Is there something unusual about the phrase: 'He is to blame'? It seems to be a shorter form of the passive 'He is to be blamed'. Does this make it some kind of adjective with a to-infinitive form? Are there any other phrases that follow this pattern?

  • "He's been accused of being to blame, and if he is to save face, he must..."
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 18:36
  • 3
    @DanBron I don't think "he is to save face" exhibits the same thing. In "he is to blame", "he" is actually the object of the blame, that's not the case with face-saving. The same goes for your "remain" and "serve" cases.
    – Rupe
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 18:40
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    You do get a similar thing in things like "The water is to drink (not to wash with)" which you could look at as passive like the OP says ("the water is to be drunk"), or as a shortened form of "the water is (for people) to drink".
    – Rupe
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 18:44
  • 3
    It's a relative infinitive, and they're always strange and idiomatic. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 19:38
  • 2
    A similar expression immediately springing to mind is "to die for."
    – Casey
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


"To Blame" is an idiomatic expression.

to blame

  1. Deserving censure; at fault.
  2. Being the cause or source of something

Source: TheFreeDictionary.com

The idiom conveys the same meaning as the expression "to be blamed"

Look at this example from the same source-

A freak storm was to blame for the power outage.

Therefore, your sentence- "He is to blame" is just a concise way of essentially saying the same thing- "He is to be blamed".

  • 2
    +1 But I don't think it means exactly the same as "to be blamed". "He is to blame" is asserting that it is his fault. "He is to be blamed" could just be saying that blame will be attached to him in the future.
    – Rupe
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 18:49
  • Agreed. "to blame" is the definite way of implying that it was his fault. While "to be blamed" does have another meaning, as you point out, the intention of my answer is to explain to OP that "to blame" is not strange, and is inherently similar to what he has in mind. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 18:52
  • Understood, but I think the answer would be improved if you added something explaining that difference. At the moment it's very much saying "the same" rather than "similar".
    – Rupe
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 20:43

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