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Hello again,

I've got two problems with a passage from John Steinbeck's "Of mice and men". It's the following sentence :

Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. (p. 2)

1) Is it really possible to leave out the preposition and the article before "evening" ?

2) Is there a difference in meaning between "start to do" and "start to doing" something ? To me, "to start to doing sth." sounds a bit unusual...
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Hi Espeland

For a distinguished writer anything is possible.Emotion: smile

CB
evening is the subject of the sentence. You certainly don't want a preposition before it!

You could optionally add the, however. The evening of a hot day ...

*to start to doing something is unusual, as you say. That's because it's wrong -- for the intransitive use of start. But note that Steinbeck is using the transitive form of start. to start something (the wind) to doing something. Even so, it is still unusual. started the little wind to moving is a somewhat poetic way of saying caused the little wind to start moving.

The structure is only occasionally used in ordinary conversation.

Hearing about how they redid their kitchen started my wife to thinking whether we could do that ourselves. (caused my wife to start thinking)


CJ
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Thank you very much concerning the construction with "to start to..".

But as to the article of "evening", that astonishes me a bit.
CalifJimevening is the subject of the sentence. You certainly don't want a preposition before it!

You could optionally add the, however. The evening of a hot day ...
You don't want to tell me that the article before a noun is just optional, do you ? "Big tower is highest tower of city."? That doesn't sound very English to me Emotion: wink
It doesn't work to omit the article with big tower because tower is a concrete noun.
It works to omit the with evening because evening is an abstract noun. (You can't actually touch an evening as if it were an object.)

Abstract nouns in English very frequently appear without an article, especially as the subjects of sentences.

Faith is a virtue.
Sunset comes early in December.
Morning is Alice's favorite time of day.
Love makes the world go round.
Haste makes waste.
Worry can give you gray hair.
Honesty is its own reward.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Spring is Jane's favorite season.
The police restored law and order to the town.

CJ
CalifJim
Faith is a virtue.
Sunset comes early in December.
Morning is Alice's favorite time of day.
Love makes the world go round.
Haste makes waste.
Worry can give you gray hair.
Honesty is its own reward.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Spring is Jane's favorite season.
The police restored law and order to the town.
Ok, but your examples all make general statements about these nouns. In my exemple "evening of a hot day" it is one particular evening that is spoken about, no ? It's not the general overall concept of "evening" that is meant...
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Then I assume you'll insist that the following has to be The sunshine.

Sunshine streamed in through the windows and brightened the entire room.

So I give up. You'll have to wait for someone else to discuss it. I don't know what else to say.

CJ
EspelandBut as to the article of "evening", that astonishes me a bit.
Hi Esplenad

The lack of an article may astonish others as well. That's what I really meant in my first post. Unfortunately the only person who could tell us why there is no article is dead. That's why I think we can just say that Steinbeck has applied poetic licence to prose.Emotion: smile It was his privilege, anyway. Distinguished authors do not base their writings on grammatical rules. It's the other way around, grammatical rules are based on what they write.

CB
CB,

I hate to disagree, because your comments are always so very helpful and appropriate, and you are such a valuable resource on the forum.

Nevertheless, I don't think any poetic license whatever is involved here. I believe the explanation lies elsewhere. The sentence in question sounds perfectly prosaic (grammatically) to my ear, though I can see how the poetic imagery might lead one to think there is something equally poetic about the grammar. But I have to say that I see nothing poetic about the use of an abstract noun without the. It seems to me that such usage is common as mud -- well, maybe not that common, but I think you get what I mean. Emotion: smile

Jim
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