3

① Whatever book you can bring to contribute to the library is much appreciated.

② Whatever book you can bring to contribute it to the library is much appreciated.

① Any book (to contribute to the library) that you can bring is … ; hence the to-infinitive herein is adjectival.

② Any book that you can bring in order to contribute it to the library is … ; hence the to-infinitive herein is adverbial.

Is my grammatical analysis for #1 and #2 correct?

  • 1
    To is not an infinitive. Your second sentence sounds quite unnatural, it's difficult to wrap my mind around what you could be trying to say with it. – oerkelens Nov 18 '14 at 8:15
  • 1
    I think that a simpler and more natural statement might be something like: "Whatever book you can contribute to the library will be much appreciated". – Graham Nov 18 '14 at 8:25
2

Whatever book you can bring to contribute to the library is much appreciated.

This type of sentence contains a special relative construction, which is a bit like a relative clause. It's called a fused relative. The structure of this particular sentence is like this:

  • [Whatever book you can bring to contribute to the library] is much appreciated.

Here the part in brackets is the fused relative. It is the subject of the sentence. The Original Poster's question is about the structures inside the fused relative. In particular we are interested in the function of the infinitival phrase to contribute.

If we want to understand the function of to contribute, we need to understand the rest of the clause. Like in a normal relative clause the relative word whatever is at the front. Here whatever is a determiner. It is doing the same job as words like: a, the, this, that, my, any. It belongs with the noun books. If the determiner is at the front of the clause, its noun must go with it. Here the noun book appears after its determiner.

  • Whatever book you can bring to contribute to the library.

The noun phrase whatever book is understood as the object of the verb bring. In a normal sentence the object would come after this verb:

  • You can bring [whatever book] to contribute to the library.

In the fused relative there is a gap in the clause where we would expect whatever book to appear. It has the function of the object of the clause:

  • Whatever book you can bring ___ to contribute to the library.

We could understand the clause like this:

  • Whatever book you can bring [ that book ] to contribute to the library.

That gap, the place where we expect an object to be, has the same index as whatever book. We understand that they refer to the same thing:

  • Whatever book (i) you can bring ___ (i) to contribute to the library.

We will come back and talk about that gap in a second. Before we do that, we need to investigate the contibute to phrase. This is an example of an infinitive of purpose. It's a special type of 'infinitive of purpose'. Here are some more examples:

  • I bought that book to read on the train.
  • I made some sandwiches to eat at lunch.
  • My chimpanzee looked for some baboons to play with.

Here the infinitival verb phrases to read on the train, to eat during my lunchbreak and to play with are adjuncts. They provide extra information about why I bought the book, made some sandwiches and about why my chimpanzee looked for some baboons.

These clauses are non-finite, they don't have a verb with tense. Instead they have an infinitive form. Because they have no tense, they do not need a full subject. The subject is unexpressed. There are no words in these clause which represent the subjects of the verbs read, eat or play. We don't need them, because we can easily understand who the subject is. There is no grammatical rule about who we understand as the subject of these verbs. In the sandwiches sentence, the subject of eat might not be me, it might be everybody. The sentence might mean:

  • I made some sandwiches (for everyone) to eat at lunch.

However, if we look at these clauses carefully, we'll see that they also have no objects.

  • I bought that book [ (for me) to read ___ on the train ].
  • I made some sandwiches [ (for us) to eat ___ at lunch ].
  • My chimpanzee looked for some baboons [ (for her) to play with ___ ].

The way that we interpret these objects is because of the grammar. The identity of the object of the infinitive, is the same as the object in the main clause:

  • I bought that book(i) [ (for me) to read ___(i) on the train ].
  • I made some sandwiches(i) [ (for us) to eat ___(i) at lunch ].
  • My chimpanzee looked for some baboons(i) [ (for her) to play with ___(i) ].

We can understand the clauses like this:

  • I bought that book [ for me to read that book on the train ].
  • I made some sandwiches [ for us to eat those sandwiches at lunch ].
  • My chimpanzee looked for some baboons [ for her to play with those baboons ].

In the Original Poster's fused relative, there is an infinitive of purpose like this:

  • Whatever book you can bring [to contribute ___ to the library].

We interpret the object of to contribute through the object of the main clause: whatever book you can bring. Now the object of the main clause is a gap. This gap has the same index as the subject. So we understand the object of to contribute like this:

  • Whatever book(i) you can bring ____(i) [ to contribute ___(i) to the library ].

In other words:

  • Whatever book you can bring [ that book ] to contribute [ that book ] to the library.

The Original Poster's Question

The Original Poster wanted to know if to contribute is modifying the noun book ( - some people call this adjectival modification), or if it is modifying the clause whatever book you can bring (some people would call this adverbial). The answer is that it is modifying the clause. The infinitival clause is an adjunct explaining why you're going to bring the book.

The Original Poster wonders if the sentence interpretation is something like:

  • Any book (to contribute to the library) that you can bring

The answer is: no, I don't think that to contribute is modifying the book or even a gap that represents the book. This is why: the to contribute clause seems to have to explain why you bring the book, not the purpose of the book itself.

Books to read at Christmas is an example of a noun modified by an infinitive. If we put it in a sentence, but put the infinitive at the end of a clause like the one in the example it won't work. It will read as if the purpose of the book is the reason why the subject did the action:

  • *Whatever books you sold to read at Christmas

This phrase doesn't work. This infinitive must explain why you sold the books not what the books are for. In the original example, to contribute to the library explains why you will bring the book, not what the purpose of the book is. In the original example, these might almost be the same thing, but the grammar seems to show that the to contribute clause modifies the whole of the main clause.

The Original Poster also wonders whether it changes the structure of the fused relative. The answer is that we really need to leave out the object at the end of this type of infinitive if the object of the main clause is a gap:

  • What food did you bring to eat?
  • *what food did you bring to eat it? (wrong).

Here are those sentences again with the gaps:

  • What food did you bring ____(i) to eat ____(i) ?
  • *What food did you bring ____(i) to eat it(i)? (wrong)

I hope this helps!

  • @F.E. Yes, Ive reconsidered. I think if the object isn't a gap its marginal: I bought those sweets to eat them is not good, but marginal (with the right intonation). However, which sweets did you buy to eat them is very bad - I think, having done some experimentation, it's because the object of the main clause is a gap ... What d'you think? I agree with your obs, and have amended. Thanks:) – Araucaria Nov 19 '14 at 15:36
  • About the "resumptive pronoun" (in the hollow purpose infinitival), I'm thinking this issue is probably the same as with the resumptive pronoun in a relative clause. That is, the longer the sentence is, the more involved it is, then the less bad that use of using the resumptive pronoun becomes, and in nonstandard speech, a speaker might insert that pronoun in there to add clarity to what they are saying. But for today's English, it's probably nonstandard: for if it was standard, then I would've hoped that CGEL would've mentioned using the pronoun to disambiguate the examples on page 1067 [4]. – F.E. Nov 19 '14 at 21:13

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