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In this sentence:

I want you to do it.

Does "to" here mean "will"?

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closed as off-topic by medica, James McLeod, tchrist, Mari-Lou A, David M Mar 17 at 2:04

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To is just an infinitive marker, a pair of letters used with the base form of a verb to indicate that the verb is in the infinitive: to do. Are you confusing it with want? To will for something is to want the thing to happen. –  medica Mar 16 at 4:31

1 Answer 1

SHORT ANSWER:
No. It is what is often called an infinitive marker, meaning that it marks the ‘plain’ form of the verb which follows as an infinitive.

LONGER ANSWER:
In Old English, the ‘infinitive’ form of the verb could be recognized by a distinctive ending, which itself could take additional endings designating case, since the infinitive acted as a noun. One very common construction, the ‘dative infinitive’ used the preposition to with an infinitive in the dative case to express purpose; it survives to this day.

... Þæt mod ... ÞencÞ fela godra werka to wyrcanne ...
... the mind ... conceives many good works to do

During the Middle English phase of the language, however, these endings were lost. In consequence, there was no longer any way of distinguishing the infinitive from the ordinary present-tense form of the verb. Because it was already in widespread use in the dative infinitive construction, the preposition to was recruited to remedy this lack.

Except as the complement of modal verbs (can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would), the infinitive today is almost always marked with to, which in this context has no prepositional sense whatever.

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