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Unconjugated verbs in English

 
 
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2010 01:53 am
I have a question for someone who has more perspective than I do into language. How come the unconjugated forms of verbs in English have a "to" in them while in other languages they are just a variation on the verb in question? I don't know if this is just a convention or reflects something about the way English evolved differently than other languages.
Examples of what I mean:
Apprender = to learn
Escribar = to write
Lieben = to love
Bleiben = to stay

Thanks for any insights to satisfy my curiosity!
Nicole
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2010 02:12 am
@cascadiangirl,
Heck of a good question. I am guessing that Spanish and German don't use the 'to' because their infinitive forms are distinctive from the others.

I learn
you learn
they learn
we learn

Just as an example.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2010 06:33 am
I think Roger has a good insight there--the "to" in front of present, indicative, first person singular form makes it the infinitive form. The only other language which i know well enough to comment about is French, and as Roger points out, there is a separate infinitive form.

So, "to see," voir

Je vois
-- I see
Tu vois
-- you see (technically, thou seest--but English no longer uses the second person singular, unless you're talking to god)
Il, elle, on voit
-- he, she, one sees

"See" is the present, indicative form of five of the six persons in that conjugation, so without the "to" in front of the verb, the infinitive would not be distinguished.
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Mame
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2010 07:03 am
@cascadiangirl,
That's just the way it is in English.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual (traditional) description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives. As with many linguistic concepts, there is not a single definition of infinitive that applies to all languages.

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George
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2010 08:09 am
@cascadiangirl,
I'm not sure, but I believe English got this from the German use of "zu" with
the infinitive. But I have next to no German. Perhaps a German speaker can
elaborate.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2010 04:35 pm
@cascadiangirl,
Quote:
How come the unconjugated forms of verbs in English have a "to" in them while in other languages they are just a variation on the verb in question?


In English the verbs "to learn" and "to write" are conjugations. They are conjugations of the base form verbs "learn" and "write."

At least in Spanish, "aprender" and "escribir" aren't variations of the basic forms. They are the basic forms.

It's interesting what Wikipedia holds about the infinitive of English verbs, that they are the basic forms with or without the particle "to," so "learn" and "write" have the same meaning as "to learn" and "to write" respectively. But that generalization is imprecise when translating to and from another language. "Learn" and "write" are more precisely translated into Spanish as the second person informal imperative "aprende," and "escribe"--(you) learn or learn you, (you) write or write you (as it might have been said in some of the older urban dialects of the US "listen you!") --respectively. From Spanish, "aprender" and "write" are more precisely translated as "to learn" and "to write" respectively, as they don't have other conjugational meanings in Spanish.
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gungasnake
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Jan, 2011 08:42 am
@cascadiangirl,
This one is probably explained by the loss of declensions in English.

"I learned to drive" and "I learned driving" are basically the same thing, but "driving" doesn't have an accusative form so that the latter doesn't really work, and "I learned drive" isn't terribly logical either. English uses prepositions in place of the missing grammar; "to drive" substitutes for the missing accusative form of "driving".
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Jan, 2011 12:54 am
@gungasnake,
Quote:
This one is probably explained by the loss of declensions in English.


I don't think so, Gunga.

Quote:
English uses prepositions in place of the missing grammar; "to drive" substitutes for the missing accusative form of "driving".


There's no grammar missing. If there was grammar missing, then it would have no meaning. Using 'to' is the grammar.

*I learned by drive.

*I learned for drive.

*I learned in drive.

*I learned under drive.

*I learned with drive.

*I learned on drive.

*I learned above drive.

*I learned below drive.

*I learned over drive.



















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