I'm writing an internal policy using some publicly available drafts. In one of them, I encountered a requirement written using to-infinitive like in news titles:

Network administrators to perform maintenance regularly...

That means that Network administrators must or should perform maintenance regularly. It looked odd to me. Can to-infinitive be used in such a situation or is it a mistake?

  • Closely related: Why is “Prices to be set…” used in this sentence instead of “Prices will be set…”? -- it's pretty much equivalent to "Network administrators are to perform maintenance regularly" – herisson Jul 30 '18 at 16:52
  • Yes, I've seen this style used in policies or other sources outlining one's obligations: Children to wake up at 8 am, to have breakfast at...., to brush their teeth before...etcetera. Sometimes it would say: Children ARE to wake up at...Hope this helps. – user253826 Jul 30 '18 at 16:53

The sentence says that the admin "is to perform" perform maintenance. Leaving out the verb "is" may be throwing you. The urgency is not specified. In some contracts and Mil-Spec documents they say one "shall perform" leaving nothing to the imagination. This sounds like a list of duties to be done by those with the designated title. So they likely Should perform them. Why else are they here?

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  • Thank you for the answer. So the construction can be used in official documents, am I right? It looks to me like somewhat informal or unclear, so I prefer using shall, must or should. I'd like to know which way is better for documents. – Vitaly Obyazov Jul 30 '18 at 17:17
  • Note that there is a difference between shall (meaning the action is mandatory) and should (which means it is recommended). Formal specifications avoid the use of must (apparently for reasons of potential ambiguity that are not completely clear to me). – user184130 Jul 30 '18 at 17:54
  • The be to Infinitive construction has deontic modal function: He is to settle the dispute = He (is the person who) should/must settle the dispute. Rather like the relative infinitive construction: the man to fix the starter = the man who should/must fix the starter. Also like the Latin gerundive construction, as in Carthago delenda est 'Carthage must/should be destroyed'. – John Lawler Jul 30 '18 at 18:26

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