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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Why...    


Korea, South


isn �t this sentence correct:

All you have to do is to tell it.
In this sentence the bare infinitive should be used BUT why?  An English teacher at my school asked me this question.  I really appreciate the help!

26 Oct 2009      


All you have to do is to say it.
that �s the only error I see.

26 Oct 2009     


yet...there �s a song that says "all I have to do is dream, dream , dream"....

26 Oct 2009     


You shouldn �t use the word "it" at the end of the sentence because it �s too vague and a person reading it doesn �t know what "it" is. Other than that, the sentence seems okay.

26 Oct 2009     

alien boy

It seems to me like the sentence you �ve provided is passive. This means that, in the right context (think of a devil on someone �s shoulder telling them to lie), it �s actually fine.
According to the BBC World Service Learning English site (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv226.shtml):
Expressions with do or did, such as what I �ve done or all I did can follow either pattern.
  • I hate shopping so what I �ve done is (to) order a new computer over the Internet.

  • All I did was (to) suggest that she should lend him no more money. I didn �t insist on it.
A few other ideas that can relate to this sentence:
If it were active then you would use - �All you have to do is tell it �
The �it � needs to refer to another part of the dialogue or writing for it to make sense.
It may also, again depending on context, need someone/thing to tell it �to �:
�All you have to do is (to) tell it to your teacher �
�All you have to do is (to) tell your teacher � is far more natural sounding... but it all depends on the context of the dialogue/written piece as to which one would be the best to use.
Where is the English teacher from? Different dialects of English do have different rules in practice of grammar ( �descriptive grammar �) as distinct from the �prescriptive grammar � of ESL/EFL instruction. I recommend the teacher who put that sentence & reason to you should stop & think about the language a little more (& perhaps provide a little more contextual information) before declaring something as wrong.

26 Oct 2009     

Korea, South

THANK YOU �alien boy � for the link.  The answer was there.  I too had to ask for some more info about the context of the sentence.  As it turns out, it is an active sentence in which it is possible to use the bare infinitive or to-infinitive without changing the meaning.  Therefore...the sentence is correct!  I really appreciate you taking the time to explain all that to me!  Thanks again!  Hope you �re having an absolutely marvelous Monday!

26 Oct 2009