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  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #1

    If he wants to

    Okay, so you know I hate giving things labels, but is the "to" in "if he want to" a preposition or part of the implied infinitive that is left out?

    She can go if she wants to. (Implied - if she wants to go)

    Usually I don't care, but after a snarky comment about "not ending a sentence with a preposition" I'd like to know. (And I know the "rule" about not ending the sentence with a preposition is nonsense, but that's not the point.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #2

    Post Re: If he wants to

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Okay, so you know I hate giving things labels, but is the "to" in "if he want to" a preposition or part of the implied infinitive that is left out?
    The latter. I have found the following in Swan's "Practical English Usage":

    1 to used instead of whole infinitive
    We can use to instead of the whole infinitive of a repeated verb (and following words), if the meaning is clear.
    Are you and Gillian getting married? ~ We hope to.
    Let's go for a walk. ~I don't want to.
    I don't dance much now, but I used to a lot.
    Sorry I shouted at you. I didn't mean to.
    Somebody ought to clean up the bathroom. ~ I'll ask John to.
    Be and have (used for possession) are not usually dropped.
    There are more flowers than there used to be. (NOT ... than there used to.)
    She hasn't been promoted yet, but she ought to be. (NOT ... but she ought to.)


    2 ellipsis of whole infinitive

    In some cases the whole infinitive can be left out. This happens after nouns
    and adjectives.
    He'll never leave home; he hasn't got the courage (to).
    You can't force him to leave home if he's not ready (to).
    It also happens after verbs which can stand alone without a following
    infinitive.
    Can you start the car?~ I'll try (to).

    3 (would) like, want etc

    We cannot usually leave out to after would like/ love/ hate/ prefer, want and choose.
    Are you interested in going to University?~ I'd like to. (NOT ... I'd like.)
    My parents encouraged me to study art, but I didn't want to. (NOT ... I didn't want.)
    However, to is often dropped after want, and almost always after like, when
    these are used after certain conjunctions - for instance when, if, what, as.
    Come when you want (to).
    I'll do what I like. Stay as long as you like.

    I hope you find this convincing.




    PS:

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    (And I know the "rule" about not ending the sentence with a preposition is nonsense, but that's not the point.)
    I have no idea what those people who invented that "rule" were talking about.
    Dear native English speakers of this forum,
    Please, always point out my grammatical mistakes, assuming you have "the time and the inclination". That is really the most effective way for me to improve. Thank you very much.

    Please note that I am NOT an English teacher.

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    #3

    Re: If he wants to

    I think it's definitely the latter.

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    #4

    Re: If he wants to

    The OED's historical notes on this usage say it was rare before the 19th century. From the entry for "to":

    Quote Originally Posted by OED
    21.B.V.21 Used absolutely at the end of a clause, with ellipsis of the infinitive, which is to be supplied from the preceding clause. rare before 19th c.; now a frequent colloquialism.

    13‥ Minor Poems fr. Vernon MS. xxxiii. 74 Ŝe soules of synners,‥Ŝer to take and resseyue so As ŝei on eorŝe deserueden to. 1448 J. Shillingford Lett. (Camden) 114 He woll amende hit as sone as God well yeve hym grace and tyme to. c 1450 St. Cuthbert (Surtees) 3330 Sayntes biddings forto do, Ŝof all' ŝare seme na resoun to. 1621 Lady M. Wroth Urania 7 She‥obserued him, as well as she could bring her spirit to consent to. 1719 De Foe Crusoe (1840) I. iii. 33 Going no oftener into the shore than we were obliged to for fresh water. 1828 R. H. Froude Rem. (1838) I. 229, I feel quite differently from what I ever used to. 1883 Howells Register i, I kept on,‥I had to. a 1909 F. M. Crawford Uncanny Tales (1911) 173, I wanted to turn round and look. It was an effort not to.
    It seems undeniable that this is, in fact part of the infinitive. Except.... originally it was not; it was an adverb or a preposition that got attached more and more strongly to the infinitive verb as the ages passed.

    Quote Originally Posted by OED
    History:—Beside the simple infinitive <...> OE., like the other WGer. languages, had a dat<ive> form of the same or a closely-related n<oun>... This dative form was always preceded or ‘governed’ by the preposition tó ‘to’. ... Originally, to before the dative infinitive had the same meaning and use as before ordinary substantives, i.e. it expressed motion, direction, inclination, purpose, etc., toward the act or condition expressed by the infinitive; as in ‘he came to help (i.e. to the help of) his friends’, ‘he went to stay there’, ‘he prepared to depart (i.e. for departure)’, ‘it tends to melt’, ‘he proceeded to speak’, ‘looking to receive something’. But in process of time this obvious sense of the prep<osition> became weakened and generalized, so that tó became at last the ordinary link expressing any prepositional relation in which an infinitive stands to a preceding verb, adjective, or substantive.
    So it is the preposition "to" as well, in a way. Still, since the ellipsis of the verb is very recent historically, I'd conclude the "to" was a part of the infinitive.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: If he wants to

    Quote Originally Posted by abaka View Post
    It seems undeniable that this is, in fact part of the infinitive. Except.... originally it was not; it was an adverb or a preposition that got attached more and more strongly to the infinitive verb as the ages passed. [...]
    So it is the preposition "to" as well, in a way. Still, since the ellipsis of the verb is very recent historically, I'd conclude the "to" was a part of the infinitive.
    I have always been opposed to the view that to is part of the infinitive. I believe that that idea originated in the fact that the one-word infinitive of Latin, and many other languages, was normally translated into English with two words, the first being 'to'. However, it is no more part of the infinitive than, for example, the French à and de or the German zu, which are also frequently required before the infinitive, in my opinion.

    On the other hand, the to preceding the infinitive can hardly be called a preposition any more. It functions in a different way from all other prepositions, including the preposition to.

    What is it then? Well, if one needs a label, then infinitive particle seems to me as good a term as any. So,
    ... is the "to" in "if he wants to" a preposition
    No
    or part of the implied infinitive that is left out?
    No. It's a (stranded) infinitive particle.

    For the idea that 'to' is actually an auxiliary verb () there is an interesting discussion here.



  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: If he wants to

    Thanks for the replies everyone. I apprecaite it. (Like, like, like, like)

    With some degree of certainty, then, I could tell the know-it-all who chastised the other person that they should get their own facts straight first.

    I hate know-it-alls, but I do love it when they're wrong!
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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