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    Why is the word 'to' used before noncontinuous verbs?Example to run, to sing etc

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    Re: Tenses

    My own theory is, it has to do with the rise of do-support in English. This is from etymonline:

    The nearly universal use of to with infinitives (to sleep, to dream, etc.) arose in M.E. out of the O.E. dative use of to, and helped drive out the O.E. inflectional endings (though in this use to itself is a mere sign, without meaning). Commonly used as a prefix in M.E. (to-hear "listen to," etc.), but few of these survive (to-do, together, and time references like today, tonight, tomorrow -- Chaucer also has to-yeere). To and fro "side to side" is attested from mid-14c. Phrase what's it to you "how does that concern you?" goes back a long way:

    Hud is ec s?
    [John xxi.22, in Lindisfarne Gospel, c.950]

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    Re: Tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by zeenath View Post
    Why is the word 'to' used before noncontinuous verbs?Example to run, to sing etc

    (1) This is a very difficult matter that takes a lot of reading to


    (2) Here are a few ideas from Professor Otto Jespersen (if I

    understand correctly what he has written):

    (a) Many years ago, the infinitive was something like a noun.

    I can sing.

    can = once meant "know."

    sing = once meant "singing."

    Over the years, the infinitive became more and more like a verb.

    (b) Many years ago, the "to" was a real preposition meaning indicating

    direction or purpose: He went to fetch [get] his hat.

    (c) Today, the professor says, "to" is only "a grammatical implement

    with no meaning of its own" when used before an infinitive.

    (d) He says that "go" can be called an infinitive, but he agrees that

    the terms "bare infinitive" (no "to") and the "to-infinitive" are terms

    that are used in modern English.

    (e) He reminds us that:

    When we say "The good man," we do not think that "the" belongs to

    "man." So we have no problem putting "good" between "the" and "man."

    He says that "to" does not belong to the infinitive, either. So that is why

    it is OK to "split" the infinitive.

    For example, he says that this sentence is perfectly clear:

    No one claims to completely understand it.

    (I guess that he means the following sentence would not be

    so clear:

    No one claims completely to understand it.

    We do not know whether "completely" refers to "claims"

    or "to understand.")

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