My question:

Sometimes, an infinitive clause can modify all the actions preceding it. Sometimes, an infinitive clause only modifies some actions preceding it.

This is all determined by the context. Am I right?


The bold text in the examples is the actions I think are modified by infinitive clauses.

(1) She jumped ropes, lifted weights, and consumed a lot of protein to bulk up her muscles.

(2) My friend and I woke up early and showed up at her home and gave the gift to her to surprise her.

(3) The murderer entered the house and put a pillow on the old man's face to stifle him.

  • 1
    In the second and third sentences, you have missed the first actions, which were also performed for the stated purposes. Otherwise, why would the friend have woken up early, or the murderer entered the house? It wasn't just random chance that they did those things. Jul 23 '20 at 2:38
  • Thanks. Yes, I agree. They are part of a series of actions and are modified by the infinitive clauses. But, I just came up with another example: "At the party, she told jokes, sang, and got a glass of wine to get drunk a bit." So, we can safely say context matters, right?
    – vincentlin
    Jul 23 '20 at 8:08

The first example is a list of three actions. The order of the items in the list doesn't matter. The list could be "lifted weights, jumped rope" and it would still mean the same thing. The other two examples are narratives describing a sequence of events. Order does matter. The final event (gave the gift, put a pillow) may be more directly related to the purpose (to surprise, to stifle), but, like Jason says, the final event can't occur without the preceding events, so the infinitive indirectly applies to those events as well.

  • Can I write a sentence where the actions are not related and the infinitive clause only modifies one of them? For example, "At the party, she told jokes, sang, and got a glass of wine to get drunk a bit." So, I could say context matters, right?
    – vincentlin
    Jul 23 '20 at 6:54
  • 1
    That's a good example. You've convinced me that context matters.
    – Margolis
    Jul 23 '20 at 7:19
  • Thank you for confirming the fact that context matters. Sometimes, I come up with weird sentences and don't know if they are correct or natural or not, haha.
    – vincentlin
    Jul 23 '20 at 7:52

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