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Another strange sentence I found in a grammar book: "All we seem to do is argue." I thought it should be arguing. I could not find the noun argue in any dictionary. Could you explain this?

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    Why are you looking for a noun entry for argue?
    – Lawrence
    Aug 18, 2018 at 13:08
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    @Lawrence - My guess is that the OP took a structure like: All we seem to eat is food, and reckoned a noun should come after is, not realizing that, unlike eat, do would be followed by a verb rather than a noun. Now I have Don Henley running through my head. Anyway, this seems like it would be much more fitting on English Language Learners.
    – J.R.
    Aug 18, 2018 at 13:16
  • @J.R. That sounds plausible. I'll vote to migrate this question.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 18, 2018 at 13:18

2 Answers 2

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In this case "argue" is the bare infinitive. Infinitives can be the complement in a sentence, in a structure like

All we do is argue.
What we do is be kind.

Note the choice of a bare infinitive is dependent on the verb "do".

All I want is to argue

This is because the structure is formed from "We do argue", which has bare infinitive following "do". But "We want to argue", which has a "to" infinitive after want.

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After the word do, we are supposed to talk about an activity and we should use a verb, not a noun. Using "arguing" is not correct here. Your sentence should be like this:

All we seem to do is argue .

or

All we seem to do is to argue.

Although adding "to" is optional, using bare infinitive is preferable and sounds more natural.

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  • However, it's not always the case that a verb must follow: I'm going to do the dishes, I have to do the laundry . . . Aug 18, 2018 at 15:05

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