Take this broken grammar and learn to fly
April 17, 2008 1:33 PM Subscribe
I was listening to "Blackbird" by the Beatles recently, and was struck by the line:
"You were only waiting for this moment to arise."
I was intrigued by the way the phrase "to arise" has sort of an ambiguous function here.
posted by AngerBoy to writing & language (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how you read it, the sentence could mean either:
You were just waiting for the arrival of this particular moment, or
In order for you to arise, this moment had to come about.
In other words (if this makes sense so far) the predicate phrase "to arise" can have as its subject either "you" or "this moment".
Funnily enough, I heard another example of this kind of grammatical ambiguousness later that night, when I encouraged my wife to get in bed by herself since she was much more tired than I was at that early hour of the evening. She responded:
"But I need you to go to sleep."
Again, her sentence could have meant either "In order for me to go to sleep, I need you," or "It is important for me that YOU go to sleep" (even though that would be sort of a weird thing for her to insist on).
So I'm wondering:
Is there a specific grammatical term (or two different terms, maybe?) for the way an infinitive ("to arise," "to sleep," etc.) performs these two different functions in a sentence?