5

I posted a comment to the Is "should" appropriate for polite requests? and it was spotted by @FumbleFingers saying that it had a grammatical error. I wonder if someone can elaborate as to where the grammatical error is in the following:

To properly proceed with the work, please send me information for all of the following

  • Oops! I edited that post and modified its title. Sorry! The title is now: Is “should” appropriate for polite requests? – Mari-Lou A Aug 18 '15 at 14:23
  • 1
    I would replace "To properly" with "So I can". Also "all" is pretty rude, it implies that unless the sender buckles down and gets everything prepared and sent in one go, it won't be possible to proceed with the work, and it will be their fault. – James Aug 18 '15 at 17:35
6

The problem with your phrasing is that it implies that the person you are addressing, rather than yourself, needs to proceed properly with the work. If you had a sign on your door saying

To gain access to the office, press the buzzer and wait to be admitted

you would not take that as meaning that somebody else needs to press the buzzer to let you in.

(And thank you for posting here, rather than leaving it to be thrashed out in the comments.)

  • +1 particularly for the final parenthetical. But when I suggested Noah should post this as a question, I was kinda hoping someone would give a more "formal" description of the type of error illustrated by the cited example. I think it might be a type of "dangling modifier", but grammatical terminology isn't my strong suit. – FumbleFingers Aug 18 '15 at 14:25
  • Isn't this just a shorter way of saying: "In order to proceed properly..."? If the OP wants to refer to himself then: "In order for me to proceed properly..." – Mari-Lou A Aug 18 '15 at 14:27
  • @FumbleFingers Have done my best :) – Araucaria Aug 18 '15 at 15:08
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA Exactly so, for the reasons stated below :) – Araucaria Aug 18 '15 at 15:09
5

To properly proceed with the work, please send me information for all of the following.

The verb send is part of an imperative construction and uses the plain form of the verb without an expressed Subject. However, there is still an unexpressed Subject that we can reconstruct: it is you, in other words the people being addressed by the speaker.

When we use an infinitive of purpose as an Adjunct in the clause structure, like the one in the Original Poster's example, we do not have to reiterate the Subject if it is the same as the Subject of the main clause:

  • To annoy the crocodile, the chicken crossed the road.

Here because the chicken is the Subject of the main clause, we do not need to expressly stipulate the Subject of the infinitival clause. Indeed to do so would be rather odd:

  • ?For the chicken to annoy the crocodile, the chicken crossed the road
  • ?In order for the chicken to annoy the crocodile, the chicken crossed the road.

Because the speaker intends the Subject of the infinitival clause to be himself, he needs to stipulate the Subject. This is because it is not the same Subject as the unexpressed Subject of the main clause:

  • For me to properly proceed with the work, please send me information for all of the following.
  • In order for me to properly proceed with the work, please send me information for all of the following.

If we don't stipulate the Subject of the infinitival clause, the natural reading is that the Subject of proceed with the work is the same as the notional Subject of send. In other words we are likely to understand it as:

  • For you to properly proceed with the work, please (you) send me information for all of the following.
  • In order for you to properly proceed with the work, please (you) send me information for all of the following.
  • So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that the sentence should be "In order for me to..." because there is a confusion with the subject of the sentence. – michael_timofeev Aug 18 '15 at 15:01
  • @michael_timofeev Yes, that's right. It could be either For me to... or In order for me to .... Both are fine. If we don't use one of those, the listener will understand the wrong subject for the infinitival clause. :) – Araucaria Aug 18 '15 at 15:03
  • so why is it that the original sentence seems ok to me? – michael_timofeev Aug 18 '15 at 15:08
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I don't think it can be used to mean what the OP wants it to mean. But it's grammatical in the sense that it means something else in a perfectly grammatical way. So a parallel example would be to be in the shade, put them under a tree. So that can't mean for them to be in the shade, put them under a tree, but if you mean for you to be in the shade, put them under a tree that would be ok. (For example - it's something you might say if putting them under a tree also reserved you a space under a tree. But I don't know how we could say that it was ungrammatical ... – Araucaria Aug 18 '15 at 17:59
  • 1
    Ah, right. I see what you mean now. And I agree. You're quite right, of course - the construction itself is grammatical, and once I force myself to discard the (superficially obvious) meaning OP intended, I can easily imagine a (somewhat contrived) context where the cited text validly expresses something like [In order for you] to properly proceed with/progress the work, please [do this]. – FumbleFingers Aug 18 '15 at 20:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.