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  1. #1
    vil is offline VIP Member
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    Default to fail in an affirmative and a negative form

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough explain to me the mysterious metamorphosis of the function and meaning of the verb “fail” in the following examples?

    to fail in an affirmative form + an infinitive of another verb = a negation

    The sellers failed to ship the goods.
    The sellers did not ship the goods.
    If the selles fail to ship the goods…
    If the sellers do not ship the goods…
    He failed in his attempt to regain the world title.

    To fail in a negative form + an infinive of another verb = a reinforcement of a approval, confirmation = without fail

    We shall not fail to send you some copies of the catalogue.
    My grandson never fails to phone me on my birthday.

    to fail without following infinitive means prove a failure, come to nothing

    The negotiation failed.
    This company failed last yar.

    Regards.

    V.

  2. #2
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    Soup is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: to fail in an affirmative and a negative form

    Hi vil,

    Your question is about semantic prosody. An example of that is the word commit. It tends to have a negative meaning more so than a positive one because of the realm it is used in; e.g., commit a crime, murder, midermeanor, felony, adultry. Its positive meaning is not as common, commit (oneself to doing something good).

    The verb fail follows a similar pattern. It tends to have a negative meaning; e.g., fail a test, yet it can also have a positive meaning, specifically when it is negated, as in

    not fail to = not forget to
    never fail to = never forget to


  3. #3
    vil is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: to fail in an affirmative and a negative form

    Hi Soup,

    Thank you for your artistic explanation.

    Thank you also for the chance to acquaint myself with the term discorse prosody concerning the way in which certain seemingly neutral words can come to carry positive or negative association through frequently occuring with particular collocations.

    Regards.

    V.

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