Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Arnold King, while writing a blog in econlib, wrote:

The last thing he meant to do was call attention to the coercion behind the insurance function.

Should it not be:

The last thing he meant to do was to call attention to the coercion behind the insurance function.

Is the second to an ellipsis? Or is the second way of constructing the sentence incorrect?

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer 1

In this instance, neither is incorrect.

I wouldn’t necessarily think of it as an ellipsis, since not all infinitives need a to particle in English. It’s just a bare infinitive.

I will make you do it better.

There is no to before do, nor can there be in this instance. As a subject at the start of sentence, you need the to:

To make it better is hard.

Or else you have to switch to the -ing form:

Making it better is hard.

But I suppose there is little enough harm in thinking it elliptical.

share|improve this answer
    
Exactly. Some verbs -- usually very common and therefore abstract verbs like make -- have more properties of auxiliary verbs, like taking bare infinitives (alternatively, deleting the to) the way do and can can do. –  John Lawler Aug 14 '12 at 12:54
    
Thanks tchrist. @JohnLawler I'm sorry, I really don't understand your point. Will help immensely if you could give an example. –  Essen Aug 17 '12 at 4:40
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.