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I understand the use of perfect infinitive. The thing is that I find it awful to use "to be able to" referring to something that happened in the past.

Let me elaborate with an example I just read: I am very fortunate to be able to have visited other countries such as Colombia or Brazil.

Wouldn't it be better to say "I am very fortunate to HAVE BEEN ABLE TO VISIT other countries such as..."

For me, it sounds more natural, and the time reference does not strike me as...twisted. I don't know if what bugs me is the use of two infinitives consecutively, or I don't know.

Anyhow, would love some light be thrown in the matter.

Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    You are right it would be hard to be able (now) to have visited somewhere in the past. The ability to travel happens when we travel, not later. – Yosef Baskin Jul 3 '17 at 3:20
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You are correct that your modified version is more pleasant to the ear. It's less verbose.

  1. "I am very fortunate to be able to have visited other countries such as Colombia or Brazil."

  2. "I am very fortunate to have been able to visit other countries such as Colombia or Brazil."

  3. "I was very fortunate to be able to visit other countries such as Colombia or Brazil."

EDITS: I am making edits per the comments b/c someone really wanted to point out that the first option above is not technically correct. I agree it's not perfectly structured English b/c of the tense of "have visited" with "to be able to". Technically speaking it should be "was able to" and the tense of visited changed to visit dropping have.

The second OR third sentences above are correct. The trouble with the first is the fact that you can't have these together: "have visited" (past) and "to be able to" (present). It will pass muster in AmE if you said it aloud.

The second and third sentences are more clear, direct, and technically grammatically correct. At any rate, "to be able to" is unidiomatic in that first context and sounds strange because we are not used to hearing it this way. "To have been able" is more idiomatic and makes more sense with things that have already occurred. Or you can change it to "was able to" and modify the tense of "visited".

NOTE: I don't like overthinking grammar syntax. English syntax is very meld-able and driven by the masses; it's very nature is completely subjective. We make the rules. There is not some science that dictates what is right or wrong. There are no scientific tests, empirical data, or hypothesis we can use to determine which are right or wrong in the universe (aside from what the populace at large uses in everyday speech). What you need to do is learn the syntactic structure and rules of your language and then begin to learn how it's actually used in your particular locale. There are many idiosyncrasies in every language of the world and nothing involving linguistics is a law or set in stone.

  • Kace36, I think you're mistaken. I think your thought I am very fortunate to be able to have visited other countries such as Colombia or Brazil would have to be expressed as I was very fortunate to be able to visit… – Robbie Goodwin Jul 24 '17 at 23:36
  • Kace, this is silly. Show us your ngram for (to) be able to have visited or recognise that it's simply wrong. – Robbie Goodwin Jul 25 '17 at 21:00
  • And to be clear this is why I'm not a huge fan of syntactical grammarianism. It's unlike math and is subjective in nature. 2+2=4. There is no arguing that. However I could take this (many others I see too) and argue them to the moon with various subjective interpretations. I don't say that only because of this post, as I do agree with you more on this one. But in general I see it so often. Example: I corrected myself last night on a post I glossed over before commenting, after Kris pointed it out and answered, then another guy came along and challenged his answer. It's like "oy!". SMH. – Kace36 Jul 25 '17 at 21:41
  • Uh… why would you remove the first option? How do you disagree? I’m not sure what you mean by ding you and there are dozens of millions of native speakers in the US and every other english-speaking country who know your example is wrong. It’s not remotely obvious that the OP read it somewhere; didn’t you realize huge numbers of ELU posts are artificial constructs. Could you please just drop the illusion that I am fortunate to be able to have visited… could ever be correct? – Robbie Goodwin Jul 25 '17 at 22:10
  • Thanks, Kace. I'm not at all being 'hostile'. I'm just pointing out that what you said wasn't correct. Remember when you said 2+2=4? That does apply, but not the way you hoped it would. Please, stop digging the hole deeper. Please. – Robbie Goodwin Jul 25 '17 at 22:23

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