Syntactics!

QUESTION 1 (4 marks)

Person A says: “I need something to listen to.”

Person B says: “I need to listen to something.”

Are both sentences grammatically correct? Do both sentences have the same meaning?

Answer in complete sentences.

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One thought on “Syntactics!

  1. This sounds familiar. ;) It’s all about the emphasis!

    Person A says: “I need something to listen to.”
    – Emphasis is on “something”. The fact that the speaker plans to do some “listening” is implied… Now he/she just needs that “something” to listen to.

    Person B says: “I need to listen to something.”
    – Emphasis is on the action. We don’t know that the person needs to do, so the person tells us that he/she needs to do some listening.

    But that was kind of a bad example to make a comparisons because the word “something” adds vagueness to the sentence (yes, I know I came up with it). How about this:

    Person A: “I need CDs to listen to.” = emphasis on CDs
    Person B: “I need to listen to CDs.” = emphasis on listening

    Here the difference is clearer: Person A needs an object, while Person B needs to perform a task.

    This stemmed from a conversation about whether or not ending a sentence or clause with a preposition is or should be considered grammatically incorrect. I feel like the preposition should be included where necessary in order to complete a “verb phrase” or whatever you call it, even if it’s at the end of the sentence/clause. Compare these:

    I have children to feed.
    I have children to sketch.
    I have children to eat.

    I have children to look after.
    I have children to tend to.
    I have children to be with.

    I feel like it would be unnecessary to rearrange the words in a sentence just because the “verb phrase” has changed.

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