QUESTION 14 - USING SHORT INFINITIVE
Date: [this is an updated old posting, previous to LSEG4 edition]
" Dear Corollary Theorems,
(. . .) I teach English, though I am one of the confused teachers who has fallen victim to grammar and language teaching
simplifications. I live and teach English in USA--the country with non-existent English grammar teaching and learning habits. It is
assumed here that grammar should not be taught to American children because they are born into English-speaking families, therefore
they acquire the language gradually, via their parents! There are different American families, of course: educated, semi-educated,
and uneducated. How could that assumption be true if kids, before entering school, are at different levels of language knowledge?
I view this approach as extremely reactionary, though it plays into the hands of the rulers of our country. They don't need
fully-educated masses of Americans; half-educated, or even totally uneducated Americans are a good source of workhorses which have
no time to stop, think, and read a book.
(. . .) In general, my opinion about your approach to grammar is not devious--just a joke of ours--at all; I know what I want to say. On the contrary, I can see things (long-forgotten) in your book that I learned in
University. Your treatment of conditionals, for example, or the number of pages you have dedicated to the Verb chapter. I don't own
the book, but I'm planning to buy one.
(. . .) I need to know what is happening with the verb "to help". Has it become another modal verb? No grammar book
references this aspect.
(. . .) You use 'helps understanding and extending the range of conditional complex sentence'--I noticed two instances. Do
you intentionally avoid using 'to' following the verb 'to help'; for example: 'helps
to understand and extend the range'? What is wrong with this verb (to help)? Most people use it with NO "to" particle following. What is your explanation?
(. . .) I like the way you pounce upon all sorts of language simplification. That is a stupid trend together with the "holistic"
approach to language teaching and learning. (. . .)"
From F G - USA
A14. We took the liberty of inserting more than the minimum necessary paragraphs from FG's email, because his
opinions are particularly interesting (to us). Thank you so much, FG, for your kind appreciations!
Unfortunately, we are certain that our "short-answer" to FG has saddened him, a little bit. The long and complete answer, however,
should bring more light on this topic. Our "short-answer" to FG was similar to the following.
|Regarding your question, the answer is in LSEG,
page 230, chapter Verbs, subchapter Impersonal Moods, section Infinitive, subsection Present Infinitive Common Aspect Active
Voice, Table M188.8.131.52, section "I", the second "Attention" paragraph. We insert here a brief excerpt from the mentioned
Generally, verbs take the short infinitive form after:
1. “to make” and “to have”, when they have causative meanings;
2. the verbs describing sensorial feelings: "to feel", "to see", "to watch", "to hear", "to observe", "to touch", "to
3. after “to let”, “to help”, and “to bid”;
4. after a few expressions similar to: “had/should/would rather”, “had/should/would better”, “nothing but”, “can (not)
but”, “had/would/should sooner”, “better than”, “rather than”, “sooner than”, “more than”.
She helped him write the book.
John would rather go to the movies.
I cannot but think of poor John.
He made me think of Jane.
I heard him speak about Jane.
You should better talk now.
This is not a new trend, FG; it is just the good old English grammar. Note that there are many other instances described
in LSEG when verbs take only short infinitives.
Now, the problem is, there is a longer answer to this particular topic. Note the introductory adverb "Generally" marked in red
above: that is a personal addition of the author, O G POPA. The meaning of the adverb "generally" qualifying all
following is, there are exceptions!
Consider the following examples.
1. This book helps you understand English grammar
2. This book helps you to understand English grammar (the accentuated
Both versions above are correct grammatically, providing they are used/interpreted correctly. The first
form is based on grammatical rules. The second form is an emphatic accentuation, therefore a long infinitive helps in stressing the
The great confusion is generated by the fact that, in real life, people use both forms above. Some people do that knowing perfectly
well what they are doing; others use one form or the other because each sounds better in particular contexts; most people, however,
are terribly confused about using either form since no grammar book troubles to explain them appropriately.
FG has signaled "the trend" correctly, except he took it in reverse. The correct grammatical form is #1 above, and the "trend" is
#2. Note that "the trend" is a grammatical mistake, unless it is used specifically to create (strong) accentuations: this is the
reason behind the adverb "generally" added to the rule by O G POPA.
Now, grammatical rules are important to help us express correct meanings. However, there are a few instances when grammatical rules
(and implicitly correct forms of expressions) do not quite work in English. Note the following.
This book helps
to express the meaning.
Since there is no accentuation, the form above is incorrect grammatically.
A14.B. This book helps
express the meaning.
The sentence in form B above is correct grammatically, though it doesn't sound right. Therefore, in order to make it "sound
English", people perform a little morphologic transformation.
A14.C. This book helps
expressing the meaning.
Syntactically, the direct object expression in blue, in all examples above, remains unchanged; morphologically, we use a gerund
verb in example A14.C to replace the short infinitive one in form A14.B. The meaning of the sentence A14.C is complete, and it does
sound as very good English.
Type A14.C sentences are the recommended form whenever short infinitives do not sound right, or if you are in doubt about using
short or long infinitives. In LSEG4, Table M184.108.40.206 on page 291, section D, you could discover a brief
list of verbs (about 50) which require they are followed by present gerund verbs. However, since present gerund is
such a very good form
of English expression (it is specific to English), the mentioned list can be easily extended to many other (similar) verbs.
We keep on stressing that LSEG4 is a complete English grammar reference, and the answers to your
questions help us prove that important aspect based on real life
examples. Up to now, it happened only once that we couldn't find the proper answer in LSEG4, but that was due to the fact the question
submitted to us was from L4EW--not yet written at that time.
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