too - to

1) The tea is too hot to drink.

2) The tea is too hot to be drunk.

3) The tea is too hot for us to drink.

A few questions that I have:

A) If sentence one is correct, how is  that although the verb is not in a passive voice conjugation?!

B) If the second is wrong, then why?!

C) If all of them are correct, is there any difference?

 

THANKS

Original Post
Rasha Assem posted:

1) The tea is too hot to drink.

2) The tea is too hot to be drunk.

3) The tea is too hot for us to drink.

A few questions that I have:

A) If sentence one is correct, how is  that although the verb is not in a passive voice conjugation?!

B) If the second is wrong, then why?!

C) If all of them are correct, is there any difference?

 

THANKS

Hi, Rasha Assem,

(1) & (3) are perfectly grammatical and common. The tea is so hot that we can't drink it. = The tea is too hot (for us) to drink. I also see that (2) is grammatical but seems less common.

Randolph Quirk gives the following explanation, which applies to your example above:

- Traditionally, grammarians have regarded the infinitive clause in "The writing is too faint to read" as having a passive meaning ('to be read'), but we analyse it as having an unexpressed subject and object ('for anyone to read the writing')."

So, you can say that all your sentences above are grammatically correct and have the same meaning and the only difference is that the infinitive clause in (1) and (2) has an unexpressed subject and object whereas (3) has a definite one 'we/us'.

Rasha Assem posted:

1) The tea is too hot to drink.

2) The tea is too hot to be drunk.

3) The tea is too hot for us to drink.

Hello, Rasha,

I agree with the gist of Ahmed's reply, but I would like to explain to you more precisely why all three sentences are correct.

At a more advanced level than ESL classes typically reach, infinitive phrases such as "to drink" are actually analyzed as clauses. Sometimes they have overt subjects introduced by the complementizer "for" (as in Ahmed's "for anyone to drink"), and sometimes they have understood subjects, as in (1) and (2).

In generative grammar, the infinitive clause in a sentence like (1) is said to have a phonologically null subject (called "PRO"). You can think of this as a different way of describing that the subject is "understood." Sometimes, however, PRO is co-indexed with another noun phrase in the sentence, and other times it isn't.

In the case of (1), PRO is not co-indexed with any other noun phrase in the sentence. In other words, its referent is not overtly present in the sentence. This PRO is sometimes called PROarb. It basically means the same thing as "for anyone" in this case, so my explanation here is still related to Ahmed's.

In sentence (2), however, the subject of the passive infinitival clause "to be drunk" is present in the sentence. Thus, in (2), PRO is co-indexed with another noun phrase, namely, the subject of the matrix clause ("the tea"). We can represent the sentence like this: "The teai is too hot for PROi to be drunk."

Why, then, does (2) have the same meaning as (1)? It is because, in (1), "the tea" is functioning as the understood object of the transitive verb "drink." The basic syntactic structure of sentence (1) may be represented like this: "The teai is too hot for PROarb to drink the teai." (The tea is so hot that no one could drink it.)

When the subject of such a sentence is animate (human or otherwise), there is the possibility of the matrix subject's function as subject or object of the infinitival clause. For example, the sentence "The turkey was too old to eat" is ambiguous. We can't tell whether "the turkey" is subject or object of "to eat."

  • Subject: The turkey was too old to eat. Soon it died of starvation.
  • Object: The turkey was too old to eat. So they ate a younger turkey instead.

If what I have said here is too advanced for you, forget about it. Just think in terms of implied subjects and objects, and remember that all three of your sentences are correct. All three of your sentences are correct, and (1) and (2) have exactly the same meaning.

David,

Your "Object" example, of course, can also refer to the meat of the turkey rather than the bird itself.  Hence (or is that "hens"?), the second sentence in the example could say that they "ate some fresher turkey instead".

Mostly, though, I wanted to bring back a similar example that you shared with me years ago, which was:

A: The turkey is ready to eat.

I think that you asked me at the time which of these meanings came to mind:

A1: The turkey is hungry.
A2: The turkey is fully cooked.

But, of course, a turkey can't be hungry if it's stuffed.

I understand that this doesn't address Rasha Assem's question regarding "too", which you and Ahmed dealt with perfectly.

DocV

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