Skip to main content

Reply to "what + infinitive"

Robby zhu posted:


I can't decide what should be done. =I can't decide what to be done.

Is the second paraphrase inappropriate?

Hi, Robby zhu,

The second sentence is ungrammatical. In non-finite clauses, the implied subject is the one of the main clause.

- I don't know how I can make a cake -> I don't know how to make a cake.
- He wants to know where he can find her -> He wants to know where to find her.
- They wonder what they should do next -> They wonder what to do next.

If the subject is different, an express subject is required in the embedded clause. In:

- I can't decide what should be done.

the subject is the pronoun "what." Since the subject of the passive "should be done" is different from the one in the main clause, which is "I," an infinitive is not possible.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor