I know that this sentence is correct:

"He is not a man to tell a lie."

Is it also correct if I say

"He is not a man tell a lie."

If it's correct what is the difference between these sentences? And when I use the infinitive without to, what is the theme in grammar?

  • 2
    "He is not a man tell a lie" is not grammatical. Using ellipsis you could say "He is not a man tells a lie," in which the "who" would be dropped from "who tells". When using the infinitive, you have to use to. It's the law. – Robusto Mar 11 '15 at 18:38
  • 1
    Another relative infinitive construction; relative infinitives require the to, but do not allow relative pronouns, except with pied-piping, like a lie with which to fool them, but a lie to fool them with, and not *a lie which to fool them with. – John Lawler Mar 11 '15 at 18:50
  • @Robusto I'm not saying you are wrong. But I would struggle to remember the last time I heard it. – WS2 Mar 11 '15 at 19:15
  • @WS2. I have heard it in rural dialects, and you see it in writers like Twain et al. when they're affecting rural speech. – Robusto Mar 11 '15 at 19:41
  • Consider- He is not a man you can lie to. – Manish Mar 11 '15 at 20:34

All English verbs have a base form, an inflected form, and a participial form. For regular verbs, the base form is the same as the inflected form for all person-number combinations other than 3sg. The base form is used in an infinitival construction, which requires the preposition to. The preposition to is also associated with a purposive meaning in certain constructions (e.g., More than one way _to skin a cat_). In Spanish or French, the infinitive form of the verb does not have purposive meaning by itself. A preposition (para or pour, for example) must be used to get that meaning.

I think that the reason for the question is that the OP might be familiar with a language like Spanish or French where an infinitival construction is formed using a specific inflection of the verb, and no associated preposition.


'He is a not a man tell a lie'

This sententance is not gramatically correct, for when spoken, the natural way to say this is to split it into two parts.

'He is not a man, tell a lie' Which whilst abreviated, would work. If you are looking for other ways to say your beginning sentance, may I suggest;

He is a man who wouldn't tell a lie He is not a man to be decietfull

Obviously, you can work this in a hundred different variations.

Lying is not in this mans nature He would never lie to me

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