Hi Y'all

Goodness! Things have grown since I was here last. Well done.

My question. Examine the following two clauses:

1. "The world will little note nor long remember ..."
2. "... but it can never forget ..."

My home study course says that the verb in the first clause is essentially 'will note remember' (compound verb united by 'nor'), but in the second clause the verb is 'can'. Apparently it's not 'can forget' because forget is an infinitive. This is explained as being a shortened version of 'unable TO forget', with the 'to' indicating the infinitive.

Now I find it difficult to understand this explanation. To me 'will' and 'can' are the same kind of word. And if 'can never forget' is really 'is unable to forget', then I don't see why 'will little note' can't be transformed to 'is not willing TO note' which would then make 'note' an infinitive.

Can anyone clarify this for me?
Hi John,

will and can are both Modal helping verbs, whose are always followed by an infinitive.
A modal helping verb helps to express the modus of a (full) verb:

"can forget" is NOT an abbrevation of 'be able to forget' , but "be able to" is a kind of substitute to "can".
Maybe you have noticed, that the modal helping verbs are strange verbs --> no Participles and actually no past tense! (This is because of a historical phenomen)

So to sum it up, both note and forget are infinitives - to express what "modus" the full verb has, you can use a modal helping verb to classify this:

I can forget, I may forget, I must go.
--> Because there are no or at least no real past tense forms, the modal helping verbs need to be paraphrased by other words o form the past tense:
can --> to be able to
may --> to be allowed to"
must --> to have to.

Unlike 'usual' verbs, modal helping verbs are always followed by an infinitive without 'to'.
Interesting question!

Ok, in the first clause there are two future forms:

'Will note' and 'Will remember'

Both are made negative ('will note' with the adverb 'little' and 'will remember' with 'nor')

Your query was with 'can forget'. This is a construction with a modal verb (can) + the base form 'I like to call it the bare infinitive' (forget)

I hope I haven't confused you more - (or myself)
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Very good. Thank you for your detailed answer and for taking the time to give the background information.

My course is a taped live classroom session, so I think the assertion made must have been just an error; a slip of the tongue. Either that or I may have misinterpreted what was said. I'll listen to it again and try to figure out which.

Thanks again.

 chris's reply was promoted to an answer.
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Well, I've now listened carefully to the relevant tape, and the fault is definitely mine, not the lecturer's.

It has to do with some confusion in my notes with comments made about infinitives on the previous example in the course.

However, this means that I may pose another similar question, using a different example. But I'll try to figure it out myself first. If I can't I'll post a new question.