Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Tenses (4).

Tenses (4). Today: Sequence Errors with Infinitives. An exceedingly common sequence-of-tenses problem occurs with infinitives, which, when put after past-tense verbs, are often wrongly made perfect infinitives — e.g.: o “Remembering how busy General Maxwell Taylor must have been as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1963, how would you have liked to have been [read ‘to be’] in his shoes when he received the following cablegram, dated October 31, 1963, from General Paul Harkins, United States commander in Vietnam?” David W. Ewing, Writing for Results in Business, Government, and the Professions 111 (1974). o “Guest . . . had had plenty of time to have challenged [read ‘to challenge’] on either side.” Geoff Lester, “Guest’s Up and Downer!” Sporting Life, 15 Nov. 1996, at 19. o “It would have been unfair to the co-authors, he said, to have listed [read ‘to list’] Dr. Lu among them.” Nicholas Wade, “Scientists Find a Key Weapon Used by H.I.V.,” N.Y. Times, 19 Apr. 1997, at 1, 9. Next: Sequence Errors with “seemed” and “appeared.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Many of the most common words in a language have several very different meanings all current at the same time. It is often possible to explain this wide diversity by showing that the different senses are all developments of one central idea. This process is known as ‘radiation,’ because the simplest meaning may be regarded as standing at the centre while the derived meanings proceed from it in every direction like rays.” G.L. Brook, A History of the English Language 172 (1958).
Scroll to Top