Please tell me what sentence is right: 1) There was so much to read; 2) There was so much to be read. Thank you

  • Both are fine, and both mean the same thing, though individual usage habits vary. Relative infinitive clauses can select either the object of the clause, as in (1), or the subject of the clause, as in (2). – John Lawler Mar 14 '18 at 21:20

In my university library, there is so much to read: there are over 5 million books there.

Before I can begin original research for my PhD, I need to know what previous scholars in my field have done. There is so much to be read!

1) possibly implies availability. 2) possibly implies obligation.

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    I'm afraid that distinction doesn't exist. There is a lot to do in the garden before we plant vegetables. There's a lot to be done in the garden before we plant vegetables. Same work, same garden, same meaning. – KarlG Mar 14 '18 at 18:06
  • I wouldn't immediately assume any difference in prevalence for There is so much to do / be done, but when it comes to something like They have no books to read / be read I have to say the second ("passivized") version sounds somewhat peculiar to me. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '18 at 18:07
  • I would add that "there was so much to read" is ambiguous, and may be meant to convey the obligation. I think it's clearer that this is true with another verb, like "to do". "At that resort, there is so much to do!" "I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year. There is so much to do/to be done!" I also think the "to be (participle)" version is less common, but I could be mistaken about that. – Green Grasso Holm Mar 14 '18 at 18:08
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    @KarlG: I think you are mistaken. Your "counter-example" pragmatically implies obligation anyway, so it would be perverse to assume Jeremy's "availability" interpretation if verb form #1 were used. But in OP's or similar contexts, I'd say that nuance is definitely present. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '18 at 18:37
  • @FumbleFingers: You have a stack of books to read on your desk. You may project yourself in time when the books are read, but that's only a matter of aspect, not intention, obligation, or some other thing we'd probably use a modal for. I have a book to read can mean I have a book I can read or must/should read. – KarlG Mar 14 '18 at 20:36

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