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While it may be obvious to you that you want the aggregate functions applied to each set of products found in the account table, this query fails because you have not explicitly specified how the data should be grouped. Therefore, you will need to add a group by clause to specify over which group of rows the aggregate functions should be applied...

I always tend to understand past participles used like that as something kind of like postpositive adjectival phrases that describe the word or words which directly precede them. For instance:

He was a guy sold out to his enemies by his own friends.

This tells me what kind of guy he was in that situation - a guy who was sold out by his own friends.

So, basically I can go ahead and try to understand this sentence as follows:

While it may be obvious to you that you want the aggregate functions that are applied to each set of products found in the account table, this query fails because...

Which does not sound right because the thought obviously sounds incomplete.

Therefore, it leaves me with only one option which is to understand it as a causative like in this example:

I want my hair cut.

And I think this is the only way it should be understood. My first question: am I correct?

On the other hand, it seems like I can easily add the verb to be right after the aggregate functions, thus making it mean basically the same thing but, at the same time, making it much more easier to understand:

While it may be obvious to you that you want the aggregate functions to be applied to each set of products found in the account table, this query fails because...

Which now does make perfect sense. So, my second question is this: by adding the verb to be, do I change anything as far as the meaning goes? If not, are the two completely equivalent then?

Much appreciated.

  • What jlovegren says. In summary, add 'to be' as you suggest and it all makes better sense without changing the meaning. It will also make better sense if you add a hyphen in the 2nd sentence - 'group-by'. – Mynamite Apr 5 '14 at 21:42
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The particular construction you are looking at hinges on want (though another verb with similar meaning, could be used), it's of the same construction as the following:

I want Bush to win the election.
Bush wants to win the election.
I want the election to be won by Bush. (or I want the election won by Bush)

There are two senses in which want can be used for this construction:

NP want VP(infinitive)
NP want NP VP(infinitive)

First, you have a subject noun phrase followed by want, then by a verb phrase in infinitive form (the subject is understood to be the subject of the embedded verb phrase). In the other version, you have a subject noun phrase followed by want, then another noun phrase as the object of want, then the verb phrase in infinitival form (now the object of want becomes the understood subject of the embedded verb phrase).

Now when the verb phrase happens to be in passive voice, to be can be dropped, just as that is can be dropped in a relative clause starting with that [be]. This is why the two can be confused, and you are right to perceive the problem with rephrasing the example as a relative clause.

...you want the aggregate functions to be applied to each set...

Interestingly, using phrasal hope for in place of want doesn't work when you want to drop to be, though it otherwise can be substituted into the construction:

I hope for the election to be won by Bush.
*I hope for the election won by Bush.

  • What are NP and VP? – Michael Rybkin Apr 6 '14 at 1:09
  • @user69786 NP stands for noun phrase and VP stands for verb phrase. in English almost every sentence can be divided into an NP followed by a VP. in grammar school they call them "subject" and "predicate". – jlovegren Apr 6 '14 at 1:27

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