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I have seen some similar questions on here, mainly this and this, but I'm still not completely convinced.

Which of these is correct?:

  • "The thing that I want to do is study English"
  • "The thing that I want to do is to study English"
  • "The thing that I want to do is studying English"

I personally think that only the first one is correct despite what people have been saying in the other threads that I have linked as, unlike in the examples given in those questions, something still feels off about using [to] here.

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  • 2
    The third is bad grammar. The first two are valid grammar, and the choice would be based on context and "tone".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 22 at 2:50
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    As @HotLicks says the third one is definitely wrong but there's nothing wrong with either of the others. The repeated 'to' in the second one makes it a bit clumsy, particularly combined with the phrase "The thing that" rather than "What" but that is a style choice rather than a grammatical error.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 22 at 3:02
  • Thank you very much.
    – Ceness
    Sep 22 at 6:44
  • Right. You need an infinitive, but you can use to or not, because the structure is a cleft. It comes from I want to study English, but the cleft has added lots of dummies that don't change the meaning but do change the structure. After want, you need to; but after the clefting, study doesn't come after want any more; it's after is, and there you have a choice, to use to or not (to). Sep 22 at 14:56
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    BTW, none of these is how I think most would say it. More normal would be "I want to study English" or "What I want to do is study English"
    – Barmar
    Sep 22 at 22:37

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