Which, believe me, is frustrating when you have word counts to stay within.

Word counts to stay within makes no sense to me. Am I dealing with an idiom here? Because if I am, I would like to know which that idiom is. Hard as I tried, I could find no such idiom anywhere I could look it up in.

  • Would 'within which to stay' be more comprehensible? – TimLymington Feb 1 '14 at 11:02

Word counts to stay within is an example of a construction called a Relative Infinitive.
That means it's a relative clause, but instead of being a tensed relative clause, it's an infinitive.

Relative infinitives can be converted to tensed relative claues, but they always have some deontic modal involved (like must, should, have to, ought to).

  • the man to do the job = the man that/who should do the job
  • the man to see = the man that/who one ought to see
  • the rope to pull on = the rope that/which one has to pull on
  • page limits to stay within = page limits that/which one must stay within

It's a sneaky way to put a modal meaning into a sentence without actually using a modal.

  • 1
    A relative infinitive is a term to conjure with. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 1 '14 at 11:36

To me more than an idiom, that sounds like a perfect sentence.

While the context could have helped more, however my interpretation of this sentence is - "It is frustrating when I have a word limitation to stick to."

This means that the speaker is talking about a situation wherein he is supposed to limit his expression (either in written or oral) within a specific count of words. He may have more to say / write but the word limit restriction is not allowing him to do so.



I would word it as 'it's frustrating when I have to stay within the word count/limit.'


It is ambiguous to me. "Word counts to stay within" could express a minimum, a maximum, or a range.

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