1

"You've met Malfoy before?"
Harry explained about their meeting in Diagon Alley.
"I've heard of his family," said Ron darkly. "They were some of the first to come back to our side after You-Know-Who disappeared. Said they'd been bewitched. My dad doesn't believe it. He says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side."
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

I suspect to-infinitive needs to have the perfect tense, because their participation in the Dark Side precedes the time when Malfoy’s family excuse. Then why does it not use the tense?

3

Your suspicion is not well founded. The infinitive seems to me to be governed by the verb used in this case, not by the relative timings of the events described in the sentence.

We would say, for example,

Malfoy's father is {believed / thought} to have gone over to the Dark Side.

but

Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.

Likewise,

I don't need an excuse to throw a party {tonight / tomorrow night}.

but

I didn't need an excuse to throw a party before or after being accepted by Harvard.

We can also say:

He would have been the person to save us had he {been elected / not died before the election [CHOOSE ONE]}.

and

He would have been the person to have saved us had he {been elected / not died before the election [CHOOSE ONE]}.

I can't explain why I've chosen to have saved us in this last sentence (it requires more knowledge of grammar than I have), but I believe that, like the previous sentence with to save us, it's grammatically and formally correct. But the main verb doesn't govern the choice of the form of the infinitive; rather, it seems to me that personal preference (a style choice) does.

  • "Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side." denotes Malfoy's father's attribut, not only the incident past? – Listenever May 1 '13 at 12:53
  • Yes, the sentence in the novel describes Malfoy's father's character as well as tells us what he did in the past: went over to the dark side. My first example sentence tells us only what he is thought to have done. – user264 May 1 '13 at 12:57
0

The to-infinitive of go is "to go"; it doesn't change because a to-infinitive doesn't have a tense. What eventually changes is the tense of the main verb, which in your case is need.

He didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.

He doesn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.

He won't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.

  • You are wrong, to have gone to X is equally correct in some contexts. See BillFrankie's anwer. – Dude May 1 '13 at 13:02
  • It is not in this context. – kiamlaluno May 1 '13 at 13:03

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