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The use of “to”

Hi. I’d like to ask you for the grammatical explanation of “to” in this sentence : I don’t have anything for you to do . Why has to be there in that sentence the word “to”. Thank you so much for your answer.


  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited January 2019

    English has two verb forms which grammarians call INFINITIVE.

    1. The BARE INFINITIVE is used after verbs like can, must etc
      _ I can go. They must work._
      It's also used after verbs like see, hear etc
      I saw him go. We heard them sing.

    2. The TO-INFINITIVE has many more uses

    • after many English verbs
      _ I want to go. They refuse to work. _
      When you learn a new English verb, you need to learn whether or not it can be followed by a TO-INFINITIVE.

    • Instead of a noun phrase as the SUBJECT of a clause.
      To err is human. To forgive is divine.

    • after an adjective, with an ACTIVE meaning
      John is eager to please. — meaning 'John very much wants to be pleasant'

    • after an adjective, with a PASSIVE meaning
      John is easy to please. — meaning 'It is easy to please John'

    [These last two sentences are famous among modern grammarians.]

    • after a noun or pronoun, with an ACTIVE meaning — expressing purpose
      Here comes a candle to light you to bed
      Here comes a chopper to chop off your head

      Someone to show the way

    • after a noun or pronoun, with a PASSIVE meaning — expressing possibility
      _ a book to read
      something to drink_ — meaning 'something that can be drunk'

    The bad news is that you have tolerant the grammar and meaning that goes with each new English adjective. The good news is that there aren't very many different things to learn.

    • Most adjectives with a grammar like easy are similar in meaning to easy or difficult
      It's simple to understand. Its hard to believe

    To understand whether the TO-INFINITIVE is being used with an ACTIVE or a PASSIVE meaning, change it into a CLAUSE with a SUBJECT and, if possible, an OBJECT. For example

    eager to please > John pleases
    easy to please > Somebody pleases John or John is pleased
    a candle to light you to bed > a candle lights you to bed
    a book to read > somebody reads a book or A book is read

    This is a good point to pause. There's another complication, which I'll post about soon.

  • In all the examples in my previous post, the T0-INFINITIVE is at the beginning of a phrase.
    These phrases are in some ways constructed like CLAUSES, so modern grammars term the NON-FINITE CLAUSES.
    Here they are again

    to go
    to work
    to err
    to forgive
    to please
    to light you to bed
    to chop off your head
    to drink
    to understand
    to believe

    Most of these contain INTRANSITIVE VERBS — verbs which need not be followed by a DIRECT OBJECT. They don't have anything like a GRAMMATICAL SUBJECT, but the rest of the phrase contains the elements that would be needed in an ordinary CLAUSE.

    So for a verb like give we can have
    to give her the book — VERB + INDIRECT OBJECT + DIRECT OBJECT
    to put the book on the table — VERB + DIRECT OBJECT + ADVERBIAL

    But what if we want the TO-INFINITIVE CLAUSE to be like an ordinary (the term is FINITE) clause with a SUBJECT?

    When the TO-INFINITIVE CLAUSE follows a verb we can simply put a NOUN before to express something like a SUBJECT.

    I want to go_ — nothing before _to go so we understand 'that I go'
    I want John to go — similar to the FINITE that John goes — with SUBJECT + VERB

    But when we use a pronoun, there's problem. We can't say
    I want he to go because we can't have he as the OBJECT after want.
    So we say
    I want him to go

    Finally, we can look at your example.
    It's basically like something to drink — PRONOUN + VERB

    Let's start with
    anything to do meaning 'anything that someone can do'

    To change the meaning to 'anything that you can do' we need to insert the word you.
    But after an adjective, this is not enough. We can't say
    I don't have anything you to do
    We must add something else to introduce the TO-INFINITIVE CLAUSE
    I don't have anything for you to do

    The same construction can be used after a noun
    This is a book for Sally to read

    (This construction for + SUBJECT-LIKE NOUN or PRONOUN +TO-INFINITIVE is sometimes used after a verb — more often in American English than BritishEnglish.
    I want for John to go)

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