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I seem to recall reading somewhere that using a to-infinitive with the actual verb omitted (because it's clear from context) — as in

He asked me to go, but I don't want to. (1)

— is fine in American but not in British English. Brits, or so the story went, append do:

He asked me to go, but I don't want to do. (2)

I know that the above is true about American English, my native dialect: we can use (1). My question concerns British English.

Googling finds that the above (that (1) is wrong in British English) is not correct in such generality. For example, "can't be arsed to if" has fifteen-odd results, while "can't be arsed to do if" has but one, and it's not in the form of (2).

So...

Did I imagine the rule I stated above? Or is it restricted to particular sentences (or verbs or something)? Or is it correct as stated but outdated? Or what?

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6  
This is anecdotal of course, but as a Brit, I would consider "He asked me to go, but I don't want to do." to be incorrect. If such a rule exists, I believe you're misapplying it. –  John Bartholomew Aug 10 '11 at 20:10
    
I find that this different in use of "do" between British and US English is more common with auxiliary verbs, not infinitives: "I didn't take the garbage out, but I (should have/should have done)." –  wfaulk Aug 10 '11 at 21:23
    
To infinitive and beyond! –  Matt Эллен Aug 11 '11 at 9:06
    
@Matt Ellen Buzz? –  Alenanno Aug 11 '11 at 13:32

2 Answers 2

I find that this different in use of "do" between British and US English is more common with auxiliary verbs, not infinitives: "I didn't take the garbage out, but I (should have/should have done)." Then again, I'm not British. I may have interpreted this incorrectly.

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Thanks, wfaulk. Can Brits confirm in comments? (I don't know whom upvotes are from.) –  msh210 Aug 10 '11 at 23:54
1  
Both versions sound fine to me. –  Matt Эллен Aug 11 '11 at 7:33
    
In British English, we'd be unlikely to say "garbage" too. :-) –  Jez Jul 2 '12 at 10:26

In your examples, (1) is known as VP ellipsis and (2) is VP elision (although, not correctly formed: it should be 'He asked me to go, but I don't want to do so.'). Both are phenomena found in other languages, but are particularly prevalent in English (both British and American).

As a linguist, I should point out that both forms are 'correct'; correctness is a function of accepted usage, not what some prescriptive text says! However, maybe it's true that (1) is heard more often in the US than (2), which might be more popular in the UK... Anecdotally -- as a native British English speaker -- both are acceptable to me. I would use (1) more naturally and perhaps (2) in a more formal context.

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Thanks, Christopher Harrison. –  msh210 Aug 11 '11 at 19:01

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