Reference > H.W. Fowler > The King’s English, 2nd ed.
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD

H.W. Fowler (1858–1933).  The King’s English, 2nd ed.  1908.

Chapter II. Syntax

THE PERFECT INFINITIVE



THIS has its right and its wrong uses. The right are obvious, and can be left alone. Even of the wrong some are serviceable, if not strictly logical. I hoped to have succeeded, for instance, means I hoped to succeed, but I did not succeed, and has the advantage of it in brevity; it is an idiom that it would be a pity to sacrifice on the altar of Reason. So:

Philosophy began to congratulate herself upon such a proselyte from the world of business, and hoped to have extended her power under the auspices of such a leader.—Burke.

And here he cannot forbear observing, that it was the duty of that publisher to have rebutted a statement which he knew to be a calumny.—Borrow.

I was going to have asked, when...—Sladen.


But other perfects, while they are still more illogical than these, differ as little in meaning from the present as the deposuisse, dear to the hearts of elegiac writers ancient and modern, differs from deponere. And whereas there is at least metre, and very useful metre, in deposuisse, there is in our corresponding perfect infinitive neither rhyme nor reason. Thus,

With whom on those golden summer evenings I should have liked to have taken a stroll in the hayfield.—Thackeray.


To have taken means simply to take; the implication of nonfulfilment that justified the perfects above is here needless, being already given in I should have liked; and the doubled have is ugly in sound. Similar are

If my point had not been this, I should not have endeavoured to have shown the connexion.—Times.

The author can only wish it had been her province to have raised plants of nobler growth.—S. Ferrier.

Had you given your advice in any determined or positive manner, I had been ready to have been concluded by it.—Richardson.

Jim Scudamore would have been the first man to have acknowledged the anomaly.—Crockett.

Though certainly before she commenced her mystic charms she would have liked to have known who he was.—Beaconsfield.

Peggy would have liked to have shown her turban and bird of paradise at the ball.—Thackeray.

It might have been thought to be a question of bare alternatives, and to have been susceptible of no compromise.—Bagehot.


The less excusable that Bagehot has started with the correct to be.

Another very common form, still worse, occurs especially after seem and appear, and results from the writer's being too lazy to decide whether he means He seems to have been, or He seemed to be. The mistake may be in either verb or both.

[Repudiating the report of an interview] I warned him when he spoke to me that I could not speak to him at all if I was to be quoted as an authority. He seemed to have taken this as applying only to the first question he asked me.—Westminster Gazette. (seems)

They, as it has been said of Sterne, seemed to have wished, every now and then, to have thrown their wigs into the faces of their auditors.—I. Disraeli. (seem to have wished ... to throw)

Lady Austen's fashionable friends occasioned no embarrassment; they seemed to have preferred some more fashionable place for summering in, or they are not again spoken of.—Southey. (seem)


Sometimes have is even transferred from the verb with which it would make sense to the other with which it makes nonsense.

On the point of church James was obdurate... He would like to have insisted on the other grudging items.—Sladen.


In the next, the perfect is wanted; for a child that has been flogged cannot be left unflogged—not, that is, in the past; and the future is not meant.

A child flogged left-handedly had better be left unflogged.—Poe.


We add, for the reader's refreshment rather than for practical purposes, an illustration of where careless treatment of have may end:

Oh, Burgo, hadst thou not have been a very child, thou shouldst have known that now, at this time of day—after all that thy gallant steed had done for thee—it was impossible for thee or him.—Trollope.


CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors