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What function does the infinitive serve in the following sentence?

It is too early to talk about that thing.

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    Its function is that of complement of the adjective "early".
    – BillJ
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 14:35
  • A to plus an infinitive expresses purpose in English.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 14:45
  • Note that it is not licensed by "early" itself, but by the "too" that modifies "early"
    – BillJ
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 14:46
  • Right. Too in the construction too Adj to VP is a negative; the construction means 'so Adj that not VP', though of course that idiom requires a tensed VP and not an infinitive. Hence, It's too early to talk about that means we should not talk about that now. As for the function of the infinitive, it's what gets negated by too; what other functions do you have to choose from? Commented May 9, 2022 at 15:24
  • Note the near-paraphrases 'To talk about that [thing] would be inappropriate for the time being.' / 'Discussing that would be inappropriate for the time being.' While 'function' must be read in the syntactic sense on ELU, the main thrust of the sentence is to state that [discussion of X[] needs to be postponed]. The original emphasises the over-earliness. Commented May 10, 2022 at 12:02

1 Answer 1

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It is too early to talk about that thing.

The function of the infinitival clause is that of indirect complement of the adjective "early". It's indirect because although it is complement of the head "early", it is licensed by the "too" that modifies "early". In other words, although it is licensed by "too" it is a dependent of "early" not directly of "too".

"Too" expresses a degree that exceeds the maximum or upper bound consisting, in this case, of the maximum at which one can talk about that thing. It is early to a degree higher than the maximum at which one can or should talk about that thing: it follows that one can't or shouldn't talk about that thing now, hence it has a negative implication.

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