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Consider the following:

The Cleaners were asked to clean.

Is it valid to use to do so instead of to clean removing the redundancy from mentioning cleaners and clean in the same sentence?

While I'm a native speaker, I haven't learnt the laws of the English language academically other than standard schooling to the age of 16, so would appreciate the elucidation here.

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  • What do you mean by "valid"? To do so isn't a suffix, it's an infinitive clause. Redundancy here is a semantic issue. Cleaners may be asked to do lots of things besides clean. They could be asked to leave, to sing, or to call the police.
    – deadrat
    Sep 7, 2016 at 23:26
  • @deadrat They could, but do so refers back to something that was stated earlier. So unless you'd mentioned leaving, singing, etc., it would default to their expected activity.
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2016 at 5:07
  • You could say were asked to do their job.
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2016 at 5:07
  • @Barmar Except that we don't have a "something" that was stated earlier. All we have is the statement The Cleaners were asked to clean. Replacing "to clean" with to do so leaves the so without any activity to refer to. It's a reasonable inference that the doing is what cleaners usually do (namely, clean), but that won't solve the syntactic problem and will probably leave readers wondering whether they missed something.
    – deadrat
    Sep 8, 2016 at 5:49
  • @deadrat Perhaps it would make more sense if it were written "The people who clean were asked to do so." Then it's clear that "do so" refers to "clean".
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2016 at 5:51

2 Answers 2

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While it would probably be understood, it seems like a clumsy construction. to do so normally refers back to a previously mentioned verb, and cleaners is a noun. So you could write:

The people whose job it is to clean were asked to do so.

Even though cleaners means people whose job it is to clean, this expansion doesn't come naturally when searching back for an antecedent.

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I think the task should be previously explained as to say 'to do so'. And it becomes correct if said as: The people whose job is to clean were asked to do that.

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  • Try and explain your answer, preferably with some supporting statements and references. While opinions are valued, they are not of much help as answers.
    – NVZ
    Sep 8, 2016 at 16:04

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