I'd like to know whether it's common in informal speech to delete the infinitive particle "to" in the construction 'to hear sth.'

This video shows an example at 6:36; I've analysed it at 0.5 speed, and still can't hear 'to'.

  • I can clearly hear the "to", in I want to hear... – WS2 Apr 30 '17 at 11:27
  • I can't hear the to @WS2. I am not saying Bob Ross doesn't say to (he says it with his mind at least, since he does know the correct construction). Perhaps he changes from I like hearing... to I like (to) hear... too fast for his tongue to keep up... – Arm the good guys in America Apr 30 '17 at 13:03

It's not common informal speech to drop the 'to'.

Colloquially the 'to' is sometimes dropped but not when using like to indicate that you actually like something, for example:

I like, was walking down the street

Is an idiom used by some people, and the 'like' adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence, it's just an idiosyncratic syntactic twitch.

As the following definition highlights:

like 1. interj. an emphatic or meaningless word that, when said frequently, marks the speaker as speaking in a very casual or slangy mode. (see also like, you know. Used in writing only for effect.) This is, like, so silly!


The person talking in the video you linked does say "I like to hear good ones", but his diction is not very good so the 'to' is barely audible. But he does vocalize a very brief 'to' sound between 'like' and 'hear', but he leaves almost no pause after like and runs it into hear.

A trick you can use if you are unsure about what was said in videos on Youtube is to switch the closed captions on.

The 'to' is picked up by Youtube in the captions also:

enter image description here

  • 1
    I don't hear the "to" either, I think Clare's hypothesis is a better one, but I'm commenting mostly about the closed captioning - speech-to-text software doesn't simply translate sounds to words. That's probably impossible to do actually (it's certainly not what our brains do). It correlates sounds to what words are most likely to have been said, and to do that it will typically make assumptions about which words tend to occur next to each other. So it could easily have interpolated the "to" (and rightly so, since it should be there even if it didn't happen to cross the speaker's lips). – Oosaka Apr 30 '17 at 16:29
  • Well I heard it! :) – Gary Apr 30 '17 at 16:30
  • 2
    Well I think your brain interpolated it :p but seriously, I don't disagree that it's there per se, I don't think my perception is superior to yours in this respect, I was just saying that the closed captioning doesn't provide evidence either way. – Oosaka Apr 30 '17 at 16:32
  • @Rozenn Keribin yes for sure your explanation about the closed caption was interesting. My amazon firestick had voice recognition added in an upgrade recently and I'm amazed at it. I can say things like 'open Netflix right now yo!' and it does which amuses me every time I try and spring a new phrase on it, (yes I'm easily amused) I'm sure it's just picking out the key info like you suggest. Back to the question, I'd be interested if others hear it, maybe I did interpolate it after all! – Gary Apr 30 '17 at 16:37

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