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Posted: 22 August 2008 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A question for you leftponders on the following usage of to (from OED):

to, prep.,conj., adv.

4. Expressing simple position: At, in (a place, also fig. a condition, etc.). Cf. Ger. zu Berlin, zu hause. Now only dial. and U.S. colloq. Cf. HOME n.1 14.

1977 New Yorker 15 Aug. 37/2 Suzanne said, ‘What about Sunday? We could do something in the afternoon. Were you ever to the Botanic Gardens?’

That’s interesting. I’ve never heard the word used that way in American movies/TV (or maybe I just missed it). Is it really that common?

BTW speaking of to, I was reading Theodore Hook, a piece from around the late 1820s, and came across a companion-in-arms to the hoary old pun, “When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar”

This old chestnut (well, perhaps it was new then) was immediately followed by: “When is it more than a door? When it’s to!”

Ah, they don’t make them like that any more!

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Posted: 22 August 2008 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Were you ever to the Botanic Gardens?’

It’s very common here in leftpondia.  This BBC “learning English” program (pdf) doesn’t just say that it’s non-standard.  It says that only “d” is correct.

1. A: ____________ to Japan?
B: Once, when I was a little girl, we went to Osaka and saw the famous Osaka castle.

a. Did you ever go - is correct in US English, but what do we say in British English?
b. Were you ever - ‘Were you ever in Japan?’ but not ‘Were you ever to Japan?
c
. Had you ever been - The past perfect, used to show the ‘past past’
[b]d
. Have you ever been - is used to ask about life experience. Correct

So, even “Did you ever go...” is also non-standard in the UK?

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Posted: 22 August 2008 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It would be difficult to argue logically that a sentence of the form ‘were you ever to the BG?’, which is non-standard at best, is any different grammatically from the unexceptionable ‘have you ever been to the BG?’. It is in practice, though.

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Posted: 22 August 2008 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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No, ‘did you ever go’ is absolutely fine in British English. I don’t know where the BBC got that idea.

It’s amazing, you think after a lifetime’s exposure to American media and four years stationed with Americans in Germany (a US missile detachment on our base, keeping a wary eye on their nuclear warheads for our Corporals) that there’d be few surprises left in American usage, but that one surprised me.

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Posted: 22 August 2008 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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aldiboronti - 22 August 2008 10:14 AM

It’s amazing, you think after a lifetime’s exposure to American media and four years stationed with Americans in Germany (a US missile detachment on our base, keeping a wary eye on their nuclear warheads for our Corporals) that there’d be few surprises left in American usage, but that one surprised me.

I’m with you aldi. It’s not common usage in my experience, but then again I’m sure I travel in lower circles than Oecolampadius.

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Posted: 22 August 2008 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s not the circles you move in, Happydog - your youth is your problem. Give yourself another thirty-forty years and you’ll have seen just about everything. I find American language usage endlessly full of surprises, including delightful archaic survivals that must have lurked for centuries in some backwoods.

aldi’s bit about the door being to looks odd at first glance --- yet it’s common enough. Just for the fun of it, I Googled “push the door to” and got 11 900 hits. True, most of them are of the form “push the door to open”, but the eighth entry (US Patent no. 4892339 - Power closing motor vehicle door latch) contains the following passage:
“....The user of the latch need merely push the door to into the semilocked position....”

Edit: Oecolampadius - I wouldn’t advise anybody to try learning English at that BBC site. Look at Question no. 6 at the foot of page 3. Teacher appears to be having some sort of fit.........

[ Edited: 22 August 2008 10:13 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 22 August 2008 11:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I live in Devon, UK where a query about an item’s location is frequently put in the form of “where’s it to?” or “where’s that to?” by locally born people (and anyone else who happens to have been here long enough to pick up local speech habits).

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Posted: 22 August 2008 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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That brings back memories! (I was born in Devon).

Lionello, I wondered about the currency of to used in this fashion. Would “Is the door to?” be readily understood these days? I suspect it would at least take a moment’s thought before the light of comprehension dawned.

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Posted: 23 August 2008 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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"Push the door to” sounds perfectly normal to me, but then I’m 57 and have no idea what the kids these days are saying.

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Posted: 23 August 2008 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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but then again I’m sure I travel in lower circles than Oecolampadius.

Likely the opposite.  It’s not a construction I would use, but I hear it often enough.

On “push the door to”: it sounds dated to me, but like lh, it’s a phrase well-known to me.

In the military, however, the command “Stand to” meaning get into your positions was common.  I assume it still is.  Phrase origins suggest that “stand to one’s guns” became “stick to your guns” in America.

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Posted: 23 August 2008 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Interesting that too was, as OED puts it, the “stressed form of TO prep., which in the 16th c. began to be spelt too.” The more I browse through the senses of to in the OED, the more impressed I am with this little preposition’s adaptability and usefulness in English.

BTW does any other European language use a preposition in the infinitive form of a verb, or is English alone in this practice?

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Posted: 23 August 2008 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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In Spanish, the preposition a (to) is often used in conjunction with the infinitive from of a verb. Not invariably, though. If you were translating “to snow” into Spanish, you would say simply nevar. But if you were translating “it is beginning to snow”, you would say está empezando a nevar.
cantar = to sing
la suegra salió a cantar = the mother-in-law came out to sing
partir = to leave
voy a partir = I am going to leave.

BUT
se permite fumar = it is permitted to smoke.

I never thought about this before --- but now that I do, it strikes me that there’s probably some rule --- but I’m no grammarian, aldi.

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Posted: 23 August 2008 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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My grandparents used the expression “Make the door to” in Deutsch, I can’t spell it, can hardly say it any more. The last one of them passed in 1949.

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Posted: 23 August 2008 04:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Mach die Tür zu!

I assume they addressed you in the familiar form, rather than the formal “Machen Sie ...”.

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Posted: 24 August 2008 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dutch uses ‘te’ before infinitives.
Niet om in te nemen - Not to be swallowed
Dat hoef jij niet te weten - You don’t need to know

Dutch also uses ‘toe’ meaning closed, although ‘dicht’ is more common. WNT explains that in ‘de deur is toe’, it should be understood as ‘the door has reached its end position’.

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Posted: 24 August 2008 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It feels like there’s a lot of cross purpose discussion here. Getting back to the original “odd” sentence I don’t think you can talk about the parts of it. I think you have to look at it as a whole. The “to” is perfectly fine. It’s the ”Were you ever to” that sounds stilted to me. I agree with Oceo’s post that, “Have you ever been to” is the common form. Lot’s of things can be to, but ‘were you ever’ isn’t one of them.

Try to imagine an American saying, “Were you ever to McDonalds?”

I’m not saying it couldn’t happen; I’m just saying not in my universe.

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