0

In such a conversation, is the sentence with "*" wrong?

Many people in Athens had time to get away from the fire, but, to save their children, they didn't have any time.

Do you think that the part "to save their children" must be next to "any time" like in the following sentence?

Many people in Athens had time to get away from the fire, but, they didn't have any time to save their children.

I think that the first sentence can be told in order to emphasize the action "to save their children".

What do you think?

1

The first version sounds strange and stilted to this US English speaker. It could be a kind of poetic inversion, but it is not how anyone would normally phrase the sentence.

Phrasing it that way is confusing because we normally use that structure ("to verb, they verb") to indicate doing something for a particular purpose. For example,

To help John, I brought him food.

meaning "I brought John food with the intent of helping him" or "I brought John food in order to help him." Obviously, no one would interpret your first sentence as "Parents didn't have any time so that they could not save their children", but using a nonstandard word order makes the sentence less clear.

1

The phrasal verb _have time" can take a to clause as complement. The meaning of the complement clause is tightly bound into the meaning of the main verb phrase, and it is odd to put it in a parenthetical position as you have done.

If you were using a different verb which did not have a to complement, then the to clause would be what grammarians call an adjunct rather than a complement: its meaning is less closely bound, and it may occur in more positions in the sentence.

For example, "To save their children, they decided to leave the city as quickly as possible". or "They decided to leave the city as quickly as possible to save their children".

For another example of a complement phrase, consider the verb phrase "make arrangements". Like "have time", this can take a to clause as a complement, and the complement will normally stay with the verb: "They made arrangements to save their children". But not normally "To save their children, they made arrangements".

0

Both are grammatical. Depending on the specific sentence, bringing the infinitive clause to the front for the sake of emphasis could be awkward. It is a stylistic decision that departs from standard conversational word order and therefore "heightens" the register.

In your specific case, bringing it forward would also need you to take care that other phrases were not colloquial but in the same register, if you wished to avoid a "register clash":

Many people in Athens were able to save themselves from the fire but to save their children they didn't have any time had no time.

Standard word order is in neutral register and thus doesn't present as many pitfalls to the learner:

Many people in Athens had time to get away from the fire but they didn't have time to save their children.

Many people in Athens had time to get away from the fire but they had no time to save their children.

0

Spoken language style: real speech

Person speaking: Many people in Athens had time to get away from the fire, [pause] but, to save their children, they didn't have any time.

That is completely correct, and could be easily be heard. People do not always line up phrases as they would when writing.

More written style:

Many people in Athens had time to get away from the fire, but, they didn't have any time to save their children.

spoken language and written language often differ. Spoken language is not always something that fits neatly into little boxes. I put the pause in to show that. There is not necessarily a pause. But the pauses emphasizes how it might be said.

No, a to infinitive does not have to be after a noun.

I was playing to see my friends. If I had not played, I wouldn't have seen them.

[please note: sentences are spoken or said, not told]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.