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Is there a stated rule on use of infinitives in a sequence? Or is it a question of style? For example,

It is vital for a viewer of this movie to listen for its main character's underlying position, to contrast it with those of the other characters, and ultimately to determine which view is true.

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    Isn't it simply a matter of putting them in a logical sequence. One can't "determine" before one has "contrasted" and one cannot "contrast" before one has "listened" - not in that example anyway. – WS2 Sep 28 '18 at 15:38
  • Rule concerning what specifically? – user22542 Sep 28 '18 at 15:41
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    Are you asking about the "rule, syntactic principle" that allows us to "delete" the infinitive marker to from the second and third highlighted infinitives? It's entirely a stylistic choice whether to explicitly repeat to in this context, and you can either delete both (2nd & 3rd) or neither, or (at a pinch) just delete the last one. But idiomatically you can't delete only the second instance, and "resurrect" it for the final one. – FumbleFingers Sep 28 '18 at 17:15
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    Another example of Conjunction Reduction, which links the example sentence with a compound sentence It is vital for a viewer of this movie to listen for its main character's underlying position, it is vital for a viewer of this movie to contrast it with those of the other characters, and ultimately it is vital for a viewer of this movie to determine which view is true. Conjunction Reduction removes repeated material -- but it has to be repeated exactly the same. And it doesn't just apply to infinitives; it's much more general. – John Lawler Sep 28 '18 at 19:16
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In a series, one word will often refer to all the items in the series. Consider this sentence: "The knight had strong armour, shield, and lance." Strong refers to all three equally.

"It is vital for a viewer of this movie to listen for its main character's underlying position, contrast it with those of the other characters, and ultimately determine which view is true."

In your sentence, removing the second and third "to" while not incorrect, makes it more difficult for the reader to pick up the beginning of each listed item. Especially because each item is complex. So repeating the "to" when using infinitives in a complex series makes the sentence clearer. 300 Days to better writing

  • Never mind repeating just to in OP's context. It would be syntactically valid to repeat any of it is vital for a viewer of this movie, vital for a viewer of this movie, or for a viewer of this movie - and probably other "reduced" versions of the implicitly repeated initial clause. – FumbleFingers Sep 28 '18 at 18:15
  • True. Probably wouldn't make it clearer though. – MikeJRamsey56 Sep 28 '18 at 18:24
  • Hmm. I find it easy enough to imagine a public speaker bombastically repeating the entire initial clause It is vital for a viewer of this movie to... before each of the required actions, and it's pretty obvious to me that this would make the entire statement much clearer and more impactful to even the most inattentive members of his audience. And in fact I see now that John Lawler has made much the same assertion in a comment under the question. – FumbleFingers Sep 29 '18 at 12:04

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