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.

When is it fine to drop to be when should precedes it? For example:

It should prove to be successful.

vs

It should prove successful.

share|improve this question
2  
Make a list of verbs you would substitute for prove in those sentences and try them out. What verbs are there that can go there? –  John Lawler Aug 26 '12 at 19:27
    
At least one other: It should seem to be successful; it should seem successful. –  Peter Shor Aug 26 '12 at 19:34
2  
@Peter: Both look fine. What is the difference - is it personal preference? Surely there is a grammar rule somewhere about this? –  4thSpace Aug 26 '12 at 19:59
1  
Maybe it's not universally acceptable, but I'd (just about) be okay with "look [to be]" here - not that I think the preceding "should" makes any difference. I'm not quite okay with "That sounds to be fun", but it seems clear to me some people are quite happy with even that. –  FumbleFingers Aug 26 '12 at 23:18
1  
@4thSpace: I believe this to be relevant - I think him to be/think he is (actually, after further consideration I judge it to be a duplicate! :) –  FumbleFingers Aug 27 '12 at 3:36
show 1 more comment

1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Your question actually is not about the modal auxiliary verb should. Instead what interests you is the nature of the verb prove and what it allows.

Prove is a kind of copular verb, like seem or appear, which can link an adjective directly back to the subject as the subject's 'complement':

The project seemed/appeared/proved + successful.

These particular copular verbs also allow for an infinitival complement structure with the verb be:

The project seemed/appeared/proved + to be successful.

This latter structure with the infinitive is probably older and it does perhaps sound more formal or stilted than just the simple adjective.

We can tell the language is in the process of shedding these because some such copular verbs — other people on this page mentioned look and sound — are okay but a bit odd with the to be so we prefer them without:

  • The cake looks stale.
  • The trip sounds fun.

You may have also wondered about keeping or deleting to be in structures like the following, where the complement is linked to the object of the verb and not the subject:

We elected him (to be) treasurer, but we found him (to be) utterly incompetent!

For questions like these, look to the nature of the main verb for answers and patterns of use. The auxiliary verbs that fall in front of the main verb won't govern those patterns.

share|improve this answer
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.