Hi,

I will be grateful if someone tell me the rule of creating the following:

  • As we saw in Chapter 1, Chomsky's solution to the language acquisi­tion conundrum was to assert that children acquire language because they have no choice.
  • The purport of that attack was to prove that generality could never be an intrinsic property of a mental content.
  • Richard was to prove one of the most enigmatic of kings.
  • Yes I was just trying to think as to who it was to be quite honest.
Is 'was to + base form' equivalent to "have to/must to"? Maybe, is this something like 'She agreed to help me.' in which construction 'verb + to inftinite' is without hidden meaning?

and extra question
  • One of his first acts was to write a critique of Verbal Behavior that comprehensively demolished behaviourism as a credible theory of language acquisition.
Is 'One of his first acts was to write' is based on the rule 'be + the first/second etc + to-infitinte?

Cheers,

Tomek
TommyekHi,

I will be grateful if someone tell me the rule of creating the following:

As we saw in Chapter 1, Chomsky's solution to the language acquisi­tion conundrum was to assert that children acquire language because they have no choice.
The purport of that attack was to prove that generality could never be an intrinsic property of a mental content.
Richard was to prove one of the most enigmatic of kings.
Yes I was just trying to think as to who it was to be quite honest.

Is 'was to + base form' equivalent to "have to/must to"? Maybe, is this something like 'She agreed to help me.' in which construction 'verb + to inftinite' is without hidden meaning?

and extra question
One of his first acts was to write a critique of Verbal Behavior that comprehensively demolished behaviourism as a credible theory of language acquisition.

Is 'One of his first acts was to write' is based on the rule 'be + the first/second etc + to-infitinte?

Cheers,
Tomek
Is 'was to + base form' equivalent to "have to/must to"? Maybe, is this something like 'She agreed to help me.' in which construction 'verb + to inftinite' is without hidden meaning? No. In the first examples, the infinitve phrase is functioning as the subject complement. It is not modal.

Yes I was just trying to think as to who it was, to be quite honest. This infinitive phrase is a different construction, it is a modifier, either for the subject (I), or for the entire clause.

She agreed to help me. Agree is a catenative verb - one of the class of verbs that can be followed by infinitive or gerund. The infinitive phrase is functioning as object. (What did she agree?)
TommyekIs 'One of his first acts was to write' is based on the rule 'be + the first/second etc + to-infitinte?
I'm not sure what rule you are citing here.

This sentence follows the same pattern as the first.
AlpheccaStars
TommyekIs 'One of his first acts was to write' is based on the rule 'be + the first/second etc + to-infitinte?
I'm not sure what rule you are citing here.
This sentence follows the same pattern as the first.


So, there is the rule
'the to-infinitive is used after: be + the first/second etc

She was the frist to congratulate him.

He was the first person to set foot on the Moon.'

in some coursebooks for second language learners.

and I wondered if the above rule had been used in the last example.
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TommyekSo, there is the rule
'the to-infinitive is used after: be + the first/second etc
She was the frist to congratulate him.
He was the first person to set foot on the Moon.'
in some coursebooks for second language learners.
and I wondered if the above rule had been used in the last example.
Compare your example:
  • One of his first acts was to write a critique of Verbal Behavior that comprehensively demolished behaviourism as a credible theory of language acquisition.
With the model for the "rule"

He was the first person to set foot on the Moon.'

The rule has a subject for the infinitive

Subject - He

verb (linking) - was

predicate noun phrase (infinitive phrase)- the first person to set foot on the Moon.

You can further analyse the phrase, but there is a nominal subject (person) of the non-finite verb (to set). The infinitive phrase can be transformed into a clause with a finite verb:

He was the first person who set foot on the Moon.

In the question sentence, there is the same structure, but there is no nominal subject of the infinitive.

Subject - One

verb (linking) - was

predicate noun phrase (infinitive phrase) - to write a critique ...

Since there is no subject of the non-finite verb, there is no way to convert the phrase into a clause except by reducing the main clause:

As one of his first acts, he wrote a critique....
TommyekIs 'was to + base form' equivalent to "have to/must to"?
Sometimes it is, but the examples you give are a mixture of various kinds of be + infinitive.

1. In some of your examples the two parts are separate. In other words, some of your examples have be | infinitive, where the infinitive doesn't even belong together with be conceptually, and the two elements are next to each other by coincidence. These should have commas.

I don't know where she was, to be honest. (I am being honest when I say this.)

Karen is just as mistaken as Paul is, to be fair. (I am trying to be fair when I say this.)

Sandra was, to be frank, unwilling to cooperate with us. (I am being frank.)

2. In some of your examples you have an infinitive as a subject complement. The subject here is typically an abstract noun that can be explained in terms of an action. The linking verb be that stands in between the subject and the infinitive is like an equal sign. ( = )

The usual procedure | is | to lay the carpet first.

The next step | was | to nail these boards together.

His solution | was | to collect the data in a new way.

My purpose | is | to show them how to make beef stew.

Peter's decision | was | to invest in IBM as soon as possible.

____

There is only one verb that can be used this way when the subject is a person. blame.

George | is | to blame (for losing the keys). The for-clause is optional.

Here to blame has the meaning culpable, responsible, blameworthy, blamable, at fault.

3. The forms is to, are to, was to, and were to are used almost like modal verbs. They are variously paraphrased as (is/are/was/were) supposed to, going to, expected to, or as will, would, or must, depending on context. The subject is often a person or group of people, but it doesn't have to be.

City officials are to award prizes for the most beautiful gardens next Tuesday.

(They are going to award prizes.)

City officials were to award prizes for the most beautiful gardens last Tuesday, but the ceremony was rained out.

(They were going to award prizes.)

You are to appear at the main office at 3 o'clock.

(You are supposed to appear; You have to appear; You must appear)

You were to appear at the main office at 3 o'clock. Why weren't you there?

(You were supposed to appear; You had an obligation to appear)

The president of the company is to travel to Canada for a special conference.

(The president ... will travel; ... is going to travel)

The president of the company was to travel to Canada for a special conference.

(The president ... would travel; ... was going to travel)

4. After an ordinal (first, second, ... last) and, optionally, person, an infinitive can modify person, even when it's implicit.

Larry was the first person to arrive. ~

Larry was the first to arrive. ~ Larry was the first of all the people who arrived.

I am always the last person to know about these things. ~

I am always the last to know ... ~ I am always the last of all the people who know.

Henry was the fifteenth person to cross the finish line. ~

Henry was the fifteenth to cross the finish line. ~ ... was the fifteenth of all the people who crossed the finish line.

___________

If it's clear what sort of thing you're talking about, you can use this pattern even when you're not talking about a person.

Of all of Laura Stickley's novels, The Devil in the Dark was the first to be reviewed in the prestigious New York Review of Fiction.

first novel is implied.

____________

This last group of grammatical patterns (4.) does not have be + infinitive, but I included it because you seemed to be confusing it with Pattern 2, explained above.

CJ
I'd include the pattern "be about + infinitive" to express the immediate future:

We are about to finish the job.
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AnonymousI'd include the pattern "be about + infinitive" to express the immediate future:

We are about to finish the job.
Yes. Definitely. In a more complete treatment of the topic, this should also be included. The OP's immediate concern, however, was the case when was bumps up against the to of an infinitive directly (was to).

Emotion: smile

CJ