I'm wondering about the specific meaning of the following sentence:

David returned (from work) to find his house had burned down.

Of these two explanations—

  1. David returned from work with a specific purpose, which was to find out whether or not his house had burned down.
  2. David returned from work just like any other day and was surprised to discover that his house had burned down?

—which one accurately describes the sentence as written?

  • 5
    The latter one. (Not on purpose)
    – Tushar Raj
    Jan 25, 2017 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


The word 'and' is a very neutral word to connect two parts of a sentence. "Today, Tushar did two things. He returned from work, and he saw that his house had burned down." In your example, of course, there is a connection: shock.

The word 'to' in context shows the contrast of the unexpected. There is an understood 'only' before the 'to' as follows: "He returned from work only to find his house had burned down." Note that in this example, he did not return for the purpose of seeing his burned house. That meaning would show in other contexts of the word 'to': "He showed patience to his children to set a good example for them."

  • 1
    Sir, repeating the line "from a native speaker" in all your answers is certainly unnecessary.
    – NVZ
    Jan 25, 2017 at 20:52
  • @YosefBaskin thank you for your complete explanation! Jan 27, 2017 at 9:50
  • What is wrong with adding the (relevant) fact that the answerer is a native speaker?
    – TimR
    Jan 29, 2017 at 14:06

Adverbs answer the questions of when, where, how, why and to what degree. Though infinitives are in most cases restricted to answering the WHY functionality of adverb, there are occasions where infinitives are a pointer to the 'where' aspect of adverb.

The example above capturs the WHERE function of infinitive as an adverb with a shock. We even modify the infinitive with 'only' / 'just' to bring to the fore the preposterousness of the situation.

Your second explanation is accurate.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .