I'm always curisous about the phrase "for someone to" verb which is quite common in English.

However, I noticed sometimes it is not proper.

1. She is surprised for me to know her mom. - Incorrect

Correct one is "You are suprised that I know her mom."

Somehow, she is surprised at me to know her mom

is this fine??

2. A computer is hard for me to deal with.

I think "for me to deal with" is acceptable in the sentence. Is it because the preposition "for" is accetable with adjective "hard"?

Thank you in advance!

  • Firstly, and importantly, "for" is not a preposition here but a clause subordinator, a special marker for infinitival clauses that contain a subject. The simple answer to your question is that some adjectives license (specifically permit) infinitival clauses as complement while others don't. "Hard" is one that does, but "surprised" is one that doesn't (it licenses declarative content clauses, cf. "She is surprised that I know her mom") – BillJ Dec 23 '17 at 12:22
  • A sample of those adjectives that do license infinitival subjects are "anxious, difficult easy, essential, foolish, good, hard, important, impossible, necessary, possible, ridiculous, usual". – BillJ Dec 23 '17 at 13:37
  • Thank you Bill for your comment. Does it mean it depend on? – Tim Dec 24 '17 at 4:42
  • There's no easy 'rule' to follow. You just have to become acquainted with those adjectives that can license a for infinitival clause. – BillJ Dec 24 '17 at 8:33

There are predicates that can be complemented by the pattern for {someone} to {VERB} in which the predicate does not apply to {someone}.

They are ready for her to sing.

There, the readiness is theirs, not hers.

Why can ready be complemented by the pattern but surprised cannot be?

Because the preposition for in this pattern introduces a prospect.

They can be waiting, hoping, ready, eager for her to sing.

A surprised state occurs with things that have taken place, not with things that have not yet taken place, not with prospective things. Something that has happened surprises us. We cannot be surprised by something which has not yet happened.

So, you must examine the predicate

She is surprised

It is easy

They are eager

and assess whether it is one that can be complemented by a prospect.

You might be thinking, "That is easy for you to say, but hard for me to understand. What is a prospect?"

A prospect is something awaited or envisioned or contemplated, a possibility not yet an actuality.

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