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Thread: to do or do

  1. #1
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default to do or do

    "We had no choice but to leave."

    OR

    "We had no choice but leave."

    "They've done nothing but read all afternoon."

    OR

    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."

    Do I have to use "to" or I can leave it out?

  2. #2
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    "We had no choice but to leave."

    OR

    "We had no choice but leave."

    "They've done nothing but read all afternoon."

    OR

    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."

    Do I have to use "to" or I can leave it out?
    NOT A TEACHER.

    Only sentences one and three are correct.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    1. "We had no choice but to leave."
    2. "We had no choice but leave."
    3. "They've done nothing but read all afternoon."
    4. "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."
    #1 and #3 sound fine to me.

  4. #4
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    #1 and #3 sound fine to me.
    Would there be an infinitive in sentence #3? (.......nothing but read)

    "John was appointed his superior. So he couldn't do anything but do what he said." OK?

  5. #5
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    "We had no choice but leave."

    "They've done nothing but read all afternoon."

    OR

    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."

    Do I have to use "to" or I can leave it out?[/QUOTE]


    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) The Senior Member and the Key Member have both given us

    excellent answers.

    (2) May I most respectfully add what I found in my books and on the

    Web?

    (a) Nowadays, it is, indeed, preferable to use the to-infinitive after

    nouns such as "choice" or "alternative."

    (i) Professor George O. Curme explains that "I have no choice but to

    accept the fact" is just a short way to say "I have no choice but

    the choice to accept the fact." Of course, we would never say

    "I have no choice but the choice accept the fact." So that's why

    I guess we had better use "to." NEVERTHELESS, my Web research

    showed me that some earlier English writers had no problem in simply

    using the bare (no "to") infinitive after choice. In fact, probably some

    native speakers nowadays would not go crazy if you said "I have no

    choice but go" -- especially in rapid conversation.

    (b) Professor Curme says (back in 1931 when he wrote his masterpiece)

    that we "often" use the bare infinitive in:

    There is nothing to do/ We have nothing to do but enjoy ourselves.

    IF (a big "IF") I understand him, the original sentence going way back

    into English grammar is something like:

    We have nothing to do but that (conjunction) we [do] enjoy ourselves.

    The great scholar then adds that we "often" use the to-infinitive

    because people feel that we are dealing with an infinitive clause:

    "I am sure we in England had nothing to do but to fight."

    The bottom line: If you use "to" in both constructions, you will be

    speaking/writing "good" English.

  6. #6
    freezeframe is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    "We had no choice but leave."

    "They've done nothing but read all afternoon."

    OR

    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."

    Do I have to use "to" or I can leave it out?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) The Senior Member and the Key Member have both given us

    excellent answers.

    (2) May I most respectfully add what I found in my books and on the

    Web?

    (a) Nowadays, it is, indeed, preferable to use the to-infinitive after

    nouns such as "choice" or "alternative."

    (i) Professor George O. Curme explains that "I have no choice but to

    accept the fact" is just a short way to say "I have no choice but

    the choice to accept the fact." Of course, we would never say

    "I have no choice but the choice accept the fact." So that's why

    I guess we had better use "to." NEVERTHELESS, my Web research

    showed me that some earlier English writers had no problem in simply

    using the bare (no "to") infinitive after choice. In fact, probably some

    native speakers nowadays would not go crazy if you said "I have no

    choice but go" -- especially in rapid conversation.

    (b) Professor Curme says (back in 1931 when he wrote his masterpiece)

    that we "often" use the bare infinitive in:

    There is nothing to do/ We have nothing to do but enjoy ourselves.

    IF (a big "IF") I understand him, the original sentence going way back

    into English grammar is something like:

    We have nothing to do but that (conjunction) we [do] enjoy ourselves.

    The great scholar then adds that we "often" use the to-infinitive

    because people feel that we are dealing with an infinitive clause:

    "I am sure we in England had nothing to do but to fight."

    The bottom line: If you use "to" in both constructions, you will be

    speaking/writing "good" English.
    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon" sounds "good" to you?

    I appreciate that you are into "good English" (whatever that means) but grammar books from 1931, even if the author is "the great scholar", aren't the best sources of how to write in English today and might not be the best sources for someone who's learning English and cannot tell how different constructions or word choices will be perceived by native speakers. Similarly "going way back into English grammar" (whatever that means) is of interest only if you're into historic linguistics or something like that, not if you're trying to learn modern English for some pragmatic reason like communication or getting a job.

  7. #7
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    Would there be an infinitive in sentence #3? (.......nothing but read)

    "John was appointed his superior. So he couldn't do anything but do what he said." OK?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Here are some examples from Professor Curme's fantastic book:

    He could not [do anything] but fail.

    I cannot [do anything] but admire his courage.

    The great scholar put "do anything" in brackets because he says that

    speakers often omit those words.

    So I guess that your sentence could be:

    So he couldn't [do anything] but do what he said.

    (I am guessing that your sentence is the short, "modern" way to say:

    So he could not do anything but that (conjunction) he [did] do what he

    said.)

  8. #8
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by freezeframe View Post
    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon" sounds "good" to you?

    I appreciate that you are into "good English" (whatever that means) but grammar books from 1931, even if the author is "the great scholar", aren't the best sources of how to write in English today and might not be the best sources for someone who's learning English and cannot tell how different constructions or word choices will be perceived by native speakers. Similarly "going way back into English grammar" (whatever that means) is of interest only if you're into historic linguistics or something like that, not if you're trying to learn modern English for some pragmatic reason like communication or getting a job.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) Thank you for your kind note.

    (2) That is why we non-teachers must warn everyone at the

    start of a post: NOT A TEACHER. Then visitors can skip my

    posts and go on to those of language professionals such as you.

    (3) In fact, some people want this website to allow only language

    professionals such as you to post answers in the "Ask a Teacher"

    forum.

    (4) At another helpline (which I no longer visit), they have the same

    problem and have warned that non-professionals who post wrong

    answers will have their posts deleted.

  9. #9
    Soup's Avatar
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    Default Re: to do or do

    The following 2 examples are odd in my dialect of English:

    "We had no choice but leave."
    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."

  10. #10
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: to do or do

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    The following 2 examples are odd in my dialect of English:

    "We had no choice but leave."
    "They've done nothing but to read all afternoon."
    So it depends on the speaker or area he comes from when it comes down to using either the "to" infinitive or bare infinitive?

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