Results 1 to 9 of 9
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • Brazil

    • Join Date: Jul 2014
    • Posts: 8
    #1

    Infinitive Negative

    I would appreciate it if you could help me. I've been an ESL Teacher for around 6 years and even though I've been studying a lot in order to always provide my students with valid information, when it comes to the English language, sometimes I get in doubt. One of the points is the infinitives when they can be made negative.
    The trouble for me lies in sentences like these ones:

    I decided not to go.
    I didn't decide to go.

    She enjoys not working.
    She doesn't enjoy working.

    Are they the same? Do they express the same meaning? Something tells me they kind of differ in some aspects, however I really don't know how to explain these subtle differences to my students. Can anybody help me with that? I'd really like somebody who is a native speaker of this fantastic language to give me a clear explanation. I'd be sincerely thankful for it.

  1. konungursvia's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Mar 2009
    • Posts: 5,158
    #2

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    They aren't the same. These are 2-verb structures, and you can negate either verb. It's like the Tarantino analogy: having a gun and not needing one, or needing a gun and not having one.

    Logically, your two examples can differ, although many people would assume they might not.
    Deciding not to go means you don't go, as a result of your own decision. Not deciding to go may mean you were kidnapped, or pressured, or otherwise went without having decided. It's a hair-splitting distinction, but worth exploring for clarity.

    Similarly, not enjoying working means she dislikes her job. But she may also dislike time off. Or not. So we don't know whether she enjoys not working.

    It is relatively easy to grasp once you have studied Greimassian semiotics. ;)

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,845
    #3

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    I decided not to go. I made a decision not to go.
    I didn't decide to go.
    I did not make a decision to go.

    It is possible in the second that the person did go, but that they did not make the decision- maybe their boss ordered them to go.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • Brazil

    • Join Date: Jul 2014
    • Posts: 8
    #4

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    I'm really thankful for your detailed explanation. Actually when you mentioned Greimassian semiotics, it automatically reminded me of College. You made it clearer to me, because as I had stated, even though I knew there was something distinctive, I did not know how to elucidate it. Thanks a bunch for your helping me out. ;D

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • Brazil

    • Join Date: Jul 2014
    • Posts: 8
    #5

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    Hey Tdol. Thank you so much for this. That's what I'm talking about. Now, it really sounds clear to me.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • Brazil

    • Join Date: Jul 2014
    • Posts: 8
    #6

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    What about in sentences like these ones:

    I want her not to do it.
    I don't want her to do it.

    Even though the second one sounds more natural to me, the first one does not seem to be different from the other semantically. May you help me again?
    Thanks in advance.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,091
    #7

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    In this case, they mean the same, but as you say, the first is not so common.
    What is different from your previous example is that if you don't want X, you want not-X. It's a function of the verb you've chosen. Reality works in such a way that if you don't want something to happen, you want it not to happen. One implies the other.

    This can't be applied to 'deciding'. If you do not decide X, this doesn't imply that you decided not-X.
    So, the next step would be to think of some verbs, like 'want', where [Verbing not-X] implies [not verbing X] and vice versa, and others where this implication doesn't apply, like 'decide'. There's probably a spectrum, but it's far easier to think of verbs like 'decide' where there's no mutual implication.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,845
    #8

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    Some might argue that the first expresses a greater volition on the part of the speaker, but the general meaning is the same.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • Brazil

    • Join Date: Jul 2014
    • Posts: 8
    #9

    Re: Infinitive Negative

    Thank you so much guys for the elaborated explanation.

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] negative form of infinitive
    By mogu in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 22-Jun-2014, 17:54
  2. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 28-Aug-2013, 23:29
  3. infinitive negative
    By blumare in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 16-Mar-2010, 08:46
  4. [General] Negative pronoun + Infinitive
    By vil in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 13-Feb-2009, 23:29
  5. Negative+negative = positive?
    By belly_ttt in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 30-Sep-2007, 09:02

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •