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Someone edited my message on StackOverflow, but it really bugs me out.

I'm not sure what's wrong with it:

  • As you see, the bigger the circle becomes, the more vertices I need for hiding the straight lines.

  • As you see, the bigger the circle becomes, the more vertices I need to hide the straight lines.

The latter (corrected) sentence just bugs me out for some reason. It would sound better if there was a comma after the word "need", perhaps, but I guess that would be even worse in means of grammatical correctness.

Can someone explain why is the first sentence bad and the second sentence correct? And could there even be better solution to fix the first sentence?

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3  
...it really bugs me. (Not "bugs me out.") –  JLG Aug 5 '12 at 18:40
    
@JLG, Really? How about "freaks me out" ? should it be "freaks me" then? Whats the meaning of "out" in there anyways. I thought that "out" was just "figure of speech" which had no real meaning at all. –  Rookie Aug 5 '12 at 20:48
    
"Bugs" means "annoys," so you don't need the "out." "Freaks me" could be acceptable, but the idiom is actually "freaks me out." –  JLG Aug 5 '12 at 20:58
    
While either sentence may be technically grammatical, the first one seems somewhat clumsy to me (American native speaker). –  The Photon Aug 6 '12 at 5:36
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3 Answers

Both sentences are grammatically correct, and as such the edit was unnecessary. However, adding a comma after need in the second sentence would also be unnecessary, though not strictly incorrect.

Both sentences are using a non-finite verb form to indicate intent. In English, you can usually use either a gerund (as in the first example) or an infinitive (as in the second example), with little or no difference in meaning. When there is a difference, the gerund version tends to indicate a general need, while the infinitive indicates a specific, immediate need:

  • I want more sugar for making frosting. (Making frosting is something I do regularly, and I need more sugar to keep it up.)
  • I want more sugar to make frosting. (I'm making frosting right now, and I need more sugar.)

Assuming that you meant something like #1, changing it to #2 is potentially a subtle change in meaning.

However, this distinction is not consistent, and depends heavily on context.

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I think the edit made the sentence harder to understand, so I really want to change it. But as english isn't my native language, it's hard to say which one is better. Which sentence would you use? –  Rookie Aug 5 '12 at 21:05
    
@Rookie, I would use the first, though it doesn't make an enormous difference. –  JSBձոգչ Aug 5 '12 at 23:20
    
Is there an external reference available for the explanation in the second paragraph? The suggested meanings do not seem to be present in the given example sentences. –  Pantalones Aug 6 '12 at 4:48
    
@Pantalones, I don't have an external reference, just my intuition as a native speaker. It's a very loose semantic difference, so it may or may not be present in any given context. –  JSBձոգչ Aug 6 '12 at 15:01
    
In sentences with these forms native speakers in America would not hear the meanings being suggested by this answer; might the explanation need to be reworked? –  Pantalones Aug 7 '12 at 0:13
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As noted in other answers, both sentences are grammatically correct. The problem you perceive with the second (which contains "I need to hide") may be its garden path nature that occurs because of need to. The reader is misled to think incorrectly in terms of a phrasal verb: "{I need to hide} {the straight lines}", versus correct "{I need} {to hide the straight lines}". One solution is to revise the sentence, perhaps as:

• As you see, when the circle becomes bigger I need more vertices to hide the straight lines.
• As you see, to avoid straight lines when the circle grows, I need more vertices.

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Garden path, exactly! Do you think I should edit it back to the original, which I wrote? –  Rookie Aug 5 '12 at 20:56
    
No, it wouldn't be reasonable to go back to the original, but might be ok to use either of the alternatives I mentioned. A more important concern with your SO question #11774038 is to address questions from the comments. In particular, tell whether you need to draw the fan lines as well as the circle. Can't you just draw the circle by any method (eg see #8888439/drawing-a-circle-segment) and then draw the fan lines? –  jwpat7 Aug 5 '12 at 22:36
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If you are talking about general purpose or what a thing is generally used for, you can use either "to" or "for."

For example,

I use a broom for sweeping the floor.

I use a broom to sweep the floor.

I suppose the person who corrected you was considering the presence of the word "need." The word is usually taught followed by an infinitive:

need + noun + to v 

But because of the usage I mentioned first, it isn't necessary to change "for."

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So, do you think I should edit it back to the original which I wrote? –  Rookie Aug 5 '12 at 21:07
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