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From Google Support:

Why to use page-level permissions

Page-level permissions allow you to..

Is the sentence "Why to use page-level permissions" grammatical?

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It is not a sentence, but a noun-phrase. A complete sentence using this phrase would be "Let me tell you why to use ...". However, titles and paragraph headings do not have to be complete sentences, of course. Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird are not complete sentences. – Kaz May 8 '12 at 22:28
Please explain why you think it might not be. – curiousdannii Jul 16 at 7:28

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It’s a headline, first of all, where some grammatical rules are different anyway. So this is not a sentence, but a noun phrase:

(This section tells you) why to use page-level permissions.

That is, it tells you why you should use them. “Why to…” and “why not to…” are very common in headings to encourage or discourage the reader, respectively. The heading could just as well be:

Reasons to use page-level permissions

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Very common? I don't believe I've ever seen it before. Unlike how, what, who, where, and probably other interrogatives, why does not normally take to before its infinitive: “Why use page-level permissions” would be the expected form. “This section tells you why to use page-level permissions” is also not grammatical to me. I wonder if this is dialectal, or perhaps just individual. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 at 8:17
@JanusBahsJacquet: To me, “Why use X?” is a question and requires a question mark, unlike “Why to use X”. “Tell me why to care” sounds perfectly fine to me, for example; without to, it would be “Tell me: why care?” – Jon Purdy Jul 16 at 19:54

The normal rules of syntax do not apply to headings and titles such as the one cited above. They leave the reader to supply the missing words. In this case the title should be understood as:

  • Why you need to use page-level permissions


  • Why you might want to use page-level permissions.
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It is not a grammatical sentence, as it's not a complete sentence at all. It's a sentence fragment.

However, in English, sentence fragments are often used in headlines and titles. In those cases, such utterances are acceptable.

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It is not grammatical. In fact, I have no idea what you are trying to ask. Are you asking "Why use page level permissions (at all or generally)"?

"Why" must be followed by a verb, which is NOT in the infinitive form.

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This appears to be a heading title from Google support, and is perfectly understandable. Also, why does not need to be followed by a verb, e.g. "I want to know why John did this." – Mark Beadles May 8 '12 at 18:00
In this construction (a non-embedded Wh-Question), why must be followed by a verb. In others, not. – John Lawler May 8 '12 at 18:01
I don't think its perfectly understandable. – Julian May 8 '12 at 19:23
Your corrected form is also an infinitive. The difference is that why can only be followed by a bare infinitive, while other interrogatives require to before the infinitive. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 at 8:19

As others have noted, headlines are not always full sentences. Assuming that's not the issue, it is perfectly fine to have why followed by to (as part of an infinitive verb).

Perhaps you are more familiar with "how-to" titles, or similar phrases:

  • How to tie your shoelaces
  • What to do when your mother-in-law comes over
  • Who to go to for assistance

Well, why to is just as valid as how to, etc.

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Do you mean that "why to" is grammatical? – Pacerier May 8 '12 at 23:28
@Pacerier: Yes. For the same reason that "how to" is grammatical. – John Y May 9 '12 at 4:09

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