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Grammar question
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8607
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:58 pm    Post subject: Grammar question Reply with quote

Just a quick question: do the following sentences sound right to you?


'I was nervous to tell my family.'

'I am excited to go to Rome next week.'

'I am sad to do this to you.'





I have to admit that they do not seem quite right to me, though I cannot pinpoint which rule of grammar they offend. I just want there to be prepositions or adverbs followed by an ~ing form. However, I think these may be just dependent on the specific adjective used. 'I delighted/happy/pleased to tell you' sounds fine.

Seem to be used more predominantly by North American speakers, if that matters.

What do other posters have to say. Please feel free to speak!
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9127
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am reluctant
I am hesitant
....to try to address this.

Some adjectives can be followed by to (do) and some cannot.

Dunno the rule, either.

But all of your model sentences sound wrong to me.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12019
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Sasha,

Were you to put a "too" in front of the adjectives in sentences 1 and 3, and a "very" in front of the adjective in sentence 2, they'd all sound fine.

Actually, I'd probably say/write sentence 2 this way:

I'm excited about going to Rome next week,

Regards,
John
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Qaaolchoura



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sasha, the first one sounds fine (maybe because it's in the past tense?), the second one sounds slightly off (I'd rather say "I'm excited about going.." [edit]Just noticed john said this too[/edit]), the third one sounds wrong. I agree with johnslat that "very" and "too" make the second and third sound better.

Like John, I'm a native speaker of North American English.

I also can't point to a clear grammatical rule, and I'd probably just blame it on pragmatics and move on. Unless they're really high-level, they've got bigger things to worry about.

~Q
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12019
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Sasha,

Sentences 1 and 3 deal with "problem," and so the added "too" would help, I think.

But as you wrote sentence 1, if "to tell" is changed to "about telling," it would sound better to me.

Same with sentence 3 - "I'm sad about doing this to you" would sound better.


I'm revising my previous statement since "too sad" would change the meaning. It would mean that you weren't going to do it because you were too sad.

Regards,
John


Last edited by johnslat on Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 2971
Location: Mesopotamia

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'I was nervous to tell my family.'
"I was too nervous to tell my family."

'I am excited to go to Rome next week.'
"I am excited about going to Rome next week."

'I am sad to do this to you.'
"I am sorry to do this to you." (The use of sad seems odd because the sadness is most likely due to reluctance or regret.)
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 867
Location: the world

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I’m not sure about hard and fast rules – perhaps this is more about patterns? The adjective itself seems to determine whether it can be followed by an infinitive. However, some infinitives seem more acceptable than others. Perhaps this has something to do with an active/passive sense of meaning within the sentence, but it still depends on the adjective. Some forms seem more appropriate than others according to tense and/ or the meaning of the infinitive and adjective.

“I am sad to do this to you”. (Sounds odd. As noted above, "sorry" would fit here. It sounds like it's a more active feeling.)
“I’m happy to do this for you”. (Sounds okay)
“I was sad to hear he’d lost his job”. (Sounds okay)
“We were sad to come to the end of our journey”.
“I was excited to see my friend arrive”. “I am excited about seeing my friend again”.

“I felt nervous to hear/to find out/ to discover (that) I would have to give a speech” (??)
“I was anxious to tell them my news”. (keen) “I was anxious about telling them my news”. (worried)

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/infinitive
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnslat wrote:
Dear Sasha,

Sentences 1 and 3 deal with "problem," and so the added "too" would help, I think.

But as you wrote sentence 1, if "to tell" is changed to "about telling," it would sound better to me.

Same with sentence 3 - "I'm sad about doing this to you" would sound better.


I'm revising my previous statement since "too sad" would change the meaning. It would mean that you weren't going to do it because you were too sad.

Regards,
John


Dear Johnslat

All good points. There is also the effect of the modifier 'enough' to think about.

'I was nervous enough to need to take a valium or two."

Though again, I think we will agree there is a change in meaning there.


Regards

Sasha
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Artemisia

I am inclined to agree that this is a case of different words conforming to different lexical patterns. But there can sometimes be an underlying principle that groups adjectives together. For example, necessary, silly, risky, essential, dangerous - these all connote the meaning of wise or foolish, and all have a similar pattern grammar, in this case, being followed by an infinitive. (I got these from Dave Willis' book, Rules, Patterns and Words.)

But for the examples in the opening post, I really cannot see any underlying principle or similar group that connects the adjectives or justifies the use of the infinitive. I suspect, and this may be an ungrounded assumption based on nothing more than my limited experience, that this is a feature of language that is changing before our very eyes (and ears). I can't recall anyone ten years ago saying 'I am excited to go on holidays next week'. Maybe I just never noticed it, but my intuition suggests that this is a fairly recent trend, coming from the US. As in this clip from the BBC. Skip to time 02:40 to hear the example.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21190626

Anybody else believe that this is a new trend in English?
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johntpartee



Joined: 02 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't really see any "rules" that are broken by those sentences, Sash, that's just one of those things about English. They SOUND weird; sluggish, unwieldy,.......
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now Johntpartee, that's not the attitude at al. It's not enough to just say it's one of those things. We have to get to the bottom of it, grrr!
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johntpartee



Joined: 02 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, man, you mean we gotta think? That's too much like work!
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1335
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:59 am    Post subject: Re: Grammar question Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
Just a quick question: do the following sentences sound right to you?


'I was nervous to tell my family.'

'I am excited to go to Rome next week.'

'I am sad to do this to you.'





I have to admit that they do not seem quite right to me, though I cannot pinpoint which rule of grammar they offend. I just want there to be prepositions or adverbs followed by an ~ing form. However, I think these may be just dependent on the specific adjective used. 'I delighted/happy/pleased to tell you' sounds fine.

Seem to be used more predominantly by North American speakers, if that matters.

What do other posters have to say. Please feel free to speak!


As others have pointed out the use of the infinitive has many various subtle patterns which requires knowlege of specific combinations of words that are suitable for each pattern / formula. Such as 'too'/ 'enough' as one example...
Most native speakers that have some basic grasp of grammar let alone experts...most instinctively know what works, but would not be able to explain the 'why' because there are so many friggin patterns...too many subtle variations of word patterns involved to remember them all.
'I was nervous to tell my family.'
This sentence feels incomplete...tell my family what?
I was nervous to tell my family that I got married in Las Vegas on the weekend.

'I am excited to go to Rome next week.'
The use of infinitive ' to go' does not feel right with the future time 'next week'. However, isn't necessarily wrong?
I am excited about going to Rome next week.

'I am sad to do this to you.'
I feel sad about doing this to you.
The usage of 'sad' gives the impression the speaker/ writer does not fully grasp the subtlies of words used for conveying emotions
I am sorry to do this to you.
Is more appropriate...

English grammar is challenging even for native speakers!!!!! Mad
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1335
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

excuse my rotten spelling, was unable to log back on to make corrections Embarassed
Grammar and spelling are two of the most challenging aspects of the English language IMHO.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9127
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I am sad to do this to you.'
I feel sad about doing this to you.
The usage of 'sad' gives the impression the speaker/ writer does not fully grasp the subtlies of words used for conveying emotions


Perhaps. But I have heard this from native speakers of English. I suspect that the common denominator is age and education range.


Quote:
'I was nervous to tell my family.'
This sentence feels incomplete...tell my family what?
I was nervous to tell my family that I got married in Las Vegas on the weekend


The addition doesn't change the awkward construction of the first clause. Again, I suspect the common denominator is age and education.
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