From Google Support:

Why to use page-level permissions

Page-level permissions allow you to..

Is the sentence "Why to use page-level permissions" grammatical?

  • 3
    It is not a sentence, but a noun-phrase. A complete sentence using this phrase would be "Let me tell you why to use ...". However, titles and paragraph headings do not have to be complete sentences, of course. Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird are not complete sentences.
    – Kaz
    May 8, 2012 at 22:28
  • Please explain why you think it might not be. Jul 16, 2015 at 7:28
  • @FF...interesting to watch your play across 2 questions. Jul 6, 2021 at 18:54

6 Answers 6


It’s a headline, first of all, where some grammatical rules are different anyway. So this is not a sentence, but a noun phrase:

(This section tells you) why to use page-level permissions.

That is, it tells you why you should use them. “Why to…” and “why not to…” are very common in headings to encourage or discourage the reader, respectively. The heading could just as well be:

Reasons to use page-level permissions

  • 3
    Very common? I don't believe I've ever seen it before. Unlike how, what, who, where, and probably other interrogatives, why does not normally take to before its infinitive: “Why use page-level permissions” would be the expected form. “This section tells you why to use page-level permissions” is also not grammatical to me. I wonder if this is dialectal, or perhaps just individual. Jul 16, 2015 at 8:17
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: To me, “Why use X?” is a question and requires a question mark, unlike “Why to use X”. “Tell me why to care” sounds perfectly fine to me, for example; without to, it would be “Tell me: why care?”
    – Jon Purdy
    Jul 16, 2015 at 19:54

The normal rules of syntax do not apply to headings and titles such as the one cited above. They leave the reader to supply the missing words. In this case the title should be understood as:

  • Why you need to use page-level permissions


  • Why you might want to use page-level permissions.

It is not a grammatical sentence, as it's not a complete sentence at all. It's a sentence fragment.

However, in English, sentence fragments are often used in headlines and titles. In those cases, such utterances are acceptable.


Most answers focus on the fact that the cited text is a headline / noun phrase rather than a complete sentence, but I think the real issue here is Why don't we normally include the infinitive marker "to" between initial "Why" and an infinitive verb form?

Since "sentence" is not a structural unit but is merely determined by punctuation such as a period, it's not really helpful to discuss whether it's a "complete sentence" in order to explain the structure of the cited text. That said, the cited text is a headline, title, etc, but it is not a noun phrase.

In The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Page 326) by H&P, the noun phrase (NP) is defined as follows:

Except in what we refer to as the fused-head construction (Two of them were broken; Many would disagree; It benefits the rich), NPs consist of a noun as head, alone or accompanied by one or more dependents.

The cited text does not consist of a noun as head, nor is it a fused-head construction per CaGEL (Page 1077, footnote):

Why (which has no counterpart in ·ever) appears freely in the interrogative construction, as in This is why I’m leaving, but is marginally possible in the pseudo-cleft: Why I’m leaving is that/because there’s no opportunity to use any initiative. It does not occur elsewhere in fused relatives.

Therefore, the cited text is not an NP but an interrogative clause. Now, a why interrogative clause is generally used as a main clause when why or why not is followed by a bare infinitival.

Why bother?

Why not go there?

??She asked why bother.

??She asked why not go there?

But when why is followed by a to-infinitival, it's the other way around:

This section tells you why to use page-level permissions. [from @Jon Purdy's answer]

??Why to use page-level permissions? [as a main clause]

CaGEL (Page 878) says that the infinitival interrogative is used exclusively for direction questions (cf. information questions). Here, by the infinitival interrogative I think CaGEL means to-infinitival interrogatives, but not bare-infinitival interrogatives. I personally think the marker to before infinitivals denotes a goal as in the preposition to, so it's understandable why direction questions seeking 'direction' requires to in the infinitival interrogative.

Now, the cited text from Google Support is a title, and titles can have many different forms including subordinate clauses. Therefore, it was legitimately used as a title showing a direction question that is normally only embedded in a matrix clause.

If to were omitted from the cited text, it would be an information question:

Why use page-level permissions?

This would be a title containing a main clause (with or without the question mark), because why followed by a bare infinitival may only be used as a main clause as shown above. And this could most likely be interpreted as questioning the validity of the decision to use page-level permissions over other types of permissions, thereby making the title sound less formal at the very least.


As others have noted, headlines are not always full sentences. Assuming that's not the issue, it is perfectly fine to have why followed by to (as part of an infinitive verb).

Perhaps you are more familiar with "how-to" titles, or similar phrases:

  • How to tie your shoelaces
  • What to do when your mother-in-law comes over
  • Who to go to for assistance

Well, why to is just as valid as how to, etc.

  • Do you mean that "why to" is grammatical?
    – Pacerier
    May 8, 2012 at 23:28
  • @Pacerier: Yes. For the same reason that "how to" is grammatical.
    – John Y
    May 9, 2012 at 4:09

It is not grammatical. In fact, I have no idea what you are trying to ask. Are you asking "Why use page level permissions (at all or generally)"?

"Why" must be followed by a verb, which is NOT in the infinitive form.

  • 1
    This appears to be a heading title from Google support, and is perfectly understandable. Also, why does not need to be followed by a verb, e.g. "I want to know why John did this." May 8, 2012 at 18:00
  • 3
    In this construction (a non-embedded Wh-Question), why must be followed by a verb. In others, not. May 8, 2012 at 18:01
  • 1
    I don't think its perfectly understandable.
    – Julian
    May 8, 2012 at 19:23
  • 1
    Your corrected form is also an infinitive. The difference is that why can only be followed by a bare infinitive, while other interrogatives require to before the infinitive. Jul 16, 2015 at 8:19

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