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I can't think of anybody whom to invite.

  1. Anybody whom I should invite
  2. Anybody to invite
  3. Anybody who should be invited
  4. No improvement.

This is my exam question and provisional answer key suggested option 3. But I can't understand why other options are incorrect.

  • 3
    This is an exam question from what source? Multiple answers are possible, yet all are ugly. If the book considers this a good test of English skill then it's not very reliable. – Andrew May 25 '18 at 16:55
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I think both #2 and #3 sound fine, but it's worth noting that they don't necessarily mean quite exactly the same thing.

I can't think of anybody to invite.

This could mean you are trying to think of someone to invite, but you can't think of anyone. Your mind is blank. I would say this if I was trying to think of people to invite, but no names came to mind.

I can't think of anybody who should be invited.

This is slightly different, because of the phrase should be. Who should be invited? People who will make the event better, people who aren't nursing a grudge against the family, etc. I would use this when I was trying to think of people to invite, but, out of all the people I considered, no one seemed like a good fit for the event.

It's also worth noting that, even though they can mean something different, they can also be used somewhat interchangeably. Let's say you ask me, "Who should we invite to the party?" Mentally, I think to myself:

  • Not Bob; he doesn't get along with Mary.
  • Not Leslie; she has been mad at me for ten years.
  • Not Alex; Alex lives too far away.

At this point, a valid response back to you could be:

I can't think of anybody to invite.

Therefore, I'm in agreement with Andrew's initial comment – it's not readily clear why one of these would be considered an "improvement" more so than the other.

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