4

Which of the two is the more appropriate one?

The bag is too heavy to carry.

The bag is too heavy to be carried.

or

The burger is too spicy to eat.

The burger is too spicy to be eaten.

What's the general principle to choose active or passive voice after the "to" in "too...to"?

I'm quite an English beginner and new to this website. Pardon me if I do things wrongly:)

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  • 1
    The too Adj to VP construction is very complex. It means 'so Adj' that Not Possible VP'; it's a negative and a modal and a quantifier and a relative infinitive. As for the passive, that's not the issue. Passive infinitives are allowed, but relative infinitives can either have their object or their subject relativized: the man to see = 'the man that Indef should see' (object), but _the man to do it = 'the man that should do it' (subject). In this construction you have the choice to delete the subject or the object, and if you delete the subject, you can passivize it. Oct 12 '14 at 4:00
  • Generally, the passive shifts the focus to the verb from the adjective. That may be mostly a matter of opinion, though.
    – Kris
    Oct 12 '14 at 5:22
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My Longman English Grammar by L. G. Alexander gives the following example in paragraph 16.32:

1 He is too heay (for me) to lift. (As an example not the very best.)

And as far as I can remember the normal thing is an active to-infinitive after "too + adjective as in

2 The text is too difficult (for me) to translate. (My own example)

Theoretically a passive to-infinitive should be possible but it is not the typical pattern.

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The active voice puts more emphasis on the action. If you're focusing more on the carrying of the bag and the eating of the burger, you're better off using the active voice. If you're focusing more on the heaviness of the bag and the spiciness of the burger, you're better off using the passive voice.

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I believe Option 2 in each situation would be proper grammar, although many English-speakers would shift to the first one as casual speech. I do think there is a distinction, though.

Passive voice is essentially used when you don't know who is acting. In the sentence, "Jill gave me an apple," we know Jill did it. In the sentence, "An apple was given to me," the person who gave is not revealed. The second example is passive voice.

Now, let's take a look at the bag/to carry examples. Imagine somebody said, "Pick that bag up for me." It sounds better to me to say, "This bag is too heavy to carry." The second way sounds awkward, because passive voice is unnecessary. We already made it clear that I am carrying the bag, even though it isn't directly stated in the sentence.

You might use the second example when you are a third party (when you are not interacting with the objects in the sentence at all). Imagine you see a baby wailing in a library. You would say, "That baby is too loud to be brought to a library." NOT, "That baby is too loud to bring to a library."

I realize that is confusing, but I hope my point of view might help you begin to understand the distinction.

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  • You need to offer ref.Thanks...
    – elyar abad
    Jun 4 '20 at 6:27

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