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Is there such a pattern in English?

Please avoid obtaining a wrong impression from the above sentence used actually to emphasize a pattern as follows.

  • It is the tool to convert PDF to EPS.
  • She is my secretary to prepare your document.
  • I am a TeX expert to typeset your document.

I was inspired by the following pattern.

  • I am glad to help you.
  • I am sad to hear this news.

[Edit: This question was originally posed concerning a quite different sentence. The OP has edited it to make it clearer (including the title), but many of the answers below no longer appear relevant].

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(when you delete your comment I'll delete this irrelevant reminder) –  FumbleFingers Jun 16 '11 at 18:21
    
Your (new) question sentence and your first example are different from the second and third, because "tool" and probably "option" can take complements themselves, ie. "tool to convert PDF to EPS" and probably "option to customise your preference" are meaningful noun phrases, whereas "secretary to prepare your document" and "expert to typeset your document" are not. –  Colin Fine Jun 17 '11 at 13:00
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5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

No; this is incorrect in English.

First of all, I believe you mean "technician", unless you are referring to a proper noun, i.e. a registered trademark of a company that they use as a label for a position. "TeXnician" is both capitalized as a proper noun and has a capital letter in the middle, which unless it is a use of "geek-capitalization" for a proper noun is also incorrect. If you come from a culture that uses a Greek-derived alphabet, I think you meant X as the Greek letter "chi", which is the correct sound but should be "ch" in this word.

Moving on: the sentence has improper verb tense. In English, the infinitive form "to typeset" should usually only be used after a conjugated verb, and in a few other exceptional cases. Because there is no other conjugated verb between the subject and the infitive, it's wrong. So, you could make the sentence correct by either conjugating the verb in the proper tense, or by adding a properly conjugated verb.

Also, the first-person verb "I am" is commonly used only for simple identification. "I am a technician". Adding the specification behind, "to typeset your document", implies that the speaker is not the only one called. It also sounds like the speaker is referring to himself as an object; such combinations of specific and non-specific identifications are normally made in the second or third person:

This is a tool used to typeset your document.

So, it sounds better if the speaker specifies himself in both clauses; either as "the technician", or "one of the technicians", because the additional phrase "to typeset your document" implies individual specification, calling for use of "the" instead of "a/an".

So, here are some examples of properly-structured sentences that should convey the same meaning.

I am the technician called to typeset your document. (adding a conjugated verb before "to typeset")

I am the technician that will typeset your document. (conjugating "to typeset" in the future perfect)

I am one of the technicians that are typesetting your document. (identifying as one of a group, and present perfect conjugation)

I am a technician. I was called to typeset your document. (removing specification by splitting the statement into an identification and a specification)

EDIT: Taking your "inspiration" into account, I would say that as a rule, active verb conjugation allows the use of the infinitive, and using "to be" to describe something as an adjective, allow use of the infinitive. Identification as a noun does not allow the infinitive to follow.

So, the following are correct:

I am glad to meet you. ("I am glad" is a description, not an identification; you yourself are not the concept of "glad")

I need someone to help me. ("I need someone" is a non-identifying statement, using active voice, so the object "someone to help me" is fine)

... but, "I am someone to help you" is an identification, and thus the object "someone to help you" sounds wrong; it requires conjugation to the proper tense.

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+1 for very good answer. –  xport Jun 16 '11 at 16:29
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@KeithS, TeX the typesetting language is actually T-e-Chi so the TeXnician is a double pun. (ironically you can't do TeX markup in comments) –  mgb Jun 16 '11 at 16:40
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Then TeXnician is "geek-capitalization" in this case, and thus correct as it counts as a proper noun. However, I wanted to make sure nobody thought the basic term should be spelled that way. –  KeithS Jun 16 '11 at 16:42
    
TeXnician is not the focal point in the question actually. :-) –  xport Jun 16 '11 at 16:50
    
I think you are wrong about improper verb tense. If a man at my front door said "I am a gasman to service your boiler" that would be fine by me. Just because we're not all familiar with TeXnician doesn't mean it can't be used like other words in the same class. –  FumbleFingers Jun 16 '11 at 16:50
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Apparently the references to TeX are irrelevant to OP's question, but there's a link if (like me) you didn't know what it was, and you're curious.

I would say all OP's example sentences are slightly 'casual speech', but the usage is not at all uncommon. Neither is it inherently ungrammatical. For example, the man at your front door might say

I am the gasman to service your boiler

Strictly speaking, he means I am the gasman who has come to service your boiler. In practice the most common form is probably I am the gasman come to service your boiler, but there's nothing seriously wrong with dropping two or three words that serve no useful purpose in the sentence. No-one objects to...

Here comes the chopper to chop off your head

...in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons

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+1 @Fumble: Please kindly see my update. –  xport Jun 16 '11 at 16:24
    
@xport: I didn't know about TeX when I first read your question. But as I pointed out, it was obvious that was the root word, so I just googled it and included the Wikipedia link in my answer. But do remember that TeXnician and TeXpert are not 'real' English words in the normal sense. As @Martin Beckett says, they're both just jokey puns that won't mean anything to anyone who doesn't know about TeX. –  FumbleFingers Jun 16 '11 at 16:43
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I've never heard it but "TeXnician" is possible, you also see "TeXpert" ( a pun on TeX and Expert)

It would probably be slightly better as "I am a TeXnician, here/ sent to typeset your document"

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+1 @Martin: Please kindly review my update above. –  xport Jun 16 '11 at 16:23
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The simple answer to your question is "No." There isn't a general pattern of the form

[pronoun] [to be] the [noun] to [complement]

Some nouns can take complements, some can't. Some take the to-infinitive as a complement, some take other forms, sometimes several with differing meanings. I don't have a simple rule for when complements are possible, but I would hazard a guess that it's related to how specific the original noun is. To go through your examples:

There are many options to customize your preference.

This is plausible, though we would usually put "preference" in the plural. I think I would normally use a slightly different form: "There are many options for customizing your preferences."

It is the tool to convert PDF to EPS.

Fine. Again, you could say "for converting" instead of "to convert", but that's much more a matter of taste for this one.

She is my secretary to prepare your document.

This doesn't work as idiomatic English; "secretary" doesn't take a complement. To get the sense you are after, you would need to rephrase it as "She is my secretary, and she will prepare your document," or something similar depending on the context.

I am a TeX expert to typeset your document.

Again this doesn't work, and many of the same rephrasings can be used to fix it.

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+1, I agree with your explanations. I will point out that there are vanishingly rare contexts where the last two sentences work: 1. If someone has hired various secretaries for specific purposes and is listing them, so "She is my secretary to prepare your document, he is my secretary to take dictation from you, and these three are my secretaries to juggle your complex private life". –  Matt Эллен Jun 17 '11 at 15:00
    
2. If someone has devoted themselves to becoming and expert in TeX purely to format a specific document for you and you ask them why they are a TeX expert, they would answer "I am a TeX expert to typeset your document." –  Matt Эллен Jun 17 '11 at 15:01
    
@Matt Ellen: good point. I didn't want to put that in the main answer for fear of confusing things. –  user1579 Jun 20 '11 at 11:09
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The main sentence you are asking about ("There are many options to customize your preference.") is grammatical. It sounds a little silly because you have three words that are near synonyms of one another in the same sentence (it sounds a bit like one of those marketing sentences that doesn't actually say anything: what else would an "option" normally do if not "customise a preference"...). But it is grammatical.

However:

  • (a) the third and fourth sentences you mention are not grammatical;
  • (b) the second of your lists exhibits a different grammatical structure to your first list; I would avoid being "inspired" by one to create the other...
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