In the following sentence, why is the crossed-out "to" unnecessary? Would it be wrong to include to?

It seemed all they could do to survive was to run to the bridge.

  • 2
    Its not wrong but it's unnecessary. Without removing it youd have three "to"s in close proximity which sounds a little awkward. Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 5:44
  • Thanks, but do you know of any grammatical explanations for this? Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


In "to survive" and "to run", "to" indicates the infinitive form of the respective verbs. In "to the bridge", it indicates a direction (similar, but not identical, with "towards").

While it is acceptable to not use "to" together with "run" in your example, for reasons of symmetry (maybe even parallelism), I would use it. To me, the sentence sounds like something is missing, without it.

The reason that there are too many "to"'s in the sentence does not stand. If they are needed, they must be used.

It is similar with saying: don't use all definite articles in a sentence, if they are too many. It is plain wrong.

Consider: "the color of the button of the shirt of the soldier". All of the "the" are necessary, even if there are four of them.

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