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What is correct form in between these sentences:

He had no choice but doing that

or

He had no choice but to do that.

When I googled "but doing that" I found 388,000 results, whereas "but to do that" Google produced 6,500,000 results. Can someone please explain why the latter seems more correct?

  • Now, if you can explain "why" you think one sentence is better than another, or say what you know about the gerund and the infinitive, that would be super helpful to users. Please, provide some sort of context. Thank you. – Mari-Lou A May 23 '17 at 13:52
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    The reason why the latter seems more correct is because it is grammatical, while the former isn't. That's also the reason why the latter is overwhelmingly more common. Choose (the verb from which choice is derived) takes an infinitive but not a gerund complement: He chose to leave immediately vs *He chose leaving immediately. Consequently choice takes an infinitive complement, too, and not a gerund. – John Lawler May 23 '17 at 15:25
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    The choice is between an infinitival clause and a gerund-participial clause as complement of "choice". As it happens, "choice" does not license gerund-participials, so only the infinitival is correct. – BillJ May 23 '17 at 16:13
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    @JohnLawler There are some contexts where the gerund complement works, e.g. *He chose staying with his parents over paying for a hotel, in order to lessen his expenses for the trip." The infinitive would work here too although the gerund complement works better in the context where the choice has been made but the execution of the choice remains in the future (e.g. his trip is next week still). (Of course, you could also use "He is choosing to stay...".) – Jim MacKenzie Jun 22 '17 at 20:53
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This will probably be easier to think about if we first realize that the example sentences have some understood words. If we insert the understood words the sentences become:

He had no choice but (the choice) doing that.

He had no choice but (the choice) to do that.

After inserting the understood words, I don't imagine it requires much further explanation as to why sentence #1 above doesn't work. You could say:

He had no choice but (the choice) of doing that.

He had no choice but of doing that.

By the way, I put:

  1. "no choice but doing that" into Google and got very few results;
  2. "no choice but to do that" and got 640k results;
  3. "no choice but of doing that" and got 29.4m results.

I found that a little surprising.

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