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I was attempting to use "discuss" in a sentence but got marked off for using the infinitive form:

"Moreover, the author fails to address Republican views by merely stating that studies estimate “4 billion to 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil” are present but avoiding to discuss the economic potential...."

My professor suggested to use "the discussion of" instead, but I was wondering if there were any rules governing this or whether it was just a stylistic choice which made the writing sound more awkward. Any insight is appreciated.

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    'It avoided to discuss the issue' is ungrammatical. 'Avoid' doesn't catenate with to-infinitives. 'Moreover, the author fails to address Republican views by merely stating that studies estimate “4 billion to 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil” are present and avoiding discussing the economic potential ...' works. 'Merely' and 'but' don't work together. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '17 at 22:31
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    @EdwinAshworth It's an interesting question. You can say "trying to discuss", "intending to discuss", but not "avoiding to discuss", at least in US English and as far as I know in British English also. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of the construction on web pages and even in books, generally written by English speaking people from other parts of the world. I've seen examples on this site written by at least two high ranking members of our community. I am starting to think it might be fair to say it is regional, possibly informal, rather than strictly ungrammatical. – MetaEd Nov 16 '17 at 22:38
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    Some verbs accept infinitive complements, some gerunds, and some both (or neither). To say avoiding discussing would be more acceptable than avoiding to discuss, but that is inelegant in its own way and thus your professor suggested a simple noun (discussion) instead of a verbal form. You could alternatively retain to discuss if you replace avoiding with a verb like declining or neglecting. Related: When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive? – choster Nov 16 '17 at 22:38
  • @MetaEd I'll accept it as 'not strictly ungrammatical' when I see an example given in a respected grammar; OP doesn't add tags requesting non-standard usage. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '17 at 22:57
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    Every verb is different in what kinds of constructions, and what kinds of meanings, it allows to be direct object. All those specific catenation possibilities, obligations, and intolerances constitute as much of the meaning of the verb as the dictionary lookup. And it's just as variable. I think of it as the bacteriome of the verb. – John Lawler Nov 16 '17 at 22:58
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"... but avoided discussing..." sounds best to me.

  • And although that is only an opinion, I agree on the basis that is a simple gerund — one word, as opposed to the three-word suggestion of your verbose professor. However that's style. As for grammar, the infinitive here is just not English, so perhaps the question needs to be posted on ELL for the poster to find out why. – David May 22 '18 at 9:47

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