1

WHY is this sentence incorrect?

"All that they can do is preparing as much as they can."

I know it should be

"All they can do is (to) prepare as much as they can."

But, for the life of me I can't figure out why.

  • Would you write "They can preparing°? – Michael Harvey Oct 25 '18 at 16:45
  • 2
    The reason is that in reversible specifying constructions like this, if the subject noun phrase contains "do" or "did" in a relative clause, the complement is restricted to an infinitival, either bare or with to. Compare "All they were doing was preparing as much as they could" – BillJ Oct 25 '18 at 17:13
  • 2
    Note, however, that if it is reversed, the gerund is OK and the infinitive is awkward. I think this has to do with gerunds being more comfortable as subjects than infinitives are. – John Lawler Oct 25 '18 at 17:42
  • @JohnLawler But "To err is human...", I feel sure you would agree. – WS2 Oct 26 '18 at 0:28
  • 1
    Of course. Complementizer choice is a morass of details and exceptions. – John Lawler Oct 26 '18 at 2:02
2

'Prepare' is grammatically parallel to 'do' and should have the same form. (They can prepare as much as they can.)
If for instance you wrote : What they like doing is... then it would be the -ing form; what they like doing is preparing...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.