (3) Learners often ask, "Why isn't there a 'to'?" They should realize that in reality there is a "to," but we simply omit it with certain verbs.
    I don't often disagree with your analyses,which are usually both accurate and helpful, Parser, but I must on this occcasion.My view is that the bare infinitive (i.e., without 'to') is the central structure, and the one most commonly used, for example,

    1. in negative and interrogative forms of the simple tenses: He doesn't take...... Didn't you take?

    2. following modals: They must take...... She won't take...... Should I take?

    3. as a self-standing verb: Take it? That's something I would never do.

    We use 'to'

    1. in front of the infinitive when it acts as the subject of a sentence:To err is human.

    2. in front of the infinitive when it acts as the object of many verbs: I want to take ...... I hope to take.

    (Other languages use prepositions in this way with some verbs, for example, German zu and French à and de).

    The traditional belief that the English infinitive contains the word 'to' stems from the fact that 'to' is sometimes needed in English when Latin uses a one-word infinitive without a preposition - but then Latin frequently uses case endings with nouns when English used prepositions. Different languages operate in different ways.

    It is not that we sometimes omit 'to'; it is rather that we sometimes need 'to', just as we sometimes need prepositions in front of the -ing form:

    I believe in playingI look forward to seeing

  8. #8
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I don't often disagree with your analyses,which are usually both accurate and helpful, Parser, but I must on this occcasion.My view is that the bare infinitive (i.e., without 'to') is the central structure, and the one most commonly used, for example,

    1. in negative and interrogative forms of the simple tenses: He doesn't take...... Didn't you take?

    2. following modals: They must take...... She won't take...... Should I take?

    3. as a self-standing verb: Take it? That's something I would never do.

    We use 'to'

    1. in front of the infinitive when it acts as the subject of a sentence:To err is human.

    2. in front of the infinitive when it acts as the object of many verbs: I want to take ...... I hope to take.

    (Other languages use prepositions in this way with some verbs, for example, German zu and French à and de).

    The traditional belief that the English infinitive contains the word 'to' stems from the fact that 'to' is sometimes needed in English when Latin uses a one-word infinitive without a preposition - but then Latin frequently uses case endings with nouns when English used prepositions. Different languages operate in different ways.

    It is not that we sometimes omit 'to'; it is rather that we sometimes need 'to', just as we sometimes need prepositions in front of the -ing form:

    I believe in playingI look forward to seeing
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    This is not the "Ask a Teacher" forum, but I decided to start with that

    disclaimer. Learners must, of course, accept your erudite answer as the

    correct answer.

    Your humble servant, however, shall continue to simply follow grammars

    intended for high school students:

    "When the infinitive in its verbal function is used as an objective complement after such verbs as see, make, hear, feel, and the like, the
    to is usually omitted, as in I saw him leave; I heard her sing; She made me laugh. -- page 137 of Descriptive English Grammar (1950).

    We also occasionally do have a choice:

    He helps to support his parents./ He helps support his parents. (p. 328)


    I barely understand high school grammar let alone transformational

    grammar, but I kind of think those transformational guys have something

    there in their theory of "deep" and "surface" structure. I prefer to think

    the "to" is, indeed, in the "deep" structure of the thread starter's

    sentence.

    Thanks again for your excellent explanation. Like many ignorant

    people, however, I feel more comfortable sticking with my "mistaken"

    idea.

  9. #9
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: grammar query

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    Learners must, of course, accept your erudite answer as the correct answer.
    Heaven forfend! My opinions may be reasonably informed, but they are opinions.
    I kind of think those transformational guys have something there in their theory of "deep" and "surface" structure.
    I do, too.
    I prefer to think the "to" is, indeed, in the "deep" structure of the thread starter's sentence.
    I happen to think that there is no 'to' in the deep structure. We'll have to agree to differ on that.

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