1

A sentence on this page strikes me as odd as I am checking dictionaries

‘An alien life form has arrived to earth and is jumping from body to body, killing everything in its path and stealing anything it cares to.’

Shouldn't "care to" be part of "care to do"? I guess the author is saying "... stealing everything it cares to steal." But doesn't it strike you as stilted? I thought a better version of the sentence should replace "care to" with "care for", because people care to do things and people care for things.

‘An alien life form has arrived to earth and is jumping from body to body, killing everything in its path and stealing anything it cares for.’

Is the original sentence completely fine and my version wrong?

2

To is the normal preposition in this instance because it is an ellipsis for an infinitive, cares to steal. It would not be an error to say cares for, but that would mean that the alien was only stealing what it found desirable. The preposition to carries a broader meaning that the alien may be stealing out of malice rather than desire.

Under normal circumstances, I would assume that the expression of a broader meaning likely entails that the broader meaning was intended and that therefore a substitution of for rather than to is inappropriate. In this case, however, an alien life form has arrived to earth does suggest that the author is not skilled in the use of English prepositions. The only way to be certain which preposition is correct would be to ask the author which meaning was intended.

To summarize, the correct preposition depends on the meaning to be conveyed.

  • Well said. I was just saying the same thing in a comment. – J.R. May 10 '18 at 1:35
  • @JeffMorrow I think unless you tag them, that user won't be notified of a comment under your answer. Btw, thanks for the great answer. – Eddie Kal May 10 '18 at 1:40
  • As I was posting a new question about arrive to in this same sentence (arrive to didn't sound jarring until I reread the original text), I realized you already talked about it in passing in your answer. Your answer touches upon several things and is very helpful! So to never follows arrive, right? – Eddie Kal May 10 '18 at 2:17
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    @Deansue I have studied four Indo-European languages besides my native English and found that prepositions follow virtually no comprehensible rule in any of them. I am therefore reluctant to make the universal statement that arrive can NEVER take to. Normally arrive takes at. It takes on in certain special cases, such as when considering arrival at one heavenly body after a journey from a different heavenly body. I am not aware of arrive ever taking to, but I shall not be surprised if a comment points that it does in some rare cases. – Jeff Morrow May 10 '18 at 12:45
  • @JeffMorrow Thank you again for answering my questions. I have learned a great deal from your answer and comments. – Eddie Kal May 10 '18 at 16:31
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I guess the author is saying "... stealing everything it cares to [steal]."

I guess you are correct about that.

But doesn't it strike you as stilted?

No, not really. And changing to to for wouldn’t make it sound any less stilted.

If I were to paraphrase it, I might write:

...killing everything in its path and stealing anything it wants.

but I think the original is fine as written.

  • Thank you! Quick follow-up: can I assume changing to "for" wouldn't make the sentence more stilted either? – Eddie Kal May 10 '18 at 1:32
  • As for changing the “to” to “for”, I don’t think that sounds any more stilted, but it does seem to give a strong emphasis for the alien wanting what it is stealing. If I steal anything I care to, I can steal things nonchalantly or flippantly. If I steal anything I care for, I only steal things I greatly covet. – J.R. May 10 '18 at 1:35

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