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1.As a general rule, historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and argue their impact upon society.

2.As a general rule, historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and to argue their impact upon society.

Is there no difference in meaning between the two sentences? In my opinion,

1.to (isolate ... and argue ...) : subsequent acts

2.(to isolate ...) and (to argue ...) : separate acts

Thus, I think that 'argue' is a logically correct expression.

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If we re-arrange the phrase properly according to meaning, we have:

As a general rule, historians:

  • find it difficult to isolate events in history;

  • and argue their impact upon society.

and

As a general rule, historians find it difficult:

  • to isolate events in history;

  • and to argue their impact upon society.

Therefore, if argue is used without to, then argue is not subordinate to find it difficult, but they are on the same level.

Now, judging that historians do not really have problems to argue, the use without to is more appropriate.

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As a general rule, historians find it difficult to ((isolate events in history) and (argue their impact upon society)).

As a general rule, historians find it difficult ((to isolate events in history) and (to argue their impact upon society)).

Both are valid.

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  • Is there no difference in meaning between the two sentences? 1.to (isolate ... and argue ...) : subsequent acts 2.(to isolate ...) and (to argue ...) : separate acts Thus, I think that 'argue' is a logically correct expression. – Korea Moodking May 20 '18 at 13:17
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Is there no difference in meaning between the two sentences? In my opinion,

1.to (isolate ... and argue ...) : subsequent acts

2.(to isolate ...) and (to argue ...) : separate acts

Thus, I think that 'argue' is a logically correct expression.

If you want to bring focus to the notion that it is first necessary 'to isolate events in history' and only then can you "argue their impact on society", then you need some additional semantic help. Neither example does this effectively.

You might try "As a general rule, historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and thus (difficult) to argue their impact upon society." With the thus added, the second to becomes more important. You are casting the difficult to isolate proposition in terms of a universal truth, and so the implications of that proposition should also be universal truths.

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The meaning of this sentence is "As a general rule, historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and historians find it difficult to argue their impact upon society." Parallelism allows the words that are repeated before and after "and" to be given only before "and"; the repeated words afterwards can be dropped if the meaning remains clear. The word "to" can be included in the words that are dropped, or not.

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Grammar is not logic. There is no grammatical rule requiring that "to" be repeated in a series of infinitives after the initial marker. Nor is there a grammatical rule requiring that "to" be omitted in such a series after the initial marker. Consequently, the presence or absence of "to" after the initial infinitival marker has no semantic meaning.

"I do not like to play basketball or eat spiders" and "I do not like to play basketball or to eat spiders" are both grammatical and have identical meanings. There is no implication of temporal sequence. Neither sentence implies that I may like eating spiders if I have not previously played basketball.

I agree with those saying that if you mean that historians find it difficult to argue the effect of historical events on society because they find it difficult to isolate events, you need to do a lot more than worry about whether "to" can be omitted from "to argue" if it is preceded by "to isolate."

But I suspect that your worry really stems from the fact that the thought being expressed is muddy. It is not that historians are unique in finding it difficult to isolate historical events. Historical events are never isolated. Impossibility is not a mere difficulty, and the failure of historians to do the impossible is not a peculiarity of historians. Moreover, historians frequently do present arguments about the effects of history on society without any apparent difficulty. That part of your thought is obviously wrong factually. Consequently, I suspect that you are trying to say something like

"Because historical events never happen in isolation, historians' assessment of the effect on society of a particular event is wrong/doubtful/uncertain."

Whether or not some or all of those are sound conclusions, they are clear-cut and at least plausible propositions. I have often found that worrying about exactly how to phrase a sentence indicates that the true problem lies not in the sentence's phrasing, but rather that the sentence does not yet reflect a well formed thought.

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... historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and argue their impact upon society.

The real problem with this is that it is syntactically ambiguous. It could mean:

Historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and historians find it difficult to argue their impact upon society.

or

Historians find it difficult to isolate events in history and historians argue their impact upon society.

Now semantically, when one has finished reading the sentence, it becomes obvious that the first is the intended meaning. However the extra cognitive load required by the original makes it less desirable in my opinion.

For this reason I prefer the version with "to" because it immediately eliminates the syntactic cul-de-sac.

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