Is infinitival "to" a preposition?

I have a sentence which is ending with an infinitival "to". It seems to me that to end up a sentence with an infinitival "TO" is not as bad as with what I call a prepositional "TO". Isn't it?


I was lied to.


I did that because they want me to.


If you look up the word to via Google (I used the search term "to definition") - Google gives the part of speech of the "infinitival to" as infinitive marker - basically putting it in its own category.

That's probably the proper thing to do. Infinitival to is really more like an article or determiner.

The idea that English sentences should not end with prepositions comes from a time when it was fashionable to try to understand English in terms of Latin word functions.

While there's a lot of English words with Latin roots, English grammar itself is Germanic based and very different from Latin, so applying the same concepts on a grammar level isn't necessarily valid.

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  • +1 for reassuring the OP that there is nothing necessarily "bad" about ending a sentence with the word "to". – J.R. Mar 7 '18 at 23:04
  • 'Marker' is its function. Its category (part of speech) is best analysed as .subordinator'. – BillJ Mar 8 '18 at 9:21
  • It is not just about ending a sentence with a preposition. This particular preposition works in a specific way and the two sentences are completely different in structure. How do these actually work? "I was lied to" is not an infinitive marker, either. I tried to explain how the two differ even though readers here may not have wanted me to. – Lambie Mar 8 '18 at 15:57

No, infinitival to is a subordinator.

It derives historically from the preposition to (notice the strong similarity in meaning between I went to the doctor and I went to see the doctor) but long ago lost its prepositional properties.

It is now unique: no other item has exactly the same properties. Modern grammar takes it as a member of the subordinator category - a special marker for VPs of infinitival clauses.

(note: 'marker' is its function in the clause.)

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  • Except "I was lied to" is not an infinitival to. And is a preposition. Also, you didn't explain why one does not need to repeat the noun in sentences like that or the verb in sentences like: they want me to. – Lambie Mar 8 '18 at 15:53
  • Actually, English grammarians have failed to explain how it really works. Yes, it is a syntactical marker but it is also called a preposition. The French grammarian Henri Adamczewski calls to an operator. But his books are not in English...unfortunately. – Lambie Mar 8 '18 at 16:06
  • @Lambie I didn't say that "I was lied to" was an infinitival. I said that subordinator is a word class (part of speech) and that's the class that infinitival "to" belong in (as in the OP's second example).That was the OP's question. Marker is a function, not a part of speech, as I said in the note in my answer. Subordinator, though, is a POS. And, FYI, in "I did that because they wanted to me to ___ ", the verb phrase is ellipted, but represented by 'gap' as I've shown. – BillJ Mar 8 '18 at 16:22
  • Ok, that is true. But no one has attempted to explain the difference between the two sentences, which I did. I know marker is a function. The OP's question required providing patterns for both types of utterances, which are very different from each other. And the to operator (I call it an operator) does not require repetition in spoken English in certain circumstances..... – Lambie Mar 8 '18 at 16:25

1) To is always a preposition and nothing else. However, it is used in a variety of ways.

2) - I was lied to. ACTIVE: X lied to me. to me is a prepositional phrase, it is not a to-infinitive. The sentence is also passive.

  • She was read to. ACTIVE: X read to her every night before bed.

In a passive sentence, as the two above, you do not need to use the pronoun if the pronoun that comes after to is understood by the speakers and the original action verb "takes" to.

To lie to **someone|| to read to someone||to adhere to something ||

3) I did that because they wanted me to. I did that because they wanted me to do that.

wanted me to = they wanted me to do that.

Certain verbs do not call for repeating the main verb. They are called verbs of emotion and the to is left at the end of the sentence without repeating the verb, in spoken English.

Need, want, love, like, hate, prefer, (verbs of emotion) and also certain others like advise or tell or ask and other action verbs (but not the verb suggest). (Sorry, I don't have an entire list for you.)

You do not need to repeat an infinitive clause if there is no auxiliary used after the to:

  • You should not call me again. I told you not to [call me again].
  • I prefer to leave early. Do you want to [leave early]?
  • I want to watch that movie on TV right now. Do you want to [watch that movie again]?
  • They told us to stop by their house. Did they tell you to [stop by their house]? BUT: I wanted to have forgotten that by now. Did you also want to have forgotten that by now also?
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