Do clauses with predicates that take infinitival complements like easy or ready such as the examples in (1) combine naturally with negative subjects? Are the examples in (2) OK?

(1a) John is easy to talk to

(1b) John is ready to talk to

(2a) No one is easy to talk to

(2b) No one is ready to talk to

If (2) are unnatural or flat-out ungrammatical, do they improve when the matrix subject is not related to the object of the infinitival, but to the subject (3a) or adjunct (3b)?

(3a) No one is ready to operate (cf. The surgeon is ready to operate)

(3b) Nothing is ready to operate (cf. The scalpel is ready to operate)

  • I certainly find plenty examples of "nothing is ready to eat" and similar. You could use the passive if you prefer "nothing is ready to be eaten". Is there a reason you think it's wrong? Do you want to know if the passive is preferred? In some cases there could be ambiguity: "no one is ready to eat" said the cannibal, sadly. Is that your worry? You can look up ready in a dictionary and see how it's used, and it certainly works modifying both agent ("ready to eat"="ready to do the eating") and patient ("ready to eat"="ready to be eaten").
    – Stuart F
    Jun 24 at 10:22
  • @StuartF I wonder if the instrument reading of "nothing" is doing the dirty work in your example (note that "eat" has an intransitive use). Compare "Nothing is ready to eat with chopsticks" vs. "The sushi was ready to eat with chopsticks".
    – Zoltan
    Jun 24 at 13:40
  • 1
    'No one is easy to talk to' is totally grammatical, but I'd agree sounds a little odd out of context. 'You're doing well making friends here in the village; no one is easy to talk to at first' sounds far more natural. Jun 24 at 14:07
  • 1
    Tough-movement is a minor rule, which means among other things that it is likely to be used in specialized environments, making contexts harder to imagine. And doing all this inside a negative field just makes things more complex yet. Jun 24 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


All the (a) versions are fine.

There's a problem with 1b and 2b. We can talk to someone, but we can't say, for example, "I talk to." (With the sentence ending at the period.) And that is what the (b) versions are doing.

You could say, "John is ready to be talked to." I'm imagining that he was upset and needed to calm down first -- but frankly, I'd prefer "John is ready to talk" because otherwise it sounds like he might be in for a scolding, and as my son has Tourette Syndrome and is subject to rage episodes, I feel empathy when someone loses it.

The scalpel is ready to operate would only work in a strange story in which inanimate objects suddenly start acting like sentient beings. (E.g., there's a scene in the film Beauty and the Beast where the tea things appear to come to life.)

But there is a version of this that would work. Let's say you're about to get a mammogram but you're the first patient of the day, and the machine still has to warm up because the tech got in a little late today. When they finally call you in, you can ask, "Is the machine ready to go now?" or conceivably, "Is the machine ready to scan me now?" (But one would not use the "scan" version in formal English.)

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