What's the correct construction in the following case?

All right, she had to calm down. Not (to) be upset.

Is the to necessary in this case? Why or why not?

  • I sincerely hope no one votes to close this question with a "what research did you do" or similar reason. Although the question may superficially appear very simple and resolvable by reference to a basic grammar, it actually leads to quite a few complexities that I doubt could be resolved by a grammar. I had to edit my answer numerous times to express my thought fully and exactly. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


This question has two problems. One is purely technical and arises only in written form.

As you have written your example, the second sentence has no subject and thus is not valid: an English sentence must have a subject and a verb. Thus, your second "sentence" is actually a sentence fragment and cannot be parsed at all under the technical rules of grammar.

It is, however, only a modern convention of writing that indicates a non-initial sentence by following a period and starting with a capital letter. Punctuation marks in English tend to indicate where there would be slight pauses in speech, and the distinctions among comma, semi-colon, colon, and period do not exist in speech. Nor does the distinction between majuscule and minuscule letters exist in speech.

That takes us to the second problem. The example, which is almost a redundancy, does not make much sense and is not worded in a way that would be typical of carefully formulated speech.

all right [pause] she had to calm down and not be upset.

That is a grammatical sentence with two verbs, "calm down" and "be," sharing the same subject and joined by and. The absence of "to" is mandatory. That grammatical sentence, however, is a redundancy and thus unlikely to arise in careful speech. {Note that I have deliberately left out the clues to meaning that would be present in formal writing.}

all right [pause] she had to calm down in order not to be upset.

That also is a grammatical sentence with one verb, "calm down," and one infinitive of purpose, "to be." The presence of "to" is mandatory. That grammatical sentence, however, is a tautology and thus unlikely to arise in careful speech.

In casual speech, redundancies and tautologies abound, and the strict rules of English grammar are frequently violated, often by leaving out words. This may well result in constructions that are ambiguous. Someone may say

all right [pause] she had to calm down [pause] not be upset. Whether "and" or "in order to" was meant by the speaker cannot be determined by the listener and quite possibly could not be specified by the speaker if clarification was requested. Casual speech is, not surprisingly, too casual to withstand careful analysis of intended meaning.

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