I found this below sentence while I was reading an article.

In most cases, you do not have a right to privacy in your work email.

At first instance, it was like did I read it properly?

So I read it many times, but still I feel like something is missing in this sentence.

If I wrote this above sentence, I would have it like this

In most cases, you do not have a right to have private stuff in your work email.

I am a non-native speaker. Please teach me anything you think that, why I think this sentence is wrong.

  • 3
    The sentence is grammatically okay. "Privacy" is not a verb; it's a noun. "To privacy" is a preposition phrase headed by the prep "to" with the noun privacy as its object complement. The PP is complement to the noun "right".
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 12:20

2 Answers 2


Privacy can't be used as a verb.

In most cases, you do not have a right to privacy in your work email.

To does not always indicate an infinitive. Right to X means right to do or have/take/get/use X. So X can be a noun or a infinitive.

It is true you can say:

I have a right to my money, I worked hard for it.

and also:

I have a right to leave, this is not a prison.

Both of these are consistent with Google's 5th definition of to: "concerning or likely to concern (something, especially something abstract)."

Nothing is really missing in your first example, but privacy can be a vague, broad term, whereas your second example is better and a bit clearer IMHO because it is more specific about what you don't have a right to.

  • 1
    In "I have a right to leave", "to" is a meaningless subordinator, a marker for verb phrases of infinitival clauses. By contrast, in "A right to privacy", "to" is a preposition with "privacy" as its object complement.
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 12:29

In right to privacy, to is an ordinary preposition, not an infinitive marker.

This can be confusing for learners, because right takes four sorts of complement:

  • infinitive clauses marked with to ... the right to speak freely
  • preposition phrases headed by of ... the right of free speech
  • preposition phrases headed by to ... the right to free speech
  • preposition phrases headed by in ... my rights in this property

All of these have essentially the same meaning; the choice between them will usually be driven by how the writer wants to characterize the right within her larger discourse.

  • The infinitival complement is employed to speak of an active right, a right to perform some action. ... You have the right to remain silent: you cannot be compelled to speak.

  • The preposition phrase with of is usually employed to speak of an abstract right, a right considered as an enduring property or institution. ... The right of peaceful assembly is fundamental to democracy.

    (Note, however, that the 'infinitival' sense can be married to the of sense by using a gerund as object: the right of assembling peacefully.)

  • The preposition phrase with to is usually employed when speaking of an actively asserted right, a right put forward in the face of opposition. ... This statute violates plaintiff's right to privacy.

  • The preposition phrase with in is usually employed in civil law to speak of a financial or directive interest with respect to a specific property. ... Her right in the family firm extends only to participating in the profits, not to management.

Of course other preposition phrases can be used with rightrights under the Constitution, rights for women and children, rights beyond those enumerated—but these are adjunctive, modifiers, rather than complements.

In your specific example, the "right to privacy" is not the right to "have" private matters in your emails—it is the right to insist that those matters remain private, not subject to inspection by your employer.

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