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    #1

    modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    Hi,

    Is the following sentence correct?

    John harbors a desire to kill Peter if he had the opportunity to do so.

    I'd appreciate your help.

  2. teechar's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    No, that doesn't work. Stick with the straightforward alternatives below.
    John harbors a desire to kill Peter and would do so if he had the opportunity.
    or simply
    John would kill Peter if he had the opportunity to do so.

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    #3

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    How about "John harbors a desire to kill Peter should he have the opportunity to do so"?

    The should-clause is taken to modify the infinitival phrase.

  4. teechar's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    No. You've just substituted "should" for "if". It still doesn't work.

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    #5

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    I'm testing a few possibilities. What about the following?

    John harbors a desire to kill Peter if he has the opportunity to do so.

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    #6

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    John plans to kill Peter if he gets the opportunity.
    I am not a teacher.

  7. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    John plans to kill Peter if he gets the opportunity.
    Raymond, do you see why that's an improvement? (I'd probably go further and say "chance.")

    It's usually better to avoid long Latin- and Greek-rooted words when a short Anglo-Saxon word will do.

    That's because it's more natural and easier to understand and therefore less annoying.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #8

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    I am just investigating the possibility of an infinitival phrase being modified by an if-clause, especially a counterfactual one.

    Anyway, do you find the following correct, with the if-clause modifying the infinitival phrase?


    John harbors a desire to fly to the top of the tree if he grows feathers.
    John wants to fly to the top of the tree if he grows feathers.
    We know his desire to fly to the top of the tree if he grows feathers.

    It is evidently impossible for him to grow feathers, although the non-counterfactual if-clause is used.

  9. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: modifying an infinitival phrase with an if-clause

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    I am just investigating the possibility of an infinitival phrase being modified by an if-clause, especially a counterfactual one.

    Anyway, do you find the following correct, with the if-clause modifying the infinitival phrase?

    John wants to fly to the top of the tree if he grows feathers.

    Same logic problem. You're saying: John would want to fly to the top of the tree if he grew feathers.

    That means he doesn't want to fly now, but would if he had feathers. Is that what you're trying to say? My guess is that he already wishes he could fly, with or without feathers.


    John wants to fly to the top of the tree if he grows feathers.

    Exactly the same problem.

    We know his desire to fly to the top of the tree if he grows feathers.

    It is obviously impossible for him to grow feathers,

    We're not concerned with that. John can swim to the moon, for all I care!


    although the non-counterfactual if-clause is used.
    There!
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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