1.The fourth case is more diffuse – the forging of various bilateral links with the fishing industry: some ENGOs have succeeded in working with fishers to bring in environmental measures that they can accept.

  1. They work with the lawyers to solve this issue.

Can the infinitive in the example sentences be understood as in order to?

Does the meaning change if the sentences are interpreted to be in order to?

  • 2
    Yes - in such contexts, to [verb] is equivalent to in order to [verb] / for the purpose of [verbing]. So no - the meaning wouldn't change if you were to make such a substitution (and you couldn't apply a different "interpretation"). – FumbleFingers Mar 4 '19 at 14:29
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you for the answer. For the first sentence, why can it be understood as in order to? I thought the infinitive clause tells the result instead of the purpose. – Kathy Mar 4 '19 at 16:45
  • 2
    Kathy: - You've misunderstood the "significance" of the infinitive clause in such constructions. In and of itself, to [verb] here always conveys "purpose" - it's the preceding "primary" verb that might indicate whether that purpose was successfully achieved as a "result". Compare They managed to kill him (result = he was killed) and They tried to kill him (result = he wasn't killed; he survived). – FumbleFingers Mar 4 '19 at 18:14
  • 2
    It's just the same, i.e. a purpose adjunct: some ENGOs have succeeded in working with fishers (in order) to bring in environmental measures that they can accept. – BillJ Mar 5 '19 at 6:58
  • 1
    @BillJ: But it seems to me there's at least some hypothetical ambiguity involved here. Pragmatically, the assumption isn't that what these ENGOs succeeded in doing was working with fishers (actual "fishermen"? top executives within the fishing industry?) in pursuit of the stated goal (which they may or may not ever achieve). Syntactically, that would seem to be the default interpretation, but pragmatically I think we can take it for granted the intended sense is that the goal was in fact achieved. – FumbleFingers Mar 5 '19 at 18:00

In these examples, no change in meaning is made by substituting in order to in place of to. That is not always the case.

Sometimes a to-infinitive is an adjunct that expresses purpose. The role is essentially equivalent to that of an adverbial of purposes using in order to. But sometimes it isn't.

Verbs like to ask, to attempt, to consent, to swear, to decide, to threaten - these are all catenative verbs, verbs that (can) take other verb expressions as objects. I might ask you to be clearer, or threaten to flag your post. There, the to-infinitive phrases are not modifying an otherwise complete verb, but rather they are defining precisely what the main verb means, just like any other object or complement. Some catenative verbs take a to-infinitive, some take a bare infinitive, and some take a gerund - and in all of those cases it may be an infinitive or gerund phrase, rather than just those verb forms.

Verbs can take a lot of things as objects, depending on the verb. Nouns and noun phrases are the usual objects, but we also get adjectival or verb phrases as complements, for certain verbs (such as linking verbs and catenative verbs, respectively). That's not what's happening in your examples, though.

In your examples, work is intransitive, and both the with-phrase and the infinitive phrase are acting as adverbials - one indicating the who and the other indicating the why. Infinitives can act as adverbials, though it's not a structure that people often think about in my experience. Thus, in order to would lead to the same meaning as to, though arguably it gives rise to a different structure - but only because they are different sorts of adverbial.

  • Thank you for the answers :) But why can the infinitive in the first example sentence be substituted by "in order to", I thought the infinitive clause in that sentence tells what was achieved instead of the purpose. – Kathy Mar 6 '19 at 13:13
  • It says what the objective was; it doesn't say whether that objective was achieved. That might be implicit, or stated explicitly elsewhere. You might say "I worked with the client to resolve their problem, but I was not successful." – SamBC Mar 6 '19 at 13:41
  • Sorry for asking again, I've been thinking about this sentence again and again, since the verb "succeeded" is placed in the sentence, can it be understood that "to bring in environmental measures which they can accept" is in fact achieved? – Kathy Mar 13 '19 at 12:25
  • Yes, in this case it is stated explicitly elsewhere in the sentence. I mean, you could argue that it means they succeeded in working with them, not in achieving the goal, but that would be a perverse reading, in my opinion. – SamBC Mar 13 '19 at 12:41
  • Sorry for bothering you again.What Is the understood subject of the infinitive "to bring in environmental measures that they can accept." ? Is it "some ENGOS" or "fishers"? – Kathy Mar 18 '19 at 14:50

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.