Infinitives (to complete adjectives/to express purpose)

 

Q:

Which sentence of the following is correct ?

1 - He came ready to shoot the elephant.
2 - He was ready to shoot the elephant.
3 - He came to shoot the elephant.

Do these sentences convey the same meaning if they are grammatically correct?

Anees Ahmad
[email protected]

A:

All of your sentences are grammatically acceptable, but, as you realize, they convey somewhat different meanings.

The first—He came ready to shoot the elephant—means that he was already prepared to shoot the elephant when he arrived. Probably he was prepared to shoot the elephant even before he arrived. Here, the infinitive to shoot completes the meaning of the adjective ready.

The second—He was ready to shoot the elephant—also means that he was prepared to shoot the elephant. However, it doesn't tell you when. You might know that from the context of this sentence among other sentences, but from the sentence alone you don't know. It could mean that he just got ready. Or it could mean that after twenty hours of waiting, he was finally ready. Or it could mean that he had prepared all his equipment, which may have taken 30 minutes, and at that time he was ready. In this sentence, like the previous one, the infinitive to shoot completes the meaning of the adjective ready.

The third—He came to shoot the elephant—states the purpose of his coming to a certain place. It tells that he came IN ORDER TO shoot the elephant. It doesn't say whether he was ready to shoot the elephant, he may have been prepared, or he may not have been prepared. This sentence is different from the first two in that here, the infinitive to shoot in this sentence expresses purpose; it tells why he came—in order to shoot the elephant.