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Hello, everyone,

He must try to do better (next time).”

Q1. While I’ve seen a few ways to parse the to infinitive phrase - ‘to do better’ as follows, which, do you think, is the predominant one in this current mainstream?

A) some say, this phrase is functioning as the direct object of the transitive verb ‘try’.

B) this phrase is a complement of head verb – ‘try’ under ‘complement pair forms a catenative construction’. (by 'A Students Introduction to English Grammar')

C) this phrase is the obligatory adjunct in the form of an infinitive clause under ‘catenative constructions’, which will be termed pseudo-coordination. That is, ‘He must try to do better.’ is similar to ‘He must try and do better.’ (by ‘A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language’)

Q2. Is there any possibility for you as natives to replace ‘to do better’ with ‘so as to do better’ or ‘in order to do better’?

Your replies would be really appreciated.

Last edited by deepcosmos
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He must try to do better (next time).

Firstly, consider the meaning: "He must endeavour to do better (next time)".

Re: your first question:

I don't like option A. With only a few minor exceptions, objects are always noun phrases, not clauses.

I would say that option B is correct, whereby "try" is a catenative verb with the infinitival clause as its complement.

The argument against Option C. is that "and" is more like a subordinator than a coordinator, and thus "and" + VP here is best treated as a non-finite complement. I don't think we would say "He must endeavour and do better (next time)".

Note that an 'obligatory adjunct' is a contradiction in terms. Adjuncts by definition are always grammatically optional elements, while obligatory elements are always complements. Adjunct (a type of modifier) and complement are distinct function terms. A non-finite clause functioning in clause structure may be either one or the other (depending on the construction) but not both simultaneously.

Re: your second question: Is there any possibility for you as natives to replace ‘to do better’ with ‘so as to do better’ or ‘in order to do better’?

I don't think so in this case. Although infinitival clauses are sometimes semantically close to purpose infinitivals, the meaning here of "try" ("endeavour") is such that one would be unlikely to say He must endeavour in order to do better.

Last edited by billj
@billj posted:


I don't like option A. With only a few minor exceptions, objects are always noun phrases, not clauses.



Hi, BillJ, thank you for your support as always. Only just now have I found your reply since no e-mail notification has been sent to me yet.

About option A, I think not only noun phrases but that-clause and to-infinive clause also could often function as an object and Quirk in 'A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language' explained to-infinitive clause is a direct object as follows;

CoGEL p.1215-6, 16.63 [D6] Indirect object + <to-infinitive clause object>

- I told/advised/persuaded Mark to see a doctor.

Could you explain to me once again?

@deepcosmos posted:

Hi, BillJ, thank you for your support as always. Only just now have I found your reply since no e-mail notification has been sent to me yet.

About option A, I think not only noun phrases but that-clause and to-infinive clause also could often function as an object and Quirk in 'A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language' explained to-infinitive clause is a direct object as follows;

CoGEL p.1215-6, 16.63 [D6] Indirect object + <to-infinitive clause object>

- I told/advised/persuaded Mark to see a doctor.

Could you explain to me once again?

Hello, deepcosmos,,

The view taken by Quirk et al in their Comprehensive was rejected by Huddleston & Pullum in their later (and better) Cambridge Grammar.

The reasons are quite complex. Do you have access to a copy of the latter?

Last edited by billj
@billj posted:

Hello, deepcosmos,,

The view taken by Quirk et al in their Comprehensive was rejected by Huddleston & Pullum in their later (and better) Cambridge Grammar.

The reasons are quite complex. Do you have access to a copy of the latter?

Yes, I have it and have roughly read the concerned pages. However, the matter, how to judge whose opinion is more justified is far beyond to me, as an EFL learner, since I've often read, to-infinive clause is an object as follows;

In other instances, however, the meaning of the clause is significantly changed as a result. For instance, the verbs remember, forget, try, and stop can have both infinitives and gerunds as direct objects, but the meaning changes depending on which is used. For example;

- “Try to get some rest.” (Attempt to do this.)

- “Try getting some rest.” (Try this as a possible solution to the problem.)

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Infinitives.htm

Last edited by deepcosmos

Hi, Deepcosmos—It is possible to interpret "to do better (next time)" as an adjunct in a context in which that meaning would make sense:

A: He keeps doing better even though he never tries. But I fear that eventually he will need to try in order to do better.

B: I agree. In fact, I would say that the time has come for him to try. He must try (in order) to do better (next time).

However, one has to strain to imagine such contexts and coerce the adjunct parsing. The most natural parsing of the infinitival is as a complement clause.

You can call it "catenative" if you like. That basically means that it can be chained together with other infinitival clauses:

  • He must try to seem to want to like to eat it.

I do not recommend labeling the infinitival clause a direct object on the complement-clause reading. Here are several reasons why.

First, we do not expect an infinitival clause in response to questions like "What must he try?" We'd expect a noun phrase or a substantive -ing phrase instead.

Second, we cannot passivize the clause with the infinitival clause in subject position: *"To do better next time must be tried by him."

Third, the relevant cleft sentences do not work with "try to VP": *? "What he must try is to do better"; *? "It is to do better that he must try."

Fourth, direct objects can be topicalized ("This pie, you must try"), but in "To do better, he must try" the infinitival only has the wrong (adjunct) reading.

Last edited by David, Moderator

Hi, Deepcosmos—It is possible to interpret "to do better (next time)" as an adjunct in a context in which that meaning would make sense:

A: He keeps doing better even though he never tries. But I fear that eventually he will need to try in order to do better.

B: I agree. In fact, I would say that the time has come for him to try. He must try (in order) to do better (next time).

However, one has to strain to imagine such contexts and coerce the adjunct parsing. The most natural parsing of the infinitival is as a complement clause.

You can call it "catenative" if you like. That basically means that it can be chained together with other infinitival clauses:

  • He must try to seem to want to like to eat it.

I do not recommend labeling the infinitival clause a direct object on the complement-clause reading. Here are several reasons why.

First, we do not expect an infinitival clause in response to questions like "What must he try?" We'd expect a noun phrase or a substantive -ing phrase instead.

Second, we cannot passivize the clause with the infinitival clause in subject position: *"To do better next time must be tried by him."

Third, the relevant cleft sentences do not work with "try to VP": *? "What he must try is to do better"; *? "It is to do better that he must try."

Fourth, direct objects can be topicalized ("This pie, you must try"), but in "To do better, he must try" the infinitival only has the wrong (adjunct) reading.

Hi, David, you did give me such an unexpected answer to my question with the enough reasons why to-infinitive in 'try to do' can't be an object , for which I really appreciate.

By the way I wonder why many ordinary natives have still been considering this to-infinitive to function as an object or the obligatory adjunct (by Quirk), even though these old and traditional theories have already been rejected by the new one - the complement of catenative verb (by Huddleston) and also why such an author of the Farlex Grammar Book above hasn't yet revised his opinion in the latest version (CoGEL has been first published in 1985 and CaGEL first done in 2002). Is it maybe because this new theory hasn't fully been rooted in their mind?

Would hope to hear from you again.

Last edited by deepcosmos

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