the syntax of the following is unclear to me:

  • There was also a donation event, the proceeds to be applied to provide food for the homeless.

My particular difficulty is with the latter clause, which I believe to be a relative clause.

  1. Shouldn't it contain "of which", as in "the proceeds of which to be applied..."?
  2. which function has the "to be" in this clause? it seems missing something. For example, can I say: "there is dinner on the table, the dessert to be eaten last"?
  • Could you please provide more of the surrounding text
    – dubious
    Feb 13, 2023 at 10:02
  • 2
    (2) It wouldn't be ungrammatical, but is so formal that it would be considered faintly ridiculous in everyday speech by native speakers. Feb 13, 2023 at 13:00
  • After a charitable event has been mentioned in the conversation, certain things become presupposed; one is the generation of proceeds, which may be mentioned anarthrously. The phrase proceeds to be shared is short for (of which the) proceeds (are) to be shared, in telegraphic/headline/advertising style, which tends to take Conversational Deletion to the clausal or phrasal level to save words and make slogans. Feb 13, 2023 at 16:21
  • @EdwinAshworth Why did they choose to write this syntactic monstrosity? Answer: because they learned Latin. Latin has an equivalent construct (an ablative absolute with a gerundive) that is idiomatic and fairly common. This is exactly how you translate such a construction very literally into English. Some Latin teachers will actually recommend or even require this painfully literal translation, since it demonstrates that you fully understand the syntax of the original Latin.
    – alphabet
    Feb 14, 2023 at 4:21
  • 1
    It's an awkward sentence, to be sure. Things have been done to it that should not have been. Yes, it's a reduced relative clause, yes, it's missing of which, and yes, it should be a tensed clause, not an infinitive. I think the writer or speaker just wanted to get it out fast and get on with it. This is in the nature of an after-afterthought, and grammar is far less of a consideration than CYA. Mar 15, 2023 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


That clause is a nominative absolute (see Wikipedia). The meaning is clear if we rewrite it as a separate sentence:

There was also a donation event. The proceeds were to be applied to provide food for the homeless.

"Is to be" is an idiom used to give commands or describe plans (see Britannica). The latter meaning seems more likely here:

There was also a donation event. The proceeds were planned to be applied to provide food for the homeless.

On its own, the sentence also likely implies that the plan was followed, but that depends on context.

Nominative absolutes are more common in very formal writing. But this one is convoluted by any standard.

  • The proceeds were planned to be applied is not semantically valid.
    – Lambie
    Feb 13, 2023 at 19:15
  • It sounds valid to me, but "intended" may be a better fit.
    – alphabet
    Feb 13, 2023 at 20:50
  • 1
    This usage is not uncommon--take this TechCrunch article: "From what we understand, the deal was planned to be announced officially on June 19."
    – alphabet
    Feb 13, 2023 at 23:54
  • 1
    Or from the NYT: "Another pool is planned to be added next year."
    – alphabet
    Feb 14, 2023 at 0:04
  • 1
    @Lambie Yes, it doesn't really make sense if you turn it into the active voice, but it's an idiomatic usage nonetheless. This usage is quite old: here are two examples from 1921.
    – alphabet
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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