The sentence structure

Subject has got noun to verb.

basically places a noun behind a verb with the help of the infinitive marker to, and it makes the transitive verb looks as if it is an intransitive verb.

A common example would be

I've got something to do now. I'll let you know when I'm done.

(If I didn't misunderstand it) Here to do is the transitive verb while the noun is something.

So I'm thinking, how common do expressions come in this form?

I've got a game to play.

I've got a book to read.

I've got a party to go.

I've got a website to check out.

I've got a friend to have conversation with.

I've got a place to stay.

And should I use it in formal writing?

  • Downvote explain please? Nov 24, 2013 at 18:13
  • 1
    I don't know anything about down votes. But there is a problem with your description. Subject has got noun to verb, for starts, is not a sentence structure, it's a string of constituents of different types; and it's not "the type of expression" that does anything at all, let alone distinguish between transitive and intransitive. Your grammar book or your grammar teacher is mistaken, I'm afraid. Sorry. And if you're this far afield already, talking about transitivity and formal writing is just premature. Nov 24, 2013 at 18:46
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    They are all idiomatic, except I've got a party to go, which I have never heard in that form: it's normally I've got a party to go to. This reflects that the fronted object is normally either the direct object of the verb, or leaves a preposition behind. This analysis does not work for I've got a place to stay, however, since *I'm staying that place is not grammatical. Puzzling.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 24, 2013 at 22:01
  • @JohnLawler you are right to the core! Apr 1, 2014 at 1:41

2 Answers 2


I'd say that the most important thing to get right when looking at the area of transitivity / intransitivity is to realise that many verbs have both transitive and intransitive usages.

Some verbs are strictly intransitive (eg arise; arrive; chat).


Some verbs are strictly transitive (devour; interject).


Probably, most take part in both sorts of constructions, sometimes with different senses

(the warm wind melted the ice; the ice melted)

and sometimes with the same sense

(I haven't eaten yet; I haven't eaten my tea yet).

This latter category includes some constructions where a normally intransitive verb is used with a direct object that is part of a very restricted set:

John danced well / John danced the most difficult dance on the programme / John danced a tango.


The second point here is that the construction I've got an N to V is not forcing 'objectlessness' on the verb V. 'I've got a man to see' implies 'There is a man I must (or may) see.' / 'I must / may see a certain man.' 'Man' has the thematic role 'theme' throughout (the one who is met and 'seen'). The to-infinitive is a 'completer' (it may be easily dropped, as in 'I've got a book [to read]' (again two meanings here: necessity – when 'to read' meaning 'that I must read' is necessary – or plain statement of fact) or not, as in 'I've got a retired chef to interview', 'He's a hard man to track down'(!) and the idiom 'I've got a bone to pick with you').


It doesn't make a transitive verb look like an intransitive, you are using it in a way that requires it to be transitive:

*I have something to resign.

*I have something to die.

These two incorrect examples show that it doesn't work with intransitive verb senses.

The part game to play uses to as a preposition to associate it with the noun and indicating a necessity or purpose; it is not the infinitive use of to.

It's pretty common, and valid across all registers.

  • +1. Though I would limit the “I’ve got” bit for less formal registers, using “I have” (as in your examples) in more formal registers. Nov 24, 2013 at 20:40
  • @JanusBahsJacquet good point, I was focused on the structure part. That use of got would be best avoided in formal registers.
    – Jon Hanna
    Nov 24, 2013 at 20:45

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