Robby zhu posted:

This is the spice to season the rice with.

This is what to season the rice with.

Do you think the above two sentences are the same? (I'm not sure if even the second one is grammatical.)

Hello, Robby zhu,

No, those two sentences are not the same. The first one is about a spice; the second one need not be about a spice. The first one has an infinitival relative clause; the second one has a nonfinite embedded question.

The second example doesn't work very well, though it is not ungrammatical. It could work as a reply to the statement "I don't know what to season the rice with." Normally, however, English speakers would use "Here's", not "This is":

A: I don't know what to season the rice with.
B: Here's what to season the rice with.

Thanks David.

You said, "the second one has a nonfinite embedded question."

Can I also view it as a short form of nominal relative clause? 

(Here is)This is [the thing that you will season the rice with.]

=...what you will season the rice with.

=... what to season the rice with.

Robby zhu posted:
Can I also view it as a short form of nominal relative clause?
Can I also view it as a short form of nominal relative clause?

(Here is)This is [the thing that you will season the rice with.]
=...what you will season the rice with.
=... what to season the rice with.

No, Robby zhu, you can't correctly view it that way, and your paraphrase is also incorrect. "What to season the rice with" does not mean "what you WILL season the rice with" but rather "What you SHOULD season the rice with."

A phrase consisting of a wh-word complemented by an infinitival clause is invariably an embedded question, not a free (or nominal) relative clause. We can see this by such facts as these:

(1a) I don't know what to season the rice with.
(1b) I don't know with what to season the rice.

(2a) He asked me what to season the rice with.
(2b) He asked me with what to season the rice.

(3a) *He gave me what to season the rice with.
(3b) *He gave me with what to season the rice.

(4a) *I like what to season the rice with.
(4b) *I like with what to season the rice.

Sentences (1a) through (2b) show that the construction in question is licensed by verb that take embedded-question complements ("know," "ask"), and sentences (3a) through (4b) show that the construction is not licensed by verbs that take free (or nominal) relative clause complements.

Notice that we can say such things as "He gave me what they season rice with" and "I like what they season rice with." In those sentences, "what they season rice with" is a free relative clause, and, predictably, pied piping (fronting of the "with"-PP) is not allowed. Pied piping is possible with embedded questions.

(5a) He gave me what they season rice with.
(5b) *He gave me with what they season rice.

(6a) I like what they season rice with.
(6b) *I like with what they season rice.

Robby zhu posted:

May I ask if it is CGEL  (by Huddleston) that you follow/refer to?

I did not consult a grammar book to provide you with the answer above. I simply analyzed the matter. My thinking about free relative clauses has, however, been greatly influenced a 1978 article written by Joan Bresnan and Jane Grimshaw called "The Syntax of Free Relatives in English" (available here).

Thanks and a relevant question: can you use the passive voice in a "wh-word +infinitive "expression?

 

I can't decide what I should do. =I can't decide what to do.

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

Is the second paraphrase inappropriate?

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.

Thanks, GUSTAVO.

Is it grammatical, if the implied subject of a infinitive is the subject of the larger construction, but being in passive voice.

I come up with an example:

I have no idea what I will be asked (for example, in an interview).

I have no idea what to be asked.

Is the second one grammatical?

Robby zhu posted:

Thanks, GUSTAVO.

Is it grammatical, if the implied subject of a infinitive is the subject of the larger construction, but being in passive voice.

I come up with an example:

I have no idea what I will be asked (for example, in an interview).

I have no idea what to be asked.

Is the second one grammatical?

No, that sentence does not work because it does not express the future meaning you want to convey. However, in answer to your question:

Is it grammatical, if the implied subject of an infinitive is the subject of the larger construction, but being in passive voice.

the answer is yes. Here is an example (I'll add others if they come to mind):

- The patient left instructions as to how to be treated in case he was unconscious.

Robby zhu posted:

Thanks and a relevant question: can you use the passive voice in a "wh-word +infinitive "expression?

Gustavo, Contributor posted:

However, in answer to your question:

Is it grammatical, if the implied subject of an infinitive is the subject of the larger construction, but being in passive voice.

the answer is yes. Here is an example (I'll add others if they come to mind):

- The patient left instructions as to how to be treated in case he was unconscious.

Yes, it is possible to use a passive infinitival clause in the [wh-word + infinitival clause] construction when the wh-word in that construction is "how" or "where" or "when." These three words function adverbially in the embedded question:

  • He wants to know where to be treated for poison oak.
  • They don't know when to be inoculated for hepatitus.
  • She inquired how to be baptized into the church.

Afterthought: The passive construction is also possible with "whom," "what," and "which" when they function as the object of a preposition within the infinitival, the PP constituting an adverbial in the embedded question.

  • He doesn't know whom to be treated by.
  • They wondered which clinic to be treated at.
  • She wondered what to be photographed in, jeans or a dress. 

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