Is it possible to modify an infinitive of purpose with another infinitive of purpose if the action of the first one is not yet carried out?

Ex. Jack brought beans home to give to his mother to plant in the garden.
Ex. Jack went to the market to sell the cow to please his mother.

Is that correct? Is the notion of being carried out important for the first infinitive? Does that imply that the action of the first infinitive is sure to be carried out?

Or is the action of the first infinitive perceived as already carried out, in other words, not as an infinitive of purpose like 'brought and gave', 'went and sold'?

  • I think the first infinitive is not sure to be carried out. In both cases it expresses Jack's intention, but not whether he actually did it. For example: Jack went to the market to sell the cow to please his mother. But the cow was stolen, so he tried to think of another way to please his mother.
    – GEdgar
    Jun 11, 2012 at 17:19
  • By the way: is "infinitive of purpose" some ESL jargon?
    – GEdgar
    Jun 11, 2012 at 17:20
  • Perhaps, Daniel)) However, I've never come across it in English grammars. In fact, we use it for some infinitives of the kind in Russian. In Russian it's a special group because such infinitives have lots of restrictions. I just decided to add "of purpose" to avoid answers about some other infinitives and to make the question a little bit more clear. Thanks for your answer!
    – Sveta
    Jun 11, 2012 at 18:56

3 Answers 3


It is not possible to tell from either sentence in isolation whether the action described in the first infinitive was carried out. If the first sentence was completed by which she immediately did, then it is clear that Jack gave her the beans. If, however, it was completed by but she was out, then, equally clearly, he didn’t. Similarly, the second sentence could end with either and pleased she certainly was, or with but unfortunately he could find no buyers.


There is nothing in these phrases that makes it necessary that the action be (or have been) carried out. Infinitives of purpose express intentions, not certainty.


The question's a bit hazy but I think I was able to get the general idea.

You said it so yourself, "Infinitives of Purpose" indicate reason and purpose. So there is no guarantee in the above Infinitives alone that their actions will be carried out.

It's better to look at the Main Verb of the sentence and, according to its Tense, judge the reality of the action's execution. By extension, other Verbs that will reflect the Main Verb (your examples: "...and gave" and "...and sold") will also mean finished performance.

In short, you have to look at ways other than the Infinitive or perhaps outside the sentence itself to guarantee performance of the action.

But if you're also wondering about the second Infinitive depending on the reality of the first Infinitive, there is indeed a relation of consequence. This means that of course Jack must first (1) give the beans before (2) they can be planted. And he must first (1) sell the cow so that (2) he can please his mother.

Still, such a relation of consequence doesn't and can't mean execution through only Infinitives of Purpose.

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