Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

To-infinitive complements must be distinguished from PP complement with the preposition to. The following quotation illustrates the difference.

The global threat to our security was clear.
So was our duty to act to eliminate it.
(Angela Downing, English Grammar): PP: prepositional phrase

I don’t get what is the difference between complementing a noun with to-prepositional phrase and to-infinitive. Would you show me the difference?

share|improve this question
1  
Good question for English Language Learners. –  MετάEd May 2 '13 at 3:21
add comment

closed as off topic by MετάEd, tchrist, Kris, Hellion, Andrew Leach May 3 '13 at 9:49

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The noun threat may take either a prepositional phrase (PP) headed by to or a verb phrase (VP) headed by a marked infinitive as a complement—or both:

... the global threat [PP to our security]
... Britain's threat [PP to France] [VP to stifle its trade]

The PP names the recipient of the threat: the person or entity against whom Britain directs the threat. The VP names the action which Britain says it will perform.

So may the noun duty:

... our duty [VP to act]
... our duty [PP to our society] [VP to pay taxes]

The PP names the person to whom the duty is owed, or who imposes the obligation. The VP names the action which we are obliged to perform.

Note, however, that in your second example the second marked infinitive, to eliminate it, is an infinitive of purpose naming the purpose which our ‘acting’ is intended to achieve; it is not a complement of duty, but a constituent of the VP headed by the verb act:

... our duty [VP [VP to act] [VP to eliminate it] ]

How you parse to eliminate it is ambiguous. Some might regard it as a complement of act, others as an adverbial adjunct modifying act.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.