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    #1

    the meaning of `to`

    To : used to say what can or cannot be done, or what should be done.

    You'll soon be old enough to vote in elections.
    He did not have the energy to resist.
    ------------------------------
    REPLY:
    Those are not clear examples. In those, to is simply part of the infinitive verb. Better:

    You are to wash the car. = You are required to wash the car.

    She was to discover more secrets the next day. = She was destined to discover more secrets the next day.

    He said I was not to leave, no matter what. = He said I was not allowed to leave, no matter what.

    They expected sunshine, but they were to be disappointed. = They expected sunshine, but they were destined to be disappointed.



    1. What's the purpose of this REPLY
    2.Is To the same meaning as to?
    3.Is To the same meaning as to?

  1. charliedeut's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    Yes, as far as I can see.
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldfishLord View Post
    To : used to say what can or cannot be done, or what should be done.
    This sounds rather strange. Where did you get this usage definition from?

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    #4

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    NOT A TEACHER


    Hello, Goldfish:

    I was fascinated by the title of your thread. I do not know whether the following information may interest you, but I am delighted to pass it along to you.

    Many years ago, I read a fascinating opinion from one grammarian. I cannot say whether it's correct or not. But I cannot get it out of my head.

    "I want to leave at once."

    The grammarian says this about the word "to" in that sentence:


    "The meaninglessness of 'to' is easier to grasp [than some other matters that were discussed on the same page]. 'To' is only present to indicate that the subject of a particular verb is missing, for one reason or another, ... It has no independent meaning"

    --Suzette Haden Elgin, A Primer of Transformational Grammar for Rank Beginners (1975), page 13.

    *****

    This is ONLY my thought.

    Let's say that the word "to" did not exist.

    Then I guess we would have to express the idea of that sentence in a way that might be something like this:

    " I want that I should leave at once."

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    #5

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    "The meaninglessness of 'to' is easier to grasp [than some other matters that were discussed on the same page]. 'To' is only present to indicate that the subject of a particular verb is missing, for one reason or another, ... It has no independent meaning"

    --Suzette Haden Elgin, A Primer of Transformational Grammar for Rank Beginners (1975), page 13.
    That's very well put. Prepositions don't mean anything by themselves; they are particles which modify the meaning of other words.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #6

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    I would disagree with the views of GoesStation and the grammarian mentioned by TheParser.

    Prepositions do have basic meanings. They don't so much "modify the meanings of other words" as express relationships between things. These 'things', however, can sometimes be verbs.

    The basic meaning of to is something like a movement/inclination/orientation toward something. In the example:

    I want to leave.

    the word want describes a state (in this case a state of being here). The sentence suggests that I am not happy with this state of being here and that I would prefer a different state, i.e., a state of leaving. There is a desire away from something toward something else. This explains why the verb want, and similar verbs, such as intend, wish, would like, hope, e.t.c must always be followed by a to-infinitive. In sentences using these verbs, it is the first verb that happens first: the want comes first, this state allows an orientation toward action, then the leave may or may not follow as a result.

    (This pattern may be contrasted with verbs that cannot use a to-infinitive. Consider I enjoy smoking., for example. There is clearly no orientation with verbs of this kind - the enjoy and the smoking occur simultaneously.)

    All prepositions have meanings/uses just like any other words and no two prepositions have exactly the same meaning - it's just that it is sometimes notoriously difficult (for learners and natives alike) to define those semantic boundaries.

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    #7

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The basic meaning of to is something like a movement/inclination/orientation toward something. In the example:

    I want to leave.

    the word want describes a state (in this case a state of being here). The sentence suggests that I am not happy with this state of being here and that I would prefer a different state, i.e., a state of leaving. There is a desire away from something toward something else. This explains why the verb want, and similar verbs, such as intend, wish, would like, hope, e.t.c must always be followed by a to-infinitive. In sentences using these verbs, it is the first verb that happens first: the want comes first, this state allows an orientation toward action, then the leave may or may not follow as a result.
    So how do you explain I want to stay here?

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    #8

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    So how do you explain I want to stay here?
    Good question.

    Well, by expressing this sentiment, you are saying that there exists a possible future state of your not being here, as well as a possible state of your staying here at some imagined future point. The utterance, then, expresses your preferred outcome - your orientation or inclination toward one state rather than the other.

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    #9

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    I don't see how that gells with
    The sentence suggests that I am not happy with this state of being here and that I would prefer a different state, i.e., a state of leaving.

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    #10

    Re: the meaning of `to`

    What do you mean exactly? They're two different thoughts.

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