Toni Morrison began writing when she was in college, but she did not produce anything good enough to publish for many years. Her troubled marriage, divorce, and life as a single mother made it even harder for her to write.

Hello, I have a question about a paragraph above. in above passage, is 'for her' impossible to omit? I think 'for her' can be removed, for we can guess it from the context. Please let me know whether 'for her' is indispensable or not

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jun 14 '20 at 18:03

According to the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, there are no non-finite constructions in which a subject is required (p1175).

The part in question for her to write is a to-infinitival clause which is non-finite and so does not require an overt subject. The only reason to include the subject would be to avoid confusion, or for emphasis.

Seeing as, in the context given, the only possible subject that could be understood for this to-infinitival is Toni Morrison, it seems you're safe leaving for her out.

An example of a similar construction with subject omitted:

Much of the improvement which has been, of late, discernible in this class of productions, is to be fairly ascribed to the spirit which he has awakened, and to the models which he has afforded. He has made it easier to write a good oration than it formerly was, and has also made the public less tolerant of indifferent ones. (North American Review: January 1837: 138-153)

  • Yes, but, importantly, the infinitival clause "for her to write" has "her" as subject. When a to infinitival contains a subject it also contains the subordinator "for" followed immediately by the subject, in this case "her". I agree that "for her to write" could be replaced with the subjectless "to write". – BillJ Jun 14 '20 at 14:06
  • Thanks for all commnents above : ) But my teacher said that only if main subject accords with 'for her' or ordinary person is semantic subject, it's possible to omit. She argues that in this case 'Her troubled marriage, divorce, and life as a single mother' doesn't accord with 'her' so it is impossible to omit. I CAN'T TOTALLY agree with her.. please let me know the way to contradict her argument. – jinku Jun 14 '20 at 14:20
  • @jinku In the infinitival clause "for her to write", "her" is the subject. This "her" clearly refers to "Toni Morrison", so it would be possible to replace the clause "for her to write" with the subjectless "to write" where the subject is understood as "Toni Morrison". But why you want to do that? It's fine as it is. – BillJ Jun 14 '20 at 14:44
  • Her troubled marriage, divorce, and life as a single mother made it even harder (1)to write. At 39, she published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, (2)and that received mixed reviews and did not sell well. It was the question of mid-term and the answer was (3). My teacher explained me that there should be 'for her' instead to write alone. I can't understand what she said, which is why I posted here ;; – jinku Jun 14 '20 at 15:14
  • @jinku But why do you want to consider changing the clauses? – BillJ Jun 14 '20 at 15:41

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