1

I think I have spotted a grammar mistake in a novel.

I decided to go whole-hog and bought her a pistol and holster like mine, also.

Source:Gold Fever By William Post Gold Fever

Is and bought grammatically correct in the sentence above.

Here's what I think: The decided to applies to both infinitives, to go and to buy. Therefore, there's no need for the verb buy to be in the past unless we insert a comma before and to indicate a different course of action.

Which one(s) is/are correct? If they are all correct, is there a difference of meaning?

a. I decided to go whole hog and buy her a pistol and holster like mine, also.

b. I decided to go whole hog [,] and bought her a pistol and holster like mine, also.

c. I decided to go whole hog and bought her a pistol and holster like mine, also. (no comma)

d. I decided to go whole hog and to buy her a pistol and holster like mine, also.

3

They're different meanings. As you say, with "buy" the decision includes two parts: going whole-hog, and buying the pistol and holster. With "bought" the decision was to go whole-hog, and this was implemented throug the action of buying the goods.

The main difference is that with "buy" the person has decided to buy the pistol, but doesn't say whether they've bought it yet or not. It could be followed by something along the lines of "However, when I got to the gun store I found I couldn't afford one, so [took some other action]".

Those options could be seen as "I decided to go whole-hog and I bought her a pistol and holster like mine, also," and "I decided to go whole-hog and to buy her a pistol and holster like mine, also".

Note that the "also" seems not to refer to the deciding and the buying, but rather to the buying and to something else - presumably the writer's own pistol and holster.

Further, in a sense the decision to "go whole-hog" was the decision to buy the pistol and holster. Deciding to go whole-hog means deciding to adopt an attitude that includes buying the gun. The character presumably thinks that his own gun might not be enough. This means that the decision to go whole-hog and the action of buying the gun are directly related.

Therefore, the comma isn't vital as the course of action is the same. So, looking at your sentences: (a) is fine but doesn't state whether he actually went ahead and bought the pistol; (b) and (c) are both OK, and stylistic variations; and (d) is slightly odd as it implies that the decision to go whole-hog and the decision to buy her the gun are separate. It would need some context to clarify what the difference is, and what it meant to go whole-hog in the circumstances.

  • Hi, Toledo, So, you say that [He decided to go to McDonald's and grab a quick meal] is different from [He decided to go to McDonald's and grabbed a quick meal]. Here’s an example from “Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms”, We finally decided to go all the way and redecorate the entire house. – GrammarBoy Nov 18 '18 at 2:47
  • Great examples. In the meal sentence, yes those meanings are different. The former leaves open the question of whether he has put his plan into effect yet: he might have decided to go to McDonald's but not yet gone, and intervening circumstances might mean he never goes. The latter doesn't explicitly specify (leaves it to context) that he ate at McDonald's, though the lack of a comma suggests that the two actions are closely linked. (1/2) – Toledo Nov 18 '18 at 2:52
  • The other example is even closer. Here, the sentence explicitly states what it meant to "go all the way" in the circumstances: redecorating the house. Meanwhile in the original sentence buying the gun may be only the immediate consequence of the decision to "go whole-hog". The text may go on to describe other actions derived from the decision, while in the example with the house, the implication is that "to go all the way" is to "redecorate the entire house". – Toledo Nov 18 '18 at 2:58

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